S-L-O-W-L-Y. . .Five Seconds to Ten

This video is hard for me to watch because Shorna moves so slowly.

I am also not good at shooting video yet and she doesn’t like me aiming my phone at her. Can you see by her ears and the way she is looking at me?

I cluck at her in the beginning of the video, something I rarely do, because…it doesn’t work and she seems beyond clucking. She perks up her ears to acknowledge me. She does come to me, in her own time. See how slowly Shorna walks, how she lets the water fall from her mouth before she moves. She is capable of great speed and has fast reflexes.  She is choosing a pace that is energy-conserving for winter and gives her sure-footedness on the ice. Her pace also seems related to trust-building. If I wait for her, it gives her time to see if it is safe, time to see if I am safe.

More and more I am aware of my short time-patience continuum. This is a 90 second video and I can barely sit through it. Did you find the same after watching?

I timed myself and I give on average five seconds for the horses to respond to me. After five seconds, I move on, change tactics or escalate if I don’t get a response. I also start having thoughts that I am not going to get a response, and this produces feelings of frustration and anger. Wow!  I know if I do this to the horses, I must have the same expectation of my family, my friends, myself, of life.  My ego is on a five second timer!

I wonder what would happen if I wait longer for life to respond?

What I care most about in this world…takes time…my marriage, my kids’ futures, our farm, my health, my creativity, my friendships, growing tomatoes.  Five seconds isn’t long enough to swim in my cup of life, savour it, relish it, be swallowed up and transformed by it.  It’s only long enough to look at it.

I am going to start waiting ten seconds and will let you know what happens.

Take care,





I am learning if I wait, Shorna will come to greet me. She will do what I ask.

Can I Have a Horse Hug?

A good friend asked if he would get a hug from the horses when we told him about what we are up to with Hugging Horses.

My first thought was to refer to what horses do in the wild. Horses show affection by grooming each other. Frodo and Pippin often nibble at each other’s manes and necks, giving each other scratches as an act of kindness. Shorna and Hatta will stand very close to each other, side by side looking forward, being very still and quiet. I think Hatta gets a lot of comfort and validation being so close to the leader of the herd.  And on sunny days this winter, all four stand side by side facing the sun, heads drooping as they doze to store up energy for warmth.

Being still and watching, there is a depth to these interactions between them. Real meaning and generosity behind their movements.

When I stand beside Shorna facing the same direction as her, and she turns her long neck towards me…most of the time there is no physical contact at all, but I feel she has seen me and has reached out to acknowledge me. I feel love from her.

In those moments I want to touch her. I want to expand what she has given me. My own discomfort with being still and receiving, has me want to add to or change the moment. When I give in to my impulse and try to touch or pet her, Shorna normally walks away slowly or turns her head back to eating and I lose the moment. I leave feeling a little empty or disconnected. When I resist my impulse and I can simply stand there and let it be enough…I feel love from her.  And my cup is filled.

Franklin Levinson teaches beautifully about horse affection and human behaviour. In his Horsemanship Essay called How Do Horses Show Affection?, he explains how horses express affection to each other,  how humans can receive affection in the same way from horses, and what there is to gain for us by doing so.

Hatta and Frodo dozing together

How is this important in therapy?

Understanding how horses show affection and connect and what is required of humans to connect with horses is a direct parallel with the client-therapist and the success of any therapeutic process.

In order for the horse to lead me into the deeper place and connection I long for, I have to be willing to give up thinking I control the process or outcome.  Therapy is the same thing.

Many clients want therapy to be a fix, a relief from one or more pain points in their lives.  Many people approach the process and the therapist looking for suggestions or solutions they believe are plausible and doable and which fit their existing framework of life.  In essence, these clients want to control the process, inside a framework they already use in their lives.  This limits their expansion to occur within their existing framework.

A good therapist spends much of the therapy journey building trust with the client.  Trust becomes a foundation for the client to gently go into places and feelings that may be momentarily uncomfortable, yet that deliver sustainable change and deep healing.  By doing so, the client creates a new framework for themselves and expansion happens.

Therapeutic trust happens much faster for a client with a horse. As an assist to the therapeutic process, horses are non-judgemental, non-verbal and vulnerable animal mirrors, revealing to clients what being open and vulnerable looks like and feels like in the moment. A horse will reflect a client’s emotional state, openness and intention back to them, as they happen. Therapists and Clients can safely witness together, comprehend and process what is revealed by their horse assistant and use this knowledge to begin, deepen and acknowledge the client’s therapy journey.

Feeling is Healing



Four Special Horses…

Every horse is special.

Shorna, Hatta, Frodo, and Pippin moved from Pretty River Inn to live with us in Muskoka and be healing horses. This is our story of learning, loving and sharing these special animals.



As a white Percheron, it is Shorna’s size most people notice first. A gentle giant, Shorna moves with grace and has wonderful mama energy. She holds respectful distance with everyone she meets and people come to cherish the connection they are drawn into with her. She takes her role as leader seriously, nudging the others along and disciplining when needed.

Her lips on our hands are like being swallowed in velvet when we give her a treat.

When we hold a question in our minds and go visit, Shorna comes towards us, and after she leaves, we notice new ideas and words. Try it!

Shorna is having us ask, “What will it take from us to be her Leader?”


Hatta is an Icelandic horse and, while she used to live on the same property as the others, she is the newest member of the herd. Hatta is most responsive to us so far; always the first to come to the gate to say hello to new people and our daughter. She is skittish and lovely, gently curious. We see her having amazing potential as a mirror of teenager – anything-is-possible energy.

She has a beautiful mane and tail, white flash on her forehead and adorable bangs that bob when she runs.  We know she will find her place in the herd and be fully accepted by the others.


Frodo is quite a character, as his name promises. Frodo is a miniature horse, but don’t try to tell him that. He is the only male in the herd and always first to investigate. First week here, we got a call at 6:00 am from the lady who plows our drive that Frodo was down the road with her. We moved quickly in the dark to get dressed and ran outside, only to find Frodo there peacefully with the others, as though nothing had happened. He escaped for his visit and came back that same hour to make sure he didn’t miss breakfast! This is a horse who challenges, tests, plays and loves fully and easily.


Pippin has her winter coat on, and her face makes her look like a mountain yak; shaggy dark brown hair, dark eyes, dark bangs. She is a sweet doll and loves playing the princess. She is open to being hugged and petted in every way, especially if a treat is included! Pippin often backs up to the gate and rests her bottom on the wood, rocking back and forth to scratch. Frodo often calls her to wrestle, and she will kick out her back hooves to show her saucy side.  We think there are layers to discover about Pippin, more than her pretty face.  Her being the most open to touch initially, builds confidence for people to be open. She is our ambassador of touch.

Feeling is Healing