March 16, 2015 by  

  • Would you like to learn more about how your thoughts, emotions, energy and habits affect your interactions with clients?
  • Would you like your sessions to be more effective?
  • Would you like to understand human relatedness and connection and the underlying science behind human to human contact?
  • How about helping clients and yourself to be more embodied and in the present moment?

With my guidance and support, I guarantee you will feel better about your practice and your clients will find more happiness and peace.

I am now offering coaching and mentorship for mental health professionals and coaches utilizing many of the principles and lessons gleamed from my years working with horses. My experience of over 30 years as a psychotherapist and addictions’ counselor qualify me to help others who have followed a similar path. I am also certified through the Pathfinders Institute in Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy and am a board certified Coach.  

What I have noticed through my years of teaching is that many coaches are not trained in the basics underlying psychotherapy such as projection and transference.  As well I have found that the coaching model works well with those who have practiced, like I did, for many years as psychotherapists but are looking for a way to begin a more collaborative partnership with their clients.    I have found that whether you engage horses or work in an office or corporate setting that I can enhance your practice.  This is individualized program for people working with people and does not require horse work. I am also still offering the 6 month training program in Equine Facilitated Learning.

Here are a few words from some of the professions with whom I have worked:

 Kathleen’s mentorship program, guidance and support have brought me to a new place in my professional and personal life. Kathleen has been my shining star and has taught me valuable lessons as a Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist working alongside my beautiful herd of horses, as well as enhancing the way I experience relationships in my personal life.

 The mentorship program is the most gratifying experience and has given me so much more than I expected. In the six months Kathleen and I have worked together, I have completely changed the way I offer my business, redesigned my service and expanded my client base. I never expected to achieve so much in such a short space of time. ~ Lesley Gough, Psychotherapist, UK


My experience in Kathleen’s mentorship program was truly life changing. The thought-provoking reading assignments and consultations profoundly expanded my awareness of the equine facilitated learning field, in addition to transforming my overall understanding of human relatedness and connectivity. Her incredible wisdom of the healing potential of the horse-human bond, in addition to her vast background as a psychotherapist and her incredible knowledge and passion of neuroscience resulted in numerous discoveries and “a-ha” moments.  ~ Vatonia Harris, Counselor, Alberta Canada


I absolutely cannot put into words the value of Kathleen’s program, her years of wisdom, and generous heart. She is truly in this work to make a difference. Kathleen is the consummate heart felt professional, offering incredible structure, back-ground, and documentation as a platform for her mentorship students. But from there, she is able to truly be with and understand all the challenges of the learning that might come up and holds your sacred space in such a way the you soar to your accomplishment and knowledge in this work.    ~ Carla O’Brien, Certified Coach, Virginia 



If these testimonials inspire you check out my mentorship page and find more from the other people participating in the program.  I highly recommend these individuals.

Email me with your questions and we can begin a dialogue on how we can design a program just for you.  I offer a free 15 minute consultation to see if what I offer can help you expand your practice and encourage you to soar!

The Sacred Dance of Relationships

February 10, 2015 by  

It is fitting that this newsletter is focusing on relationship and connection this month of Love.  What exactly defines a good relationship and how does love come into it?  This is not the kind of Valentine love we associate with romance and one person but the kind of love which happens between species and joins like hearted animals and people in the sacred dance of relationship. 

A recent study cited in the Journal of Clinical Psychology has been under a lot of discussion with facilitators and practitioners of Equine Facilitated Learning(EFL) and Psychotherapy (EFP). The study questions the efficacy of EFL and I believe that it is good to see this modality reviewed.  However, I feel a need to stand up for this work that is so relationship-based and when practiced by ethical facilitators can be life changing.


What I have noticed in the 30 plus years I have worked as a psychotherapist and in the practice today as a credentialed coach is that many individuals do not understand or operate within their scope of practice.  In order to genuinely do this we must “Know thyself”. This encompasses understanding the concepts of projection and transference and being able to identify when we are into “our own stuff”.  Not a technical term but one which describes the practice of taking our personal inventory, much like the practice described in step 10 of the 12 step program.  My mentorship program requires people to thoroughly understanding their own thoughts and emotions in order to not affect the relationship possible between the horse and the client. This takes courage and a special kind of person who deeply understands the gift and the fragility of working with people and animals.  

