Horsey Therapist

Friday, March 31, 2006

Nature or nurture

It's lambing time here. And a warm spring day. Warm? It's in the 70s today!

I was going to go riding today. Really I was.

However, I'm inside with a triplet on the window sill.

I didn't see the order of things, but today's latest Ewe Mom had two lambs up and nursing when I found this third one looking dead, laying in the dirt, limp but breathing. So here he is, two hours later, a little more lively, dried off and cleaned up by moi-meme, force fed some lamb-manna and showing small signs of improvement. He has had no colostrum, and seems to have no sucking reflex. This is not good. He is holding his head up at times and pushing his legs around. This is good. I really thought he was dying an hour ago but no. Cute little fellow. I'll keep seeing if I can help him stick around.

I keep asking, what am I to learn from this?

So far, the answer is that the force of life is much stronger and more persistent than I ever imagined.

I also have the Velveteen Rabbit in the back of my mind, and maybe I can rub this little fellow into full life.

On a number of ocassions I've crossed paths with a dying animal. A dying wild animal. I have this uncontrollable urge to give water to a dying animal. A bit of Hope Against Hope that this animal might just be ill and in need of water? I almost didn't offer this lamb anything to drink, remembering the times I've forced water into a mouth only to have the dying process end within fifteen minutes or so.

I keep thinking he would have died by now, this little Jacob lamb. But he's still here.

I offered him to one ewe who is contained in a stall right now. She is there with her set of twins, born a few days ago. Normally the ewes do all their natural processes on their own among their flock out at pasture. One of her twins must have been stepped on -- we found her with dangling leg in the afternoon of her first day. We decided to splint the little leg and keep the three of them inside for a few weeks. So far so good with that one. Up and nursing, moving about a little.

The stalled ewe gave this little questionable lifeform some good sniffs, and it was touching to see him respond to the ewe's touch and her mumbling, gutteral sounds.

The lamb is still breathing, resting in the western sun streaming through my office window. Is this my ego? Some wounded place in me trying to keep alive this fresh little bundle of impaired life?

I wonder if he'll develop the urge and the strength to stand? To suck? To leap and run with abandon? What developmental horrors have I inflicted by force feeding him before he can stand? I'm not at all certain I want him to survive, but I'm darned certain I'm not going to give up easily. Even though there seems to be a good chance there is something innately wrong with him. Maybe his mother knew something at the start and did the most sensible thing, which was to leave him and focus on her robust babies. It's hard to imagine humans would ever display that sort of natural sense.

Oh! He's stirring. I'll see if I can interest him in another eye dropper of lamb manna.

What do you suppose this means?



This is one of an infinite variety of NON-words one might be asked to type when attempting to submit something to a yahoo group or in this case, a comment to another person's blog.

Let's see. It certainly is not a word. Maybe it stands for something, an acronym?


Greasy lollipops never jerk rigidly into xray delicacies.

There. I've made meaning out of nonsense. Sort of.

Another great resource

I have initiated a new adventure. In April I will be visiting a woman professional who provides Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) in her community. From her site:


Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy: The mission of this site, Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy by Susan M. Taylor, is to provide information and resources to psychotherapists and counselors who are interested in embarking upon the work of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy. Differing opinions, styles, theories and techniques will be included along with information on how to access organizations and people already doing the work.


I'm looking forward to learning from her. She has told me that when I arrive for my visit, she and her staff will treat me as if I'm a new client, and proceed from there. Perfect for my learning style! I learn by doing. I later will offer to others what I've gained from my experience as the learner. More than that I don't know!

I've been researching on the web, both for what I'm offering where I work, and also for developing a private practice using EFP. Currently when I teach horsemanship, my focus always includes the relationship between the human student and the horse. Horsemanship is totally dependent on the relationship. The quality of horsemanship that is possible depends on the quality of relationship one aspires to. Improving what we offer in relationship can be a demanding endeavor as it means looking within and letting go of what doesn't work in order for there to be real space for the new ideals to blossom.

OK, back to working on a brochure to advertise the mental health program where I work.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Rusty. My teacher. The one who has prompted me to think, and think, and think some more about what is a horse, what matters to a horse, how does a horse understand, what does a person do to confuse a horse, to upset a horse, to calm a horse, to direct a horse, to gain a horse's trust, to elicit a horse's willingness to be together.

