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Embracing Vulnerability - How Horses Help Us Claim Our Truth

Sarah attended her first EFL workshop a few weeks ago. She is a wife, a mom of 2 and recently completed chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. Sarah was quiet, reserved and admittedly scared as she met the horses not knowing what to expect, what to do or how to be. When she met with Phantom, the first of 5 horses participating in the day, her voice was barely audible, it was hard for her to make eye contact with me or the horse and energetically she was scattered and disconnected. After some coaching to become aware of what was happening in her own body and explanation of how horses “read” energy in order to gather information about the other being to decide if they are safe or in danger, she began to soften, and her breath deepened. She was still scared but not nearly as much as when we started. And then it was time to meet another horse.

After meeting all 5 horses Sarah chose to work with Phantom in a reflective grooming session. Still scared, she really wanted to face whatever the fear was and see what he could show her today. She stroked him on his big, thick neck which he held high– he towered over her small framed body looking anxiously out at the pasture where several other herd mates grazed. She was tense and the stroke felt forced, tentative and filled with fear. With some coaching to be aware of what was happening in her own body, noticing sensations, emotions, thoughts and the quality of her breath, she became aware of holding fear tightly in her shoulders.

She continued to spend time with him, eventually picking a brush as a tool to get the dust and dirt off his big, muscular body. As she talked, she shared that it has been hard to talk with her husband about her cancer and what is happening for her emotionally. She has never told her children that she was sick and receiving treatments because “I don’t want them to worry that I can’t take care of them” and “I don’t want them to think I’m not strong.” All the while Phantom was stiff, stamping his legs to get the flies off but always watching her, his ears following her every move.

I explained to Sarah that horses feel safest when others around them are congruent and honest about their emotions and what is happening for them and that they communicate with their bodies energetically and physically. She wondered if Phantom was picking up her fear and worry about her family.

She continued grooming and through coaching noticed that she was more worried about him than herself and that this is her “norm” – always looking out for what others need and ignoring her own needs and desires. This brought tears to her eyes. Phantom’s head lowered.

She continued grooming – her breathing deepened and her body softened and so did Phantom. His head was even lower, his eyes soft and the stamping was much less despite flies all around. He was fully focused on her, no longer looking out at his herd mates out in the pasture around us.

When asked what was happening, she said that she felt more relaxed and that it felt good to notice what was happening for her and Phantom instead of being entirely focused on others. After more coaching she came up with a new belief that “I am worthy to share my truth.” At first when she said it her voice was soft and tentative. After saying this statement a couple more times her voice was strong, clear and energetic and the smile on her face and the way she was holding her body was truly strong and more present as if she deserved to be there in this moment saying this statement next to this horse. And Phantom, head low, ears perked toward her, started licking and chewing and gently moved his head to her heart. Her tears flowed with a huge smile on her face.

After a few moments, I asked how she would take this statement and this experience into her life. She committed to having a heart-felt conversation with her husband letting him know how scared and vulnerable she feels and will ask for help and support from him. Then she said would speak with her children about what was happening for her because she knows they know something is happening but now she feels that speaking her truth will empower her and her children. She said again – “I am worthy to share my truth” with great energy, joy and commitment.

She could hardly believe how much vulnerability it took for her to share all this aloud with Phantom and me and was surprised at herself for “going there.” And we talked about Brene’ Brown and her research on shame and vulnerability and that in order to truly claim our power, we must be vulnerable. This stopped her in her tracks while Phantom licked and chewed, his head still at her heart.

This claiming of her truth and power was life-changing for her and made possible because Phantom held non-judgmental space, allowed her to be vulnerable and encouraged her to speak her truth and own her fear and let go of the way she made herself small.

This is the power and wisdom of horses. If you want to experience your own transformation, contact us today!

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