PENNING BRINGS TRANSFORMATION OF LIFELONG FEAR
than six weeks ago my attitude towards horses could have been
summed up in one word; fear. As a result of several unfortunate
experiences I had as a child I came to the belief that horses
were not only large and powerful but also preyed upon people.
Further I thought that they could sense my fear and I was sure
to be kicked or bitten if I got near a horse. I could easily
envision these terrifying possibilities. As a result of these
misperceptions I had stayed away from horses despite the fact
that horses were my sisters passion.
my sister told me about Gillian Vallis and Pine Knoll Farm.
She told me that Gillian envisioned the farm as a place that
was therapeutic for people as well as horses. I met Gillian,
heard of her vision, saw the farm and the horses, and was told
about a book entitled Horse Sense and the Human Heart. This
book introduced me to the ways in which horses are a wonderful
centerpiece around which to anchor a psychotherapy/psycho spiritual
process from which humans can begin to heal and find their path
in this life.
was then introduced to the Round Penning experience whereby
horses teach people how to help them to survive in the world
of humans. I participated in a round penning workshop in which
I watched others work in the round pen until I was ready to
work in the round pen myself. I also learned much about the
nature of horses.
a result of these experiences my fear has turned into its opposite;
love. Love for horses and love for the process of healing both
humans and horses. I have now worked with several horses in
the round pen. Through this process I have experienced healing
and I have grown in self-confidence and self esteem. Most importantly
I have found in horses a means to work therapeutically with
my clients to facilitate their psychological and spiritual growth.
less than six weeks I have gone from being terrified of horses
to being in the saddle full of joy and bliss. As with all things
spiritual all parties involved have benefited. I have helped
horses, I have helped myself and I have come to share in the
vision of Pine Knoll Farm as a place of healing for both horses
Susan Lear MA, Kentucky
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Licensed Psychological Association
ON EAGALA EXPERIENCE AND
have attended many conferences and seminars in my time, but
never before one that took place in a barn. Not that a barn
is the appropriate description. It was, in fact, an impressive
purpose- built arena, at Pine Knoll farm, in Lexington, Kentucky,
but the ground was earthen and we sat on bails of hay.
facts were very important. This setting allowed for the presence
of two or three horses almost all of the time, during this three
have a friend who loves horses and who introduced me to helping
out at Riding for the Disabled. She tells me that she simply
feels more peaceful when she is around horses. I think it is
exactly that feeling which made this workshop so memorable.
I believe that it is that experience, that feeling of peace,
which could very well make therapeutic work with these animals,
for children, adolescents or adults, very powerful.
am not a therapist, although I am currently doing some courses
in transpersonal psychology, nor am I an experienced horse person,
although I did ride in my native Ireland and think horses magnificent
animals. In being neither a therapist nor a horse person
at this workshop, I was very much in the minority.
I am a lawyer and during those years when I specialized in divorce
work and later, worked with abused women, I met many people
who were in the middle of some of the darkest days of their
lives. Some people turn to therapy at these times and for many
this can be very helpful. But just as many, no doubt, shut down
emotionally and live much of their lives running. Running from
fear, from anger, from the terror of being hurt again. When
one is a child and hurting, it can be a double whammy. Where
to even find the words to acknowledge the feelings, even to
it may well be that it is just that sort of emotional paralysis
that the horse therapy could best address. Horses
are beautiful, powerful and often, very gentle. A winning combination.
But above all, they are simply themselves. They do not pretend,
they do not dissimulate. In the time honoured phrase, what you
see is what you get. A
horse will shy, a curious horse will wander up to join the humans
and a bored horse may nibble at a picnic bench (as did the fabulous
experience and, I believe, that of the other participants, was
that in dealing with such honest creatures, it becomes more
and more difficult to avoid ones own feelings and ones
own reactions. Some of the therapists found that some theories
had to go right out the window and some of the horse people
found that their long held horse theories had to go out the
same window. And I realized that in dealing with some 1200 lbs.
of horse flesh, there is not a great deal of time for negotiation!
philosophies and principles of EAGALA will no doubt have been
covered elsewhere, so I will refer only to those exercises in
which I took part.
A group of us were instructed to guide a horse over a jump,
without the use of any lead ropes or halter. We were informed
that we could not communicate verbally once the exercise began
and we were to decide on a consequence should anyone break that
began by discussing suitable consequences. There were five of
us in this group.
I normally consider myself a pretty reasonable, democratic person.
In fact I do recall suggesting a vote when we were at an impasse!
But I was startled at how irritated I became when the consequence
discussion continued at length. I believed this section
of the exercise was not a priority and we should get down to
the real work!
clearly, some of the others did not feel the same way. I came
face to face with some less than patient traits of mine, also
with my discomfort at being too passive or
having no control. Nobody pointed any of this out. We were all
allowed simply to become aware of our responses to the exercise.
Incidentally, we did a record breaking job of getting the horse
over the jump!
exercise in which two colleagues acted as my hands
while I could merely be the brain and instruct in
the saddling up of a horse was more comfortable for me. It reinforced
my belief that I do enjoy team work. However, my regard for
safety was on the shaky side. The horse, Penny, had a sore back
and was not at all sure she wanted to be saddled. One of my
hands Anne, was in danger of being bitten and I
was blissfully unaware. Perhaps the fearlessness of my twelve
year old, snow boarding, son has infected me more than is wise!
these exercises and in the many which I witnessed, it was clear
time and time again that the horse would not be manipulated
or cajoled or fooled into being anything other than honest.
It was clear that communication with the horse had to be on
a very basic and deep level. And the lessons one learns about
oneself are not always the most comfortable.
through it all, time and again, I felt how privileged I was,
how wonderful it was, to spend days in the company of these
superb animals who, for so much of our history, have been a
vital part of our lives and our survival.
ROUND PEN EXPERIENCE:
had read a little of Monty Roberts (the horse whisperer)work
before going to Kentucky. While his beliefs and philosophies
were inspiring, my impression remained that the training and
work that he tackled with the horses was strictly for very experienced
then I watched Bruce Anderson at work, watched his ease of connection
with the horses and saw a young girl, with whom he had worked
in the past, apply the same principles when she stepped in the
in mind that horses are flight animals, one positions ones
body at an angle to the horses head or rump to control
the direction in which the horse is moving. Keeping in mind
that horses are flight animals, one makes a noise or movement
to increase the pace at which the horse is moving. Throughout
one must maintain focus, must pay attention to the horse.
was exited and enthusiastic about trying this ....and it really
went very well for me. I worked with Borak, who is a fantastic
horse, very spirited. He had, of course, done round pen work
before and helped me out! But what I was not prepared for, what
I had not been truly aware of, was the close attention that
these animals pay to us and the immediacy of their response
to any action on a humans part.
I quit looking at Borak, which in effect means taking
the pressure off, he slowed down, he stopped running.
When I turned my back on him, he approached me and nuzzled my
back. For me, that was a wonderful moment, a moment of real
trust. I felt very honoured, very privileged. This was unquestionably
the most memorable experience of the entire weekend.
has and will be said about the effectiveness of this kind of
work in teaching co-operation, either in personal or business
relationships; in emphasizing the importance of non-verbal communication;
probably even in dealing with some personal and deep emotional
issues and I am sure that there is a tremendous amount of truth
in all of this.
my part, I can only say that the experience was very special,
even joyful.. I wish the same to anyone who has the good fortune
to try it.
Honor Desmond-Tetlow, Bermuda
More Round Pen Testimonials See Round
Pen Experience - Chapter 2