Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tips for Hard Times and Healing

While I won't dwell on the recent passing on my son (you can learn more at I have learned some things in grief counseling that I think will apply to anyone who is going through a tough time or who has a major decision to make.Link
1. When in doubt, write it out. Most things become clearer when you see them in black and white.
2. Be kind to yourself. We get so busy being nice to others that we forget to be nice to ourselves.
3. After a life changing event such as a divorce, job relocation, death, or serious illness, try to postpone decisions on other big events for at least one year.
4. Sleep is far more important for our health and well being than we ever imagined.
5. It's okay to cry.
6. Horses are a great indicator of how you are doing. If they relate to you normally, you are doing well.

Horses (and dogs), know when their human friends are on an emotional roller coaster, and they can be a wonderful touchstone regarding your mental health. But if you are overly emotional, you might want to think about staying away from your equine partners until you are on a more even keel. We spend a lot of time establishing trust, confidence and respect with our horses and just one emotional outburst can take away all your hard work.

Remember that dogs and humans are predators, and horses are prey. There is a fundamental difference in the two mindsets. A horse needs to know you are capable of leading him or her away from danger, if the need arises. A dog will put their life on the line for you in the blink of an eye. That's why dogs can handle your crying spell, sadness or grief much better than a horse can.

While we all hope to sail through life unscathed, the reality is that we do experience love and loss, cross country moves, job changes, divorce, serious illness and death. I believe that time is the greatest healer (and sometimes we need lots of it) but hopefully the ideas above will help some, too.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Most of you know my only child passed away recently. For days after, I purposely stayed away from horses I was actively working with because I knew my energy and emotions were all over the place. Horses are so intuitive, and I didn't want all the hard work spent establishing trust, confidence and respect wasted. I didn't want the horses to view me as unstable and incapable of leading them away from danger, if danger arose. It's been almost a month now, and I hope to soon go back and re-integrate myself into the "herd."

Since Colby passed, I have spoken at two therapeutic riding conferences and the horses there were noticeably more jumpy when I was near, than when I was not. I don't expect my emotions to level out immediately or automatically, but I do expect the horses to let me know how I am doing. They are a far better judge of where I am in the healing process than I am.

This is something we all need to remember. Our horses can immediately pick up on our mood and feelings. And they will react accordingly. Does that mean every time we have a bad day, we need to stay away from the barn? Of course not, but we should be aware of the energy and emotion we are projecting and alter our actions and interactions accordingly.

And horses aren't the only ones who pick up on wavering emotions. People do, too. We've all encountered someone our instincts told us not to trust, whom we felt for some reason was unstable. So if you are going through a hard time, for any reason, remember that while people are not as intuitive as horses, we do often pick up on the fact that someone is more emotional than usual. So adjust accordingly, take a deep breath, focus as best you can and you'll find that during times of crisis you'll get through with a lot more support from others than you might expect.