Jen and I connected through Facebook around October last year. At the time I was in the middle of major battle with PTSD symptoms resulting from reporting childhood child hood sexual assault by a former cadet instructor, that had occurred to me 33 years previous, I was fighting this war within myself while waiting for the court proceeding to play out and before I could receive other psychological therapy such as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).
I finally made the trip to Bullsbrook to meet Jen and the herd at 10am on Friday 2 March 2018, this period of time was particularly difficult for me as the court case was only about two weeks away. The next 4 hours were nothing short of amazing.
I’ve always loved horses, majestic and graceful animals with eyes that can penetrate into your deepest being, however I’ve been so connected with them before this day.
Jen and I sat on the big log in the centre of the arena, under the shade of a tree and just quietly chatted in the presence of the herd.
The serenity of Eagle View, being close to nature and the connection with the horses, in particularly one, Kouri, not only helped me relax but also identify injuries I’d been carrying which I had to work on.
Above: Kouri the wonder horse at the beautiful serine surroundings of Eagle View.
After sitting on the log for some time, Kouri who was quietly standing behind us slowly moved closer and then gently nudged me several times in my upper left back several times with his nose before slowly moving around the front of us and then having a pee. Jen explained that Kouri was picking up on pain I was carrying, taking some of that energy from me and then as he moved around and had a pee was discharging that energy. Sounds strange right?
What Jen didn’t know before that occurred was that I was carrying a left shoulder injury which had been troubling me.
Furthermore, as Kouri was stood in front of us he began making strange faces and moving and flicking his right ear for a period of time. Jen explained that this could be mirroring behaviour from my connection with Kouri.
Again, what Jen didn’t know was that throughout February I had been flying around the state regularly for work and the regular changes in air pressure had been causing me some pain in and around my right ear.
After some time in the arena, I began to cry, not because I felt emotional as such, but I just began discharging what I know now as tears of stress relief, and a couldn’t stop them flowing for a while.
When my PTSD is at full alert, the amygdala in my brain is firing on all cylinders, this is the part of your brain that initiates our natural intuitive reactions such as fight, flight, freeze or appease. When the amygdala is firing it’s like and alarm going off that you can’t turn off. For me that causes anxiety, sleeplessness, paranoia, hyper vigilance etc. I can tell you being with the horses, helped turn off that alarm and helped me sleep.
I’ve been back to see Jen, Kouri my wonder horse, and the rest of the herd several times, most recently a special guest for a fundraising morning tea Jen put together to help me travel to speak at mental health conferences in August.
I totally recommend giving Jen a call and going to visit the herd. Jen is continually learning and undergoing training and study to improve upon the amazing work she does. So enough of my lengthy introduction, please read Jen’s guest blog. Thanks Jen, it’s an honour and a pleasure.
The Kindness Project – Equine Facilitated Learning
My journey into recognising how the body retains trauma and the concept that trauma is a full body and mind experience, came during my study into equine bodywork and several energy-based modalities. It was during this time learning that I began to see how trauma had impacted the horses physically and that during the combined processes of bodywork and energy work I was able to help the horses process their traumas and discharge the associated energy. After these processes had happened the physical and mental changes were quite dramatic.
At this time, I was introduced to ‘Equine Facilitated Learning’ which led me on a new pathway of connecting people and horses, and seeing how horses were able to impact peoples healing and aid the journey of people reconnecting to themselves. It was here that I had found my absolute purpose.
I completed several different trainings and discovered the work of Peter Levine and ‘Somatic Experiencing’ this is when all the pieces really started to fall into place. I am now into my third year of study to become a ‘Somatic Experiencing Practitioner’. This modality allows the practitioner to aid a person to connect with their body through the felt sense instead of being a talk-based modality. When a safe environment has being created clients are able to connect with their felt sense and discharge energy that has been held in the body due to an event, which caused their survival instincts to take over. Trauma occurs and resides within the body when the survival charge is undischarged and therefore becomes trapped.
Above: Jen working with a client and horses in the arena
My herd and I work in a large open area, where they have the freedom to interact with clients as they see fit. We do not ride them and vary rarely do we use any form of tack, ropes or halters on them. They also live as freely as possible on 100 acres of mostly natural vegetation. I believe my horses connect with a client by freedom of choice; this is one of the most important aspects of what I do at ‘The Kindness Project’.
The horses help create the safety by helping to hold space for people in a non-judgemental environment. They also have an incredible ability to engage a person’s nervous system whereby through an energy exchange they are able to affect a human’s heart rate variability, blood pressure and breathe rate. They interact this way with members of their herd to create a safe environment and ensure their survival from predators. If a dysregulated nervous system is within the herd it will draw the attention of predators who seek to take the weakest prey. Therefore, if a dysregulated human enters their herd we pose a threat to their safety and the horses will come and help regulate your body.
Horses are extremely sensitive to energies and I have found they are able to read our bodies and find places of discomfort; it has been my experience that through touch they are able to help shift and process people’s energy for them. This connection also allows them to see things that are currently affecting a person life, and I have regularly encountered them playing out a scene for a person just like a movie. It can be something that is causing the person issue and will be from their past, present or future. Not once have the horses got it wrong!
Above: Jen and a client, making that soulful connection
It is my absolute belief, through research, training, personal experience and my connection to my herd that they willingly help the humans who enter their space.
The horses and I see that every person that chooses to work with us is completely worthy of healing their trauma and finding their true self. The herd as individuals and as a collective have an incredible gift and if a person is willing to be available the horses are willing to share themselves with you. As people who feel broken arrive, I feel they must have seen a glimmer of their own worthiness and are keen to help find their whole self once again, and that is something we are able to help them do.