I can blame myself and take credit for all he has become over the years. We're at a new plateau now, one where he listens and responds with more readiness than before, with more attention and comfort in my presence.

We have a long complicated history. And our relationship keeps getting simpler and more fun.

I've been committed to keeping his 'horseness' fully intact. I've done a fairly good job. He certainly is lively and is comfortable showing his opinions. My task has been to accept his opinions AND be kind and skillful with directing his mind when I've wanted or needed to, like when he's haltered or tacked up or mounted. If he's doing his own thing in the herd, he's got freedom to act however he likes. When he's attached to me via tack or at times merely my intention, he's free to have his feelings without intrusiveness, and I've got a responsibility to engage his mind and involve him collaboratively in doing the things I want us to be doing together.

I remember friend and mentor, FB, of Piper Ridge Farm, saying to me, "Rusty is a horse that will make a horseman out of you." It took a few years to really understand what she said. I'd fallen in love with a weanling in a stall -- wicked cute fellow, lively but very willing to try to get along with me. That was the beginning. Many moons later, we do enjoy some trail riding, and once again because *I* am in a new place regarding relationships, empathy, and understanding Horse Nature, and I'm riding him as if it's the first few rides.

I'm looking to regain that original unassuming presence between us that I recall from the actual first few rides. So far, so good. Treating him like he's been confused by me (I've asked for too much too soon too quickly) instead of getting irked that he's not doing what I asked. Keeping in mind that HIS MIND is what I want together with me. Surely his feet will follow, but without his mind involved with my requests, at least curious about what I'm doing, we have a mired, heavy, conflicted experience where he wants to be doing one thing, and I want to be doing another thing, and yuck. It feels awful to both of us.

Contact with fellow pioneers on the trail of good horsemanship helps me focus and learn and keep offering something better to my horses. Rusty's changes are a tribute to the caring attention shared by friends. An adaptation to the familiar saying 'It takes a community to raise a child' would be: It takes a community to develop a good horseman.

And that community includes people and horses. I am much closer to my ideal than ever before. The ideal of learning through relating with horses. Progress beyond learning from the interpretations of other horsepeople. I've needed the translators! Speaking Horse is a second language to me, more foreign than Italian, German, or Chinese! With more novel social customs than those of the Native Americans, the Asian Indians or the devote Jews.

I'm used to studying some sounds and developing a new way of speaking words and concepts in order to communicate using a new language. That's not such a useful approach with horses. Their words are silent but their meanings are instant. They understand their language, and from their point of view, they understand my meaning often before I even do.

They are my teachers. As long as I forgo my ideas that they are my students.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A few good resources

I've just learned of another great horseperson. And ordered her first book. She is Californian, Carolyn Resnick and her first book is called Naked Liberty. She, like myself, values the relationship bond that is possible between human and horse. I look forward to reading more about her thinking and her actions around horses. I first heard of her in the lastest issue of The Natural Horse magazine. (

Other people who influence my thinking about relationships and horses include:

Leslie Desmond who with Bill Dorrance, wrote True Horsemanship Through Feel.

Harry Whitney who so far refuses to write a book or make a video, but offers us in-the-moment support and direction with compassion and humor, treating us people with as much care and respect as he offers the horses.

Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, two PhDs who have developed and continue to refine a remarkable contribution to the healing and health of relationships. Their work is called Imago and they teach people with the integrity that comes from walking their talk.

Many, many more are due full honors for their generous contributions to improved understanding of horses and of humans and of relationships. Thank you to each of you.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Home again, home again, jiggedy jog

We've been traveling and now home. Although the warmer climates were pleasant, I'm glad to be home, in close contact with the people, animals, and places so familiar to my heart.

Plus there are plans to make, dreams to create, moments of day to day living to enjoy.

Talking with HLH in a far away country left me with clarity and inspiration about some "next steps" in merging my passion for horses and my professional life. Today I invested in that future AND had fun (!) exploring how to make a power point presentation. Finding photos to illustrate some points I will make at a speaking opportunity next month, drew on my love of images and color and humor.

I'm still tired from the times spent en route.

