February 14, 2010 by  


Really listening from a deep heart space (the Yin) is paramount when I am mentoring or coaching an individual since only real and lasting change happens in relationship. As a relationship coach I hope to offer people the possibilities to take action (the Yang) in their lives for positive and sustainable change.

In the early 90’s I was in one of the many processes in my life of reinventing myself when I started a private psychotherapy practice in Tucson after being in the corporate world at Sierra Tucson. Bernadine Johnson (now retired and very married!) and I began a series of workshops we titled, Become Your Own Role Model. We were women who had grown up in the 50’s and 60’s ourselves with very traditional female role models and found ourselves self-supporting and single without much of a role model for how to be and how to do this. The initial offering morphed into future workshops around this theme with horses as co-facilitators. The horses and most definitely the mares ended up being very good role models for this important message: Know and believe in yourself.

What is it that keeps people stuck in old ways of being, believing, and behaving; even when they think they know that other possibilities are out there and they feel they should make a change? In a conversation with David Young last fall I had the opportunity to delve deeper into the distinction between fear and vulnerability when he said, “I am a man and I don’t think so much about vulnerability, I think about risk.”

Actual fear is an outside factor where our physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual safety is being threatened versus inside fear or the feeling of vulnerability. However, because of our wonderful limbic system (our body’s survival mechanism) both fears feel the same in our bodies. The positive side of vulnerability is the novelty of meeting some part of yourself that is new or that you are rediscovering and the unlimited opportunities which are available with this new way of seeing and being in the world. Do you remember hearing, Feel the fear and do it anyway[1]? This is a very good motivating statement and with the horses help I have been able to coach people on the differences between these two types of fear.

I recently worked with a client and a herd of 3 horses (a gelding and 2 mares) where this concept came to life for her and for the other group members. One of the horses, the gelding, began engaging with her even before she entered the arena. We were discussing what she called “the power of fear” and after scanning her body for information and finding where this fear was lodged I asked her to turn around and look at the 3 horses in the arena. The gelding had come up to the gate from a considerable distance in the back of the arena. With 3 horses loose in the arena we had the opportunity to see which horse would step forward to engage with her and perhaps give her answers to her questions in this present moment experience. She went in safely and began to use her sensing body to determine proximity and the feelings which arose with each step towards or away from the horse. Prior to going in I had given her a short description of the differences between fear, vulnerability and the action of risk and coached her on the distinctions. The client and the horse engaged in this dance of relationship for some time and I asked her to walk away to see what would happen. Previously she had stated that her biggest fear in relationship was the fear of abandonment, and that in the past she compromised her values and her beliefs to not be left and experience the emotions which might follow. She and the horse had established a limbic connection through the a concept called emotional resonance (where you feel and resonate with another being emotionally); therefore there was a possibility that this might feel just like it had in the past when she took the chance of walking away or considering a different path in a relationship with a loved one. One of the biggest benefits from experiential learning with the horses is the immediate heart felt sense of connection they can give us (one we often want to keep forever). By taking the action of walking away she felt in her body how it might be to risk this imagined abandonment once the connection had been made. He never left her side and this woman, not an experienced horse person, began to realize what the dance of relationship with another whole being could feel like. She felt the yin and yang of it, never lost her sense of self, and came out of the arena radiant and fully alive. After she came out of the experience and shared what she had felt prior to going in and what she hoped to receive from the horse, the group members gave her their perceptions of what they saw and felt watching her with the horse. They validated for her not only what she felt and experienced, but as conscious observers gave her information which was new and might prove valuable the next time she stepped into relationship with another human. My sincere wish for her is that she remembers this experience in her whole body and can reclaim her sense of self in every relationship.

The other participants wanted to learn more about this risk or yang action and I gave them a little of what I am currently teaching about this. If we only experience vulnerability without action, we may feel weak and even experience “learned helplessness”[2]. The key is to become conscious and take action or risk, a yang movement, only after we have accessed the feeling, or yin place, we are presently experiencing. If we take the risk unconsciously without an assessment of the possible consequences of this action, the likelihood of success is limited and the probability of failure, injury or even death is greater. Some people may be more apt to take the risk unconsciously while others may be immobilized and remain stuck in the same behaviors and patterns. So we must: first notice the sensation or feeling and identify the emotion; second engage in self-regulating our arousal systems so that we can be present and cognitively aware; and third become curious and take conscious thoughtful action (the risk part).

As a mentor/coach I really love assisting individuals in finding this lost part of self and to re-igniting the original blue print of their souls. Together we can explore the yin of it and with support I can help you move into the yang of it. So whether you want the opportunity to engage with the horses or wish consultation and support with me in person or by telephone, consider giving yourself this gift for the New Year.

[1] “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” by Susan Jeffers

[2] “Learned Helplessness” a concept attributed to the work of Hans Seligman

Efficacy of EFL Supported by Latest Brain Research

February 7, 2010 by  

Efficacy of EFL

Supported by Latest Brain Research


I can’t tell you how often I have witnessed a client coming out of a quiet session with a horse and heard them say, “It was magic! I felt like myself for the first time My heart just opened and these tears came flowing out—but they felt free, open —you know not jammed up in my throat”. I could go on and on about what people felt in the presence of the horse and what other people witnessed, but I think you get the point. Guess what, it is not magic but is a process scientists now can actually name which happens only in relationship. What the client and others felt, saw, and experienced is the limbic connection of two beings. Relationship does affect the revision of these pathways in the brain through the processes of limbic resonance, limbic regulation and limbic revision or restructuring.  . 


