Last week I attended one of the ‘Horses as Healers’ discovery day’s on Rosie’s farm in Somerset. I was a reluctant attendee, with plenty of excuses to cancel at the last moment, not being a ‘horsey’ person, and of course with plenty of other things I’d rather be doing with my time! However, I like to think that i honour my word, and even though I’d booked many months earlier, with the purpose of understanding more about what Rosie does, I resisted temptation to back out and went along.
Thankfully it was a small group, just me with a lady and a gentleman, both retirees.
I had learned a little about what Rosie does, and had spoken with friends who had simply said ‘wow’ when I asked what they thought about workshops they’d done with Rosie and her horses.
So, with warm clothing and boots I arrived ready for anything!
Bear in mind, that I have been on a personal growth journey for very many years now, and although I know that there’s always another layer to reveal I certainly wasn’t expecting any great leaps or ‘ah ha’ moments and was thinking that I would just go with the flow, and enjoy it as a day off in the countryside, meeting new people, which I always love!
After warmed by our chosen cuppas, we then moved out to the stables. My heartbeat began to increase but was calmed when Rosie mentioned that we wouldn’t be meeting the horses until after lunch.
A lovely display of calming candles, photographs, models and books was decorating the stable we entered and we took our seats with the cosy blankets on them that we certainly appreciated later!
Rosie had put together a booklet for us and after telling us her fascinating journey with horses, from competing and showing at an early age, to her own understanding that much of that was purely to satisfy her parent’s dreams, then how she came to learn about ‘Eponaquest’ Linda Kohanov and then her journey to America and Canada to become an Advanced Eponaquest instructor herself.
Before we were going to be allowed anywhere near the horses, we had to understand more about ourselves, not just who we are and where we came from, but how we feel, why we were there. We began to understand that this day was going to help us with clarity and direction, communication & confidence, wellbeing & relationships, and management and leadership.
We were also guided on how best to benefit from the day, and how to help the others in our group by NOT helping to ‘fix’ them, and particularly to refrain from using others’ vulnerabilities against them, for instance ‘If you didn’t talk so much you might learn something’! This made us all giggle as we could all relate to at least wanting to say this at some point in our lives on a workshop or class!
The foundation now set, we then embarked on our own personal journeys.
A short exercise of ‘going within’, guided by Rosie, to be aware of what the days’ workshop meant to us. We had a blank sheet to write or illustrate any words that came up, anything at all that would remind us of the day in the future.
There were mutterings of ‘what if I do it wrong’ etc but Rosie assured us that this was OUR day and there were no wrong actions.
Not really knowing what to do, I dug deep within and the word ‘connection’ popped up. I thought of the wind outside, and the sunshine in between the clouds & the former artist within me saw an opportunity for delaying tactics and I got very engrossed in drawing my ‘mandala’ for the day. Thankfully, following the earlier warning the other participants resisted saying ‘For goodness sake can you hurry up we’re waiting for you to finish’!
As I became aware that they may be at least thinking that, I apologised and rejoined the group. We then each discussed our mandalas and what they meant to us. As I went last, I realised that already some pretty personal fears and emotions had come up for the others, along with memories linked to horses, some good some bad. Their talks reminded me of my own personal memories, long buried, and one comment even actually created a severe pain in my chest, making me realise that something I thought I’d completely got over, was indeed still within me & needing a bit of healing.
We then turned the pages of our booklet to find a diagram of a human and after another journey within ourselves we then marked any physical sensations we felt on the diagram. They could have been pain, discomfort, warmth or cold.Ive always been impatient when it comes to listening to my body and so my dull headache was reluctant to reveal it’s purpose, thankfully my frequent shoulder pain returned and when asked ‘why’ it replied ‘write’. ‘Write more or write less?’ I enquired, to which a clear ‘more’ was the answer. Encouraged by this dialogue I returned to my headache to ask what that was all about , to which ‘rest’ was the reply. Well, resting was exactly what I could have done if I hadn’t booked on this course, but I resisted the argument and went with it. I knew I had been doing too much recently, and so I promised to return to a daily afternoon nap, or at least a regular step making session outside to help relax. The writing instruction was fine, I’ve been trying to make a start on my own book about my EDS years, as well as completing my herbal medicine studies so I knew now that both items needed to go further up my ‘to do’ list.
The next two pages in our booklet showed an illustration of a horse and a human. Each page was a different horse and to make our marks on this page we moved outside with our comfy chairs ( and welcome blankets) and sat on the safe side of a fence and watched the two horses. A large brown one and a smaller white one. ( See I told you I wasn’t horsey!)
The instruction was to select one of the horses and on the first page write down anything and everything that came into our heads, then write under the human anything that came up then.
After 5 or so minutes doing this, we then turned the page and focussed on the second horse. We spent a little time afterwards discussing what we’d written, and why and how that made us feel.
Then, horrah, it was lunch time!