We found new live when we got home! Two lambs, one kid, and one calf arrived during our absence. Precious new life. Awesome. And delightful to watch the lambs bounce and run together as they express exuberance for being alive and test out their operating equipment!

The horses all needed a good dose of the shedding blade, which removed some excess winter coat and some dried mud. Yes, mud season has arrived. I'm grateful I have a high tolerance for dirty horses.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My teachers

My current favorites are Harry Whitney and Leslie Desmond. Well, that refers to two folks with who, I can study once or twice a year. I must not forget my local teachers, both horse and human.

RW and HB are my horsey friends/mentors/colleagues in closest geographical and paradigm proximity.

My backyard teachers are currently Kacee, Rusty, Sofia, Prince, Soli and Bill. Four-leggeds and in this season, fuzzy to the max.

In the future I will be adding to this blog some of my notes from studying time with Harry and Leslie.

The Natural Horse Magazine published an article about my week with Harry in Tennessee, in the Jan-Feb 2006 issue. One can subscribe for online access or print copies at

Harry Whitney's website:
Leslie Desmond's website:

There are yahoo groups that serve as online discussion and study groups for both of these teachers.

Now it's time to go learn something from the BCT -- Backyard Crew of Teachers.

Why The Horsey Therapist?

It's an identity I created a few years back when the possibility became clear of joining my passion for horses with my professional background.

I love horses.

I work as a therapeutic riding instructor, as a horsemanship coach with a focus on developing the best interspecies relationships possible (with ground work and while riding), I'm a licensed psychotherapist and I've studied and practiced the healing arts in many forms for over 35 years.

The Horsey Therapist refers to my facilitating role in healing horses, in healing humans and their horses, in healing humans... And it acknowledges that the horses are therapists simply by being present in our lives and being honored in their total horse-ness. Therapy is assisted by the presence of Horse. Horses are assisted by the therapeutic process undertaken by their humans.

There is so much to learn. About ourselves. About our horse friends. About relationships.

Traveling: an opportunity

We will be traveling again.

So much of my life is spent traveling internally. It is a personal mission and/or gift and/or compulsion (I'll let others decide which!) to review and mull over and wonder and ponder and seek to link this thought to that event, and that feeling to those experiences... Somewhere I've come to believe that we all ARE connected, and that my past is part of my present, and as much as I wander around unconsciously, my future is being built by my unremembered past, not by my conscious and best-foot-forward present.

So to pack a bag and head out with tickets and itinerary in hand is a delightful adventure! An opportunity to focus on the outside, on newness and reflections unusual to the me who loves being at home or close to home in the atmosphere of friendship and familiarity shared with friends.

Once I get beyond the packing worries, I'm eager to go, eager to see new sights, eager to have distance between me-now and all the lovely things that call my attention when I'm home. Yes, the never-ending lists of unfinished projects and half-hearted intentions. I won't miss them while I'm away!

Traveling is an opportunity to trust. In order to actually leave home, I have to trust that the people identified to take care of home life will successfully do so! I have to trust that I will survive the travel and the stay in another town, state, country... I have to trust that we have the travel documents and the money and the airport connections and the good health to carry on with these plans without fear or delay or disappointment.

Traveling is an opportunity to discover new aspects of myself. How can I know if I will like or abhor the activities we have planned until I do them? How can I know ahead of time if the smells and sounds of a foreign culture will nourish some untouched part of my soul, or make me cringe? How can I know how I will be effected by the colors and the shapes of indigenous plants and animals?

Traveling... sometimes it takes me hours to get organized to go buy cat food in town! But a trip into my mind or a trip into my heart -- those are instant and always available. I can travel light, and lightly, and am always ready to go there. I usually travel alone into my interiority but over the years have learned who to invite along on an adventure with me.

Traveling is an opportunity to read. I love 'losing myself' in a good book. Nothing to distract me! Nothing more important to do while waiting for a flight or while relaxing on a bus ride. All exits are closed. I can't return those phone calls. I can't clean the winter boots. I can't check on the ewes, wondering if they look ready to lamb. I can't reconcile my checking account. I can't stitch up the tear in my colorful summer jacket. Traveling is a respite opportunity!

OK, so now I really should go pack. We are leaving first thing in the morning...