I have always believed that our interactions with animals have the potential to teach us more about ourselves than most of our interactions with other people. This is because animals, with their transparent emotional honesty, often enable us to see our own emotions and behaviors more clearly.
For example, to build a bond with a puppy and be successful in training him, I need to know what I am feeling and thinking, and all the ways, both consciously and unconsciously, that I express these emotions and thoughts. If I stay present and pay attention, my time training a puppy—as well as my shared life with that puppy as he grows into my dog—offers me endless opportunities to not only enjoy my time with my canine friend, but also to learn about myself and how I relate to the world.
Many of us have had opportunities to learn about ourselves through our interactions with dogs, cats and other small companion animals. Fewer of us have had the chance to explore our psyches through encounters with horses. But now, thanks to spas and equine experience programs across the country, we can explore ourselves through human-horse interactions.
Equine experience programs arose out of equine-assisted therapy, a healing modality initially used to help individuals with social, emotional and developmental disorders. It was employed as an adjunct therapy for people with autism, substance abuse issues, PTSD and other conditions. During the past 10 years or so, “equine experience” programs have been showing up at spas, resorts and educational centers around the country. These programs use guided interactions with a horse to identify and potentially change behavior patterns, improve our relationships (both personal and business) and live more fulfilled lives.
Horses, like many animals, intuitively sense and respond to our emotions when interacting with us. But as relatively defenseless herd animals, horses are especially dependent on being able to read emotional signals—their survival depends on it. So horses are acutely attuned to the moods and body language of others. Even when we aren’t fully aware of what we are feeling and how we are behaving, horses are. In this way, horses provide us with a reflection of our emotional and behavioral states. We all have ideas about who we are—or hope we are—and we project this persona onto the world. But horses and other animals don’t see our personas. They respond to us on a more authentic, emotional, energetic level.
When combined with an experienced facilitator, who helps to interpret and understand the horse’s response to us, interaction with a horse can offer profound insights about ourselves. Self-knowledge can expand our horizons and increase our ability to make the most of our potential. And what better way to achieve these goals than hanging out with a horse?
Here are spas, resorts and educational centers that offer equine experience programs.
The Miraval Equine Experience Immersion with Wyatt Webb
Miraval Resort, Arizona, miravalresorts.com
Renowned equine facilitator, country singer and author Wyatt Webb guides you on a journey of self-discovery through human-horse interactions. You’ll challenge learned behaviors, correct false beliefs and rediscover your authentic self.
Equine Encounters at Travaasa
Travaasa Resort, Texas, travaasa.com
Travaasa’s intimate equine encounter offers you a chance to develop self-awareness and leadership skills as you connect with horses through respect, sensitivity, awareness and body language.
Coaching with Horses
The Academy for Coaching with Horses, Colorado, coachingwithhorses.com
The Academy for Coaching with Horses offers a variety of equine-facilitated learning programs including a special blend of coaching to help you reach greater levels of mind/body awareness, increase your presence and ignite your authentic self.
Epona Equestrian Services
Various locations, eponaquest.com
Epona Equestrian Services offers programs that employ horses in teaching people how to develop personal empowerment through training in leadership, assertiveness, intuition and emotional fitness skills.
The Equus Experience
Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa, New Mexico, bishopslodge.com
Although the lodge is under renovation until Spring 2017, the stables are open for riding and its Equus Experience Program—a horse-assisted personal development experience for individuals and organizations—is running.