Somatic Experiencing and Natural Horsemanship

Boss, a retired 21-year-old registered quarterhorse, who gave his whole heart successfully chasing steer down a roping arena, is healing wounded souls determined to recover from their eating disorders at The Meadows Ranch LIFE Program. This special horse, along with a herd of other retired horses “holds the space” for patients to somatically experience the sensation of trust, many for the first time in their lives.

Colleen DeRango, a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and Equine Specialist, says, “When trust is restored, it becomes the pathway to hope. When hope is experienced, a life is transformed.” Colleen describes her job as a privilege and brags that her “staff” of horses is “the most gifted healers of all.”

“Like tuning forks, their no-nonsense, solid, here-and-now-fully-present ‘being’ allows patients to experience the same,” Colleen says. “The horses don’t look at the patients’ leg-gap, or body size, nor judge their emotional struggles; they just see the patients for who they are. And, in being seen for whom they are, the patients tune into their own here-and-now presence, which is often followed by a deep sigh of relief—relaxed shoulders, and softened facial expressions. “ Colleen states that as an SE practitioner; she pounces on this “appearance of relief” gently encouraging the patients to “notice” their shift in sensation. “From a trauma healing perspective, it is wonderful that their body has experienced the sensation,” she says.

“They become aware of their body’s experience of “relief and calm” in the present moment,” says Colleen. “This is the beginning of the miracle of a life being restored. “ Colleen has worked in trauma healing for over a decade, and in working with patients with eating disorders, she has found their histories include some of the most damaging breeches of trust she has ever encountered. Many times their pleasant facades hide histories of such significant damage that expecting these patients to trust a person can often be too much, too soon. The horses provide a brilliant and non-threatening pathway building up to a sense of not only “I can,” but “I can trust.”

One of Colleen’s patients wrote on a particularly challenging day during her recovery from her eating disorder: “When I’m with a horse, I think that when he looks at me, he can look straight through to what’s really on the inside. He can see what I am and everything that’s ever happened to me, but he still doesn’t turn away. He doesn’t think I’m worthless or bad, or filthy or dirty, and it feels like he’s telling me: ‘You can trust me.’ So, I do. It’s the easiest and most natural trust I’ve ever given to another living being. And, I think in turn, he trusts me. He knows I’m not going to hurt him, and I know he’s not going to hurt me. I can talk to a horse about anything without even saying the words out loud. He can just tell what I need from him right then, and he gives it to me. The horse can tell I want to take care of him too. It’s a mutually close connection that has zero fear, mistrust, or shame. This is the most open I’ve ever been allowed to feel. It’s also the first time in my entire life that I’ve felt any sort of worth or self-esteem about anything. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt 100% safe with someone else.”

Hope springs eternal at a miracle ranch called The Meadows Ranch.

We Can Help

The Meadows Ranch combines evidence-based theories to teach coping and containment skills in order to do the deeper work to get at the source of the eating disorder so that a person can make long lasting recovery-based change.

For additional information about the treatment of eating disorders, please call to speak to a Counselor at 866-390-5100 and we will contact you with the information you need.

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