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Discovering Your Warrior Within…With a Horse

Elisa on horse 2I’m not necessarily what you’d call a “horse person”.  I was the kid who rather than ride the pony was pulled from behind along the field while hanging on to her reins (don’t let the photos deceive you, I look like a confident kid but Shakey was a tough little gal).  I was the kid whose horse decided to break off into a gallop as my little 9 year old hands hung on for dear life and I was the one who would pat the horse gently and admire her from afar while my oldest daughter would ride her around the ring. 

The gentle giant who took off with me shortly after this photo was taken
The gentle giant who took off with me shortly after this photo was taken

Don’t get me wrong, I think horses are incredibly beautiful and majestic animals we’ve just always had a thing with each other.  So you can imagine my reservations when Joaquin Jacobs invited me to participate in his Equine Therapy Session at River Highlands Ranch.  Joaquin is offering the Equine Workshop during Passion into Action on May 31st and wanted me to experience process first hand.  I’ve heard incredible stories about “horse healing” so I went to into the experience with an open heart and an open mind.

As we drove down the dirt road towards the horses in Joaquin’s traditional rancher truck, he shared stories about the positive effects of Equine Therapy.  One of his clients, a Vietnam Veteran had considered taking his own life but chose otherwise after his experience (he disclosed this to Joaquin after their session) another client had been in a coma for three months and had tremendous results after a session with the horses.   Apparently Equine Therapy is pretty powerful stuff.

Joaquin Jacobs
Joaquin Jacobs

It’s hard to imagine that this huggable cowboy was once an Analytical Chemist.  Joaquin re-connected with his love for horses after a lab accident brought him home.  He founded Pan-Equus in 1993 in Grass Valley CA, as a non-profit organization to study Equine Human Interaction and now provides trauma healing for veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury along with the many areas where horses are so effective in helping humans.

As I approached the horses grazing in the pasture Ellie was the first one who greeted me.  At three years old Ellie is one of the youngest horses Joaquin has rescued.  In her former home she had virtually no human interaction and her only companion was a goat.  The owners were convinced, as in many of the cases, that Ellie wouldn’t get in the trailer but with Joaquin she went right in and found her new home.  He introduced me to the other horses, Nobelina, Treasure, Rosie the small but affectionate matriarch.  She was once a police horse and did search and rescue before moving to River Highlands Ranch. There were about eight horses in total. 

Joaquin had mentioned that one of the horses would choose me.  The thought crossed my mind, “what if none of the horse choose me?”  Of course that didn’t happen.  I realized both Treasure and Ellie were standing near me.  “They are asking you to choose who you want to work with,” said Joaquin.  I didn’t anticipate that.  I selected Ellie since she was the first one to greet me and I liked her sweet nature.

Joaquin roped her up and she didn’t budge.  He starts to maneuver her back and forth rather than lead her directly to the ring.  She begins to walk.  “Sometimes you can’t face a problem head on, but rather have to figure out an alternative way to get there,” said Joaquin.  Finally Ellie is in the ring.  We’re standing side by side and Joaquin hands me various brushes to groom her.  Both of us begin to relax.  Ellie drops her head.  My heart melts for her.  This is the closest I’ve been to a horse in a long time. 

We begin a series of different activities.  I lead her with the rope until we’re walking together.  Joaquin explains the energy field that exists between Ellie and I.  He shows me how to move her leg by slightly touching her muscle.  The first time I barely touch her front right leg and she moves it back.  “You’re pretty powerful Elisa,” Joaquin says.  The second time I touch her back leg, she doesn’t move.  “You need to follow through and be clear about your intention if you want her to move,” he says.  I think about how I’ve applied the same practice of intention with my See Jane Do projects.  She moves her leg and I reward her with a hug.

10258163_10202860903737527_2470335047291315240_n“Now I want you to move Ellie around the ring without touching her,” says Joaquin.  “What,” I’m thinking, “guide her without using a rope?”  Joaquin being an incredible Horse Whisperer, brings up his arms slightly and Ellie responds immediately.  He and Ellie do this incredible dance together, moving her in all directions around the ring.  Joaquin steps out of the ring.  It’s just Ellie and I.  60 minutes ago I would never had considered being in the ring by myself with a horse.  I raised my hands up and apart.  “Come on Ellie,” I said.  She chose to face the corner.  Joaquin encouraged me to try again.  I mustered up my confidence and used my voice, “let’s go Ellie.”  She moved!  Within minutes I was guiding Ellie around the ring.  It was incredible.  Afterwards Ellie gave me a horse hug and a kiss.  Our session was complete. 

10302493_10202860904857555_1816856954887255362_nAs we exited the ring, Ellie followed me out.  Joaquin said that’s unusual.  Typically when the session is over the horse takes off but she stayed with me until we were out in the pasture.  Finally we gave one last good-bye.  She looked over at me from a distance and then joined the rest of her family.  My friends will not be surprised to hear that I shed a tear or two.

10273573_10202860904257540_7183154491483243946_nEquine Therapy can be a healing experience for both the horse and the participant.  I can’t speak for Ellie but my experience was so powerful.  This exercise wasn’t about mind games or controlling a horse.  Ellie is a huge animal.  She didn’t have to do anything I asked of her.  More so our interaction was the gift of two beings connecting without language, through trust, compassion, intent, confidence and love.  How many times do we want something to happen and then get frustrated when it doesn’t turn out the way we expected it too.  It’s so important to be clear on what you want, to lead without fear, to follow through with the best intentions and to have the confidence that you have the power to make it happen.  Because it will…Ellie taught me that.  When you believe, others will feel that energy and will want to join you.

As we drove back to the barn and I shared my insight with Joaquin he said that the experience with the horses is about discovering your warrior within.  Perhaps I’m a horse person after all.

Discover your warrior within at the 4th Annual Passion into Action and See Jane Do Slumber Party on May 31st at River Highlands Ranch in Smartsville, CA (just outside of Grass Valley). 

*Be sure to bring an extra pair of shoes you don’t mind getting dirty if you plan to participate in this amazing workshop.


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