I recently came across an old study conducted at the University of Chicago in the 1950’s where Eugene Gendlin, at the time a young graduate student working with the great American Psychologist Carl Rogers, set out to find why some people in therapy have successful outcomes and others don’t. As a former practicing psychotherapist myself I intuitively knew that their findings were accurate and today very relevant. Gendlin and his associates were able to determine that it was not a particular form of therapy that was the crucial variable or even the skill of the therapist but rather the ability of the client to connect with and speak from a “nonconceptual, bodily felt experience” of the issues that were troubling them.

The research done on Implicit Knowing – that bodily felt sense – and Gendlin’s work demonstrate that it is some kind of unclear inner sensation that cannot be fully expressed that makes the biggest difference in healing. The “felt sense” is a place between the conscious and the unconscious and often lies below the level of everyday awareness and thus is often difficult to put into words and be known by our left brain. This felt sense is what the horses, as prey animals, respond to when we are interacting with them. Implicit Knowing is that place in-between where healing happens and a place which is readily identified by the horse and solidified for the client by an adept facilitator.

Eugene Gendlin’s book “Focusing” and the work of many psychologists in the field of human development, most notably Daniel Siegel’s book “Mindsight” are some examples of the recent studies being done on the importance of the body and a spiritual practice for lasting healing. Our work with horses requires us to be in our bodies and to be open the unknown and the unexplainable process that happens only in relationship. 

Effective Leading

February 10, 2015 by  

Written by Erika Uffindell posted on the Global Centre for Conscious Leadership:

What does three days spent with a herd of horses and conscious leadership have in common? A lot as it turns out!

For some people, spending three days with a herd of horses would be a sublime way to spend their time. For others it might be close to terrifying. However, this is what I have just done in order to understand how horses help us become better leaders. For clarity, I have worked with horses before in terms of personal development, but this specific program demonstrated to me the importance of bringing our full capacity to leadership. The program was entitled The Zone of Intuitive Knowing – but I renamed it ‘Everything you need to know about what’s holding you back from leading effectively.’

Leadership skills can emerge from all manner of places – traditional and non-traditional – if we are open to embracing new ways of thinking and being. Today we speak about emerging leadership practices like embodied leadership, mindfulness, spiral dynamics, systemic coaching, meditation and many other ways of helping to bring our full selves to our leadership roles. To be fully present in order to exercise the right judgement is key, whether that’s taking difficult decisions, building relationships or creating a vision for the future. As leaders we need to be able to work at our full capacity to consciously effect positive outcomes for our organisations.

So, back to the horses. I felt in very safe hands with Kathleen Barry Ingram (Co-Creator of the EPONA approach) and Sun Tui, founder of IFEAL (International Foundation Equine Assisted Learning). The work is a blend of theory, including the science behind how our brains work (yes, ‘brains’; we have three – the head the heart and the hara or gut) and the practice of applying these. According to Kathleen and Sun Tui, it’s our ability to integrate all three brains that is key for leadership today. I am grateful to be practiced in this thinking and work through my day-to-day leadership facilitation and consultancy, but I was intrigued to see how this applied when working with the herd.

For many leaders the challenges of today’s business world – strategizing, managing complexity and the continual overload of information – means we live in our heads most of the time. And just occasionally we get to use our hearts when dealing with more human-centered situations. What we tend to do under pressure is either move into our heads, using data, or swing into a more emotional response, using our hearts.

What this work shows us is how to connect the ‘three brains’ of the head, heart and hara (the gut) to remain connected and awaken that deeper sense of knowing that manifests in ‘right thought, right action.’

Working to integrate these three is of course pretty tricky, particularly when you haven’t done it before. The missing piece in enabling us to do this effectively is, I found out, the horse.

chestnut horse

Horses have the ability to mirror our presence and offer immediate feedback. What often happens in tough situations is our relationship with our self and with others is lost or put aside when a goal, difficult decision or time constraint is present. What we learn from the horse is how to remain grounded in relationship. Maintaining connection whilst manifesting our goals and intentions involves our heart, intention from our brain, and pressure (or direction) from the belly or power center of our bodies. When one is predominant (or where balance is lost) the horse will often stand stock-still or be overcome with confusion. Basically that means we are ‘really not getting through’ in the way we need to.

