“Mary and I bought Cherokee Ridge Horse Farm in 2005 after searching for a “little more land” and moved in April 2006. Shortly thereafter we met our neighbor Sandy at Thunder Ridge Horse Farm. Sandy had been conducting EAP along with Roslyn as her Mental Health Professional, since the late 1990’s. After Sandy moved away, Roslyn ask me if I would supply horses and help her continue her “horse therapy” work. Why not?
Having no previous experience with “horse therapy”, Roslyn gave me a few pointers, a primer on using horses in therapy and put me to work. I figured out immediately that she was a bit strange. I mean, after all, “horses reading the emotions of humans”? We “worked” together for several weeks with me thinking Roslyn was getting stranger all the time.
Then this young girl came to group therapy, I’ll call her Sally. She was nine, smaller than the rest of the girls, and the product of a step family: his kids, her kids and their kids. She was somewhere in the middle. Sally was acting out at home and school, not sure of just where she fit it and unsure of how to make her way in her new environment.
In those days, the first task we gave clients was to “catch and halter a horse”. Sally must have spent five or six sessions following this huge horse around with a halter and lead rope. She never said much at the sessions but never seemed discouraged. Week after week- same result, she was unable to catch and halter the horse.
Since I am task oriented, I wanted to help her, give her some encouragement, do it for her- anything to enable her to complete the task and realize she could do it. All the other girls had completed the task by now. I would move closer to her during the sessions but Roslyn kept indicating that I needed to move away from Sally and let her and her horse work.
Finally one session, Sally walked off toward the same huge horse. As he walked away and avoided her, she kept following and eventually got him in a corner. I couldn’t hear what she said to him but she definitely had his attention. She was really giving him the business- meaning she was pointing her finger at him, demanding that the horse do what she wanted. After a few minutes, this huge horse lowered his head all the way to the ground, Sally put on the halter, fastened the buckle, and led the horse back to the treatment team. She simply said “Now I know what I have to do to take care of myself”. She left and never came back for another session. Roslyn and I just looked at each other. We were both caught up in the emotion of a kid learning from a horse how to overcome one of life’s obstacles and continue on her journey. I know she is somewhere out there continuing to use what she learned from that huge horse.
Since that session, I have seen, time and time again, people learning to overcome the curve in the road that life has thrown them.
In the process of helping others, I have realized that I suffer the effects of being in combat in Vietnam, a condition we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I remember my intake at the VA clinic and the doctor telling me that I had all of the indicators and asking me if I wanted to see the counselor. I, of course, declined. Who would want to talk about that?
As a result of being a small part of seeing horses really heal people, they have begun to heal me. Little by little I am able to share my issues with them. They don’t question my motive, they don’t tell me what to do with my emotions. They just listen as if they understand and walk with me along my personal journey.
Maybe Roslyn wasn’t so strange after all.”