Published in the December 2013/January 2013 issue of North Simcoe Community News.

Of one thing I am certain, the body is not the measure of healing, peace is the measure.  —Phyllis McGinley, Pulitzer Prize winning American author of children’s books and poetry

I’ve been battling debilitating chronic pain from a mysterious illness. Despite undergoing countless tests and trying a long list of drugs, I still have no diagnosis. I’ve come to realize that Western Medicine has its limitations. And so I began to look elsewhere for some answers.

Lissa Rankin, M.D. and author of Mind Over Medicine, says that healing is blocked when we are in fight or flight mode. I have my share of anxieties. I care passionately about the Earth and its natural systems, and live with constant worry about what we are doing to our precious planet. I also struggle with loneliness and lack of trust. Maybe if I dealt with these issues and found peace and joy, my body would be able to heal.

This quest has led me to some wonderful teachers, but none perhaps as powerful as Magic the horse.

I met Magic at a Reflections of You workshop, hosted by Terri Bowhey and Colleen Weber. This Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) program involved engaging with horses to stimulate personal growth through self-awareness and intuitive insight.

As highly social prey animals, horses have developed a heightened awareness of energy and non-verbal signals, which they respond to in a clear, non-judgmental manner. Horses like Magic that are used in the program are also eager to be with people. With the guidance of talented facilitators Terri and Colleen, Magic helped me to see a mirror of myself and experience the wonder of being in the moment.

My first experience with the horses was to observe the herd outside in their environment. Magic showed immediate interest in me. This big beautiful black mare approached without hesitation and nuzzled me with her soft nose. When it was time to leave, she walked me to the gate. I felt such a deep sense of gratitude to be appreciated by this powerful, strong-willed creature. Each person in the group developed a connection with a different horse, as if the herd collaborated to assist us.

In the arena, Colleen and Terri taught me to be observant and responsive to Magic’s body language, a resourceful tool to use when approaching a big powerful animal. This was my first opportunity to initiate physical connection with Magic. It was a powerful, heartfelt moment. In effect, I was learning to attain the alert and sympathetic consciousness that comes so naturally to horses, but not so to me.

After a delectable meal at the ranch house, provided by Terri and Colleen, I headed back to the arena. My goal: to identify my greatest desire, and observe what the horse mirrors back. My fervent wish was to be vulnerable to develop deeper connections. When I entered the ring, Magic trod right up to me and put her head on my shoulder. But suddenly, she walked away to the other side of the pen. What did I do wrong? I slowly approached her, looking for any signs of discomfort. She let me put my hand on her shoulder for a moment and then she walked away again. This happened several times, so I walked to the gate and prepared to exit. Colleen helped me to see that I was feeling rejected. She challenged me to get Magic to walk with me, without a lead, around the arena. I slowly approached Magic, stood beside her and started walking forward. That lovely horse walked all the way around the pen with me. It was that easy!

I learned that my intuition was influenced by judgment. I saw rejection where it didn’t exist. I also found out that connection is just a request away. And after experiencing how easy it was to set clear boundaries with the horses, I felt ready to try it with people. I left with a sense of enhanced balance in my life. Horses, it turns out, are a good prescription for peace and joy.

Every one of us in the program left that day with different but equally valuable insights and a whole new appreciation for the magic of horses.

Both Colleen and Terri are certified FEEL Facilitators who have completed an extensive and demanding apprenticeship program. To learn more about the Reflections of You workshops hosted at Blue Heron Stables in Minesing call Terri, 705-721-9447 or Colleen 705-487-0565.

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