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