He lied his way into the arena….


It was a windy cloudy day in the 40’s when the men’s group arrived.  There were 8 of them hanging over the fence petting the horses before they signed their release forms.  When the paperwork was out of the way we had our intro conversation in the arena;  the wind was uncomfortable and one guy excused himself and said, ok, well thanks but I’m not really in this group and I should go wherever I’m suppose to go and besides, I’m really cold, I just wanted to pet a horse and now I’ve done that, so I should go.

We take the horses to an adult residential rehabilitation center for people in the early days of recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol, so I say to the guy, you know, the thing about the weather is, it’s either cold, or windy or there are bugs, or then there are allergies, or it’s hot, if we are just going to work our recovery program when the weather is right, we are on a narrow road here.   He said, good point, how about I just stay here and see what I can learn.

We had our activity “steps one two and three” and when we were done, the guy comes over and makes a point of stopping us to say, I am so glad I stayed, I thought we were just going to pet the horses, I never imagined I was going to learn something valuable for my life!




Equine Therapy:
Takes all different shapes and sizes.  Sometimes just getting to stand next to or pet a horse is therapy. In the end, it’s not about the horse but overcoming things like fear and self doubt.

Managing your issues

Zig and BE at work

It was practice for the “real”world outside of rehab when they would really have to manage their triggers and their denial.  Those were the metaphors they named the horses and their jobs were to get the horses to go to the pockets they designated ahead of time as a group while staying in a line between the buckets.  They went through a lot!  The horses were running everywhere and the group was split and chaotic, but then they made a big shift and got themselves together.  Once their triggers were managed they could turn all their attention on their denial.  This lesson won’t soon be forgotten by anyone who was lucky enough to participate in this Equine Assisted Psychotherapy session..

Anchoring the experience.

Girls Program

People Learning by Doing

Experiential learning works because of the ‘doing’.  Distinct from just talking about what we did or what we are going to do, valuable but different than doing. What is unforgettable in this photo?  What is the anchor that will recreate this experience for those ladies? Is it the bright sunny day?  The soft ponies nose, the horse laying down, the colorful parachute, the company, the serene feeling of being in a crowd, yet completely in an intimate moment? Is it just that this pony is as tall standing up as this girl sitting down?  It’s all up to the individual to ‘take away’ the anchor that will bring  this experience into their lives outside of the arena.




Being Serene


The  Group wanted to work on things in recovery that they knew they needed but didn’t know how to get or keep.  Serenity was only one of the three tools in recovery that they named and that is her laying in the leaves.  The moment they named her, she went directly over, pawed in the leaves and proceeded to have a nap, right there in the arena with the entire group of people watching.  

When they needed to use "Serenity" She was ready and available.

When they needed “Serenity” She was ready and available.

As soon as it was time to apply Serenity to their recovery journey in the exercise, she woke up, looked around, had a stretch and did exactly what they wanted.  She was a fine example for this group of women in how to use “serenity” in early recovery.