 The book, A General Theory of Love is an excellent source for much of the research on this subject. Some of the information contained in this book about how a therapist’s relationship with a client is the determining factor in long term healing; this can be applied to how and why equine facilitated learning works. 


Look at some of the direct quotes from this book about the limbic connection and see if you agree.“The first part of emotional healing is being limbically known [limbic resonance]—–having someone with a keen ear catch your melodic essence…a precise seer’s light can still split the night, illuminate treasures long lost, and dissolve many fearsome figures into shadows and dust.  Limbic regulation happens through relationship.But people do not learn emotional modulation as they do geometry or the names of state capitals. These concepts are stored in the neocortical brain. People and animals absorb the skill from living in the presence of an adept external modulator [the horses with congruent and authentic facilitators], and they learn it implicitly.”[1]


I can’t begin to tell you how passionate I have become about some of the newest brain and body research and information coming from very reliable and dedicated scientists and clinicians. Most of my professional life, I have practiced as a clinician whether I am conducting a session as a psychotherapist, coach, mentor or teacher. The many “miracles” I have been a part of fills me with awe and hope for the ability of people to learn new things, change and have better lives. The work that I do with the horses has transferred to everything I do and teach since these brilliant beings are so good at helping people come back to their true selves. Leigh Shambo     has coined the term we use consistently now called the “homerun”.  A core value at HEAL is this “homerun”—the ability to immediately anchor increased connectivity human to human. This is actually what is often missed when someone has an experience with the horses and we believe that the limbic revision happens when the facilitator helps the client to fully embrace and integrate this new way of being into the human world, the “homerun”.    


The book, The Brain That Changes Itself[2] has some of the best information on the neuroplasticity of the brain. Neuroplasticity of the brain is the term used to describe the capacity of our brain for creation of new neural connections and for growing new neurons in response to experience. In the process of experiential learning with the horses, the experience itself which is vey new for most people, i.e., being with a horse without doing anything can actually assist the client in forming and developing new neural connections. I often give a simple explanation like this: The horses help the humans to see, feel, and believe in the possibility that the old super highway way of being and responding to a familiar person, stimulus, thought or action can be replaced by a new path—much like the road less traveled.  Most of us can visualize this and if we believe in change we can be open to this new neural connection and perhaps the old super highway—which helped people to survive but is keeping them from thriving will eventually become grass and dirt and the new path will become a newer, quicker highway to an expanded vision of life. 


In Daniel Siegel’s latest book, Mindsight, he eloquently and factually supports the efficacy of experience in relationship to help people grow and change. He believes that most people come into the world with the brain potential to develop mindsight, but the neural circuits that underlie it need experiences to develop properly[3]. He describes mindsight as our seventh sense and tells a story of a ninety-two year old man who was able to overcome a painful childhood to emerge as what he calls a mindsight maven. Siegel believes, as do I, that it is never to late to stimulate of growth of neural fibers that enable mindsight to flourish. How exciting is that!


The horses and good facilitators both with listening hearts can really help people be open to the possibilities of change and with limbic revision guide them towards the probability of a new life. One of the consistent ways of doing this is what I call holding the sacred space of possibility.This is a space, nestled between two heart beats, where two beings breathing together co-create the possibility for lasting and sustainable change.





















[1] “General Theory of Love” Lewis, Amini and Lannon

[2] “The Brain that Changes Itself” Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontier of Brain Science by Norman Doidge, M.D.

[3] “Mindsight” The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.


February 6, 2010 by  

2010 Events Calendar

Working Calendar for 2010 Events, Workshops and Training Programs: Look under Events for full descriptions.  New Information will be added monthly. 

February 9-13   Sacred Pause Retreat- Tubac, Arizona

February 19-21: Feb 26-28   FEEL Program (  in Toronto, Canada        TRAINING PROGRAM

March 12-14     Equine Alchemy presents EFL MasterMind Course, Wellington, FL


May 3-9         HEAL Training Program Week One/Leigh Shambo ( in Chehalis,WA   TRAINING PROGRAM

May 22-25    Sacred Space: The Zone of Intuitive Knowing ( in Sussex, United Kingdom

June 7-11          AHHO Training Program in Sussex, United Kingdom

June 18-20        Germany workshop/Eva Balzer (

July 9-11           FEEL TRAINING in Toronto, Canada (

July 23-25         Energy and Grace, 6th Year! ( Washington State

September 5-11 AHHO EFL Training in Sussex, United Kingdom/Suntui (

September13-18    Personal Mastery: The Missing Piece, Kathleen with Suntui and Flo Magdalena ( Sussex, United Kingdom,

October 3-7, 2010 HEAL Group Training Program, Washington State

October 11-17  HEAL FacilitatorTraining Program :Week Two/Leigh Shambo Washington State (