There is a lot we can learn from the team of horses here at The Meadows Ranch. Can you imagine what it would be like to live every day as your authentic self? Horses do not ruminate on the past, worry about the future, or cover up their emotions. This is what makes them the perfect partner for healing trauma, regulating our nervous system, and finding balance in our life.
Humans are notorious for having incongruence between our true feelings and what we actually say. On the outside, we may put on a façade that tells others we are happy and confident, while on the inside we feel depression, anger, or out of control. Often times, we get so good at this façade that we actually begin to believe it ourselves.
In comes the horse. Horses do not wear masks or put on pretenses; horses are always their true self in every moment of the day. A well-known equine author, Linda Kohanov, wrote, “The suppression of self-interested emotion actually inhibits true connection. Peace, love, and compassion can create social disharmony when worn like masks to cover unresolved anger, fear, sadness, and depression.”
In therapy, horses can act as a type of biofeedback that tracks the ups and downs of one’s autonomic nervous system. Much like the popular healing modality Somatic Experiencing developed by The Meadows Senior Fellow Dr. Peter Levine, horses can be a way into our felt sense and deepen our ability to self-regulate.
When a person enters the arena with the herd, the herd will act as a barometer for the person’s innermost emotions. For example, if an individual is feeling highly activated, the horses may mirror that through running, moving away, or becoming agitated. On the other hand, if an individual is feeling depression or sadness, the horses may isolate, lower their heads, or lay down. If the individual is not in touch with their own emotions or nervous system activation, the reactions from the herd can begin to shed light on what is really going on.
In trauma and eating disorders, the ability to feel our emotions and develop a relationship to our felt-sense is the first step in the healing process. The horses here at The Meadows Ranch bring people closer to authentic selves each and every day.