Rosie had put together an extremely appetising and delicious soup, salad and dips lunch. Delightfully gluten free and with all the tasty tomatoes, oat cakes, guacamole and then those real treats of raw chocolate and date bars, I ate far more than usual, and we all enjoyed some enlightening conversations, all of course related to our day with the horses!
Now was the bit I hadn’t been waiting for, introductions to Jack and Bramble our horsey teachers.
Wait a moment though, we didn’t just walk into the paddock and have incredible bonding experiences with these two ,very large, beauties. Rosie had to be certain that we would be safe, as well as respectful of her her treasured friends.
We needed to learn about just how sensitive horses are, about how far our own, and horses energy fields reach out and how we needed to respect other beings before approaching them.
Rosie often has eager horsey people who can’t wait to run up to these beasts and snuggle them, or even mount them. This isn’t what today was all about. We needed to understand and recognise the signals horses give when they DON’T want us to approach them. Then, more importantly in my case, we needed to be able to recognise our own boundaries and the signals we give out, so that the horses didn’t come too close to us, if we didn’t want them to.
Now this is where the day sky rocketed for learning and Ah ha moments for me. We took turns to stand at the far end of a horse free paddock, as Rosie approached, stopping whenever she felt or noticed a physical or energetic signal telling her to stop. The rest of the group would be out of the way but were also instructed to look out for signs and signals. We all thought that getting too close would mean literally rubbing noses, and were all shocked to see that Rosie started a good 100 metres away. A twitch of a nose, hand moving, cough or blink, were enough to stop her approaching and helped us to realise that our personal energy fields far outstretch our physical self.
When it came to be my turn, Rosie was repeatedly stopping, yet neither I nor the others noticed any signals that i may have made. Rosie then explained that despite starting a fair distance away from me, she was already within my boundaries, which is why she felt she’s already come to close.
This was so enlightening to me, I now understood why the simple act of seeing one of my family walking up the drive to the house from my office window, gave me feelings of being ‘invaded’ and losing concentration on what I was working on. I had spent so much time believing that other people were invading my space due to their boundary issues, and now i realised that it was all down to me understanding, and setting my own clear boundaries.
After this exercise we practiced setting a clear boundary to Rosie, waving a stick, as if drawing a line, stopping her from approaching. This was for us to understand that we needed to be clear in both mind and body when setting our own boundaries. It became apparent just how disconnected we all are from what we say and what we actually want or mean.
After we all successfully did this exercise, Rosie knew that we’d be safe with the horses as they will naturally not come closer to us if we’ve set such a definite boundary around ourselves. We were also now aware that the horses will also have set boundaries and we needed to understand that we’d have to wait for their permission before we approach them.
Watching the other s have their time with Jack, the large brown horse, we observed a clear difference with the behaviour of the horses compared to the nature of who was approaching them. Someone desperate to stroke and cuddle Jack, had to wait until he was ready for her, but then enjoyed a lovely intimate time stroking him. The opposite happened when someone wary or even fearful of horses entered the paddock. Jack was easily spooked by noises outside the farm, but as the student approached and maintained a calm and respectful distance, Jack allowed him closer. There was no contact but that was ok, as it was still closer than this chap had been to a horse in a long while. Rosie works with children who are having emotional difficulties and has witnessed troubled kids realise that their emotional state effects the animals they are with, so staying and being calm, creates calm animals. An over excited mind will over excite an animal.
I chose to be with smaller female, Bramble for my experience. I calmly entered her paddock and took my time to slowly approach, being fully aware of her space and boundaries. She eventually approached me, with my permission, and even sniffed my hand, something I would previously been terrified of in case those giant teeth took a bite!
After realising I wasn’t going to feed her, the draw of the horse lover took Bramble to the gate where the others stood. No one approached her, this was ‘my time’. We all stood still for what seemed like an age, each of us present, listening to our breathing and the birds singing. I realised that I could have reason to panic as my exit from the paddock was now blocked by a still large and powerful horse, but then I remembered that I now had control of my boundaries and bramble wouldn’t come closer to me than I felt comfortable with.
Since my day I have had several opportunities to set my boundaries, not only with family and friends but with my friend’s pets. I am usually seen ‘grinning and bearing it’ as dogs bound up to me and lick my legs. I laugh that it’s probably because I bathe in Epsom salts but I have never felt comfortable pushing them away. Within three days of the course I had three occasions where I was able to set a clear boundary and I actually prevented some usually keen ‘lickers’ from coming up to me. No embarrassed dog owners, no wet tights or claw marks on my legs! What a result!
I’d often thought of my friends pets being like their children and I was always reluctant to offend them by shunning their adorable furry companions. However, I’m sure that they would be quick to push of one of my kids if they’d bounded up and started licking them!
If you’re interested in trying one of Rosie’s days and learning more about Horses or your self have a look at her website here: Horses as Teachers