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Heart Connection Valentine's Day 2024

Who's making a heart connection?

The first day that a new group comes to the farm, we go through setting up the rules to create a safe physical and emotional environment. Then, after teaching about the need for awareness when around these big horses and how they might be communicating their needs to us, we lead both youth and staff through a grounding exercise. Next, we go out to the horse pens. Last week both the big and small arena had three horses waiting to meet teens and a few teens went into each area to meet and greet the horses with volunteers and staff standing by. Sue was holding Starlight’s lead and observing her response to each youth. Starlight showed absolutely no welcome to the first three coming up to her, she even laid her ears slightly back at one. She held her head aloof and  just stared into the other pen where the other students were meeting horses. Then we switched. A young man now approached Starlight and she took a slight step towards him. A good first sign. She sniffed the hand he offered for his ‘horseman’s handshake’. Her eyes got soft. We encouraged the young man to touch and then stroke the horse’s neck. Her head lowered another six inches and her eyes started to close. The young man now had both hands gently resting on the side of her neck, feeling her warm winter coat. She relaxed totally into his gentle touch and he softened into her space. We knew Starlight had found her kid. I quietly sighed with my own release. Sue and I looked at each other with a bit of amazement as we never see Starlight connect like that with anyone, let alone on first meeting. I asked the young man if he felt the connection and he softly nodded, “Yes.” Another blessed friendship to unfold over the next couple months.

Equine Therapy in jail?

Of late I have been doing horse sessions with a woman in the county jail. She had a relationship with our horses from long ago. She calls or does a video chat. Starlight is her girl. When I approach the pen with my phone in hand, all the other horses are off in their barns or out of sight but here is Starlight waiting. Often her mom Moonshadow is nearby for support. Starlight has her neck stretched high to reach over the five foot railing of her pen’s fence in expectation of our visit. As I enter the pen, Starlight moves her mom away so she can be next to me. Just after the woman on the other end of the zoom call comments about how the white stripe on Starlight’s  face is just like that of the horse she had as a child, Star steps forward to put her furry face directly onto my phone The woman shares that she believes that her horse saved her life when she was being abused. 

This past week the woman shares about calling the nurse in to help a fellow inmate and the ambulance being called in. As she tells the story both horses' eyes get very soft and they seem totally attentive, ears perked toward the phone. She shared that her release date is approaching and she is nervous. We spoke of her needing to ask for divine guidance every morning and both horses licked and chewed, a sign of agreement. She starts talking about what she wants to do when she gets out. I told her that I had learned, “If in doubt, don’t” and Starlight gave two big head nods and they both licked and chewed in agreement. They don’t lick and chew for no reason. Again Starlight seemed to agree when she bobbed her head twice when the  woman spoke of a family issue. But when the woman spoke of wanting to provide a culture of compassion and warmth for her future employees, Starlight walked over to the poop pile. Did the woman get ahead of herself in her dreaming? For when I told the woman what the horse had done, the woman laughed and said she needs to take care of her own shit first before helping others. Which is so very astute of her. Only one other time have we tried phone sessions, during Covid, for a young woman who had been coming regularly and wanted to still try meeting with her horse. When someone is familiar with how their horse responds to them and their storytelling about their life, and I can relate to them what I see the horse is doing, or they see it on a video call, they still can find the metaphor, the “Now What?” and it can be quite astonishing. 

Written by Sonja Wingard

Valentines day 2024


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