It took time to get used to this type of practice, to be aware when one is switching into the rational mind alone and of the disconnection that is so easy to fall back into.

As Pete Hamill writes in his book Embodied Leadership: “These types of practices enable us to live more fully in our body, rather than a short distance from them and to experience that connection to emotions, purpose and our shared humanity – through this lies the path of leadership and mastery.”

I witnessed and experienced frustration, vulnerability, empowerment, inspiration, connection, reflection and stillness during those three days. The moment when you really connect with a horse, using the three brains, you feel the difference – and it fills you with an incredible sense of deep knowing. It shows you what is possible in human relationships when we are fully present and use our full capacity. The difference this could make to how we lead, connect and engage with others is profound and truly being in relationship to self and others is an incredible feeling – it’s like ‘coming home’.

Join Pete Hamill (Author of Embodied Leadership) for a morning workshop in London on Friday 27 Feb 2015.
This workshop is about how we can begin to work directly with, and through, the body to develop the self. 
Embodied Leadership and Somatic Coaching focus us on the physical body as indistinguishable from who we are – indeed as the means by which we hold our personalities, and is about how we can begin to work directly with and through the body to develop the self. This approach has a power and directness to it, as ultimately whatever story we might try and tell ourselves, our bodies don’t lie.
This is supported by modern neuroscience and contemporary philosophy.  So, how do we go about developing leaders in this way?
Book now (spaces limited to a small group)
What is Embodied Leadership? (8min video)

Where the Learning Happens

January 30, 2014 by  

Working with what is actually happening in an EFL session can be a challenge for those of us trained in the discipline. We might have so many ideas of what could or should happen that we get in the way of the relationship between the client and the horse. I suggest “checking your ego at the barn door.”
If we are able to constantly use our own body as a “sensing device” and to suspend our judgments, personal agendas, and ideas we can hold the sacred space for true connection and change to happen for the horse and the client. This takes commitment to your personal growth as well as learning more about how relationship happens and learning how to be in collaboration with the horse. Sound simple—it’s not!
applause and coreyCorey DeMala is my mentorship student who lives and works in New York State. She is an accomplished equestrian and horse trainer. She is also a licensed mental health counselor and runs a successful EFL practice working with young people, adults, and couples ( Corey says that her natural ability to relate to horses began as early as age 7.  She would find herself in the barn with the horses in the middle of a snow storm to be with them so she wouldn’t get stuck in the house.She got her “dream job” as a horse trainer but soon learned this was not for her because the relationship with the horse was missing.
Corey then decided to enter graduate school for counseling in 2008 and sought out training programs to combine her two loves and skills. She heard me speak with Jennifer Oikle in her symposium in 2013 and said she felt I may have the missing pieces to help her refine her practice. (For more information about Jennifer’s 2014 offerings check out: Listen & Learn: The 2014 Tele-Summit in March and join Jennifer during the Festival & Symposium May 16-18, 2014 in Denver, CO. I will be presenting at the symposium in person this year (
My mentorship and coaching students are required to do practice sessions with their clients and to write them up for our bi-monthly discussions and review. Following are two sessions that Corey conducted with her clients during the cold wintery days of December and January. They are examples of working with the weather, the client, and the horse with grace and simplicity.
“Carrie” is a 65 year old retired school counselor who came to me to because she wanted to learn to ride and be with horses, but was “terrified” of them.   She found me online at Psychology Today, looking for a way to work through her fears of horses and other things in her life, especially during this time of transition. I have been working with “Carrie” for about 10 sessions, spread out over several months’ time.  She also came to our retreat in November.  This client works with Applause, a 27 year old Morgan gelding who is an incredible healer.   Throughout the sessions, “Carrie” has become increasingly more comfortable being around the horses.  We begin all sessions with a body scan and check in about her arousal level.  At first, this was often between a 7-8 and we have been working on breath work, grounding and slowing things down.  Slowing down has been a big piece of our work.  More recently, she often reports a 3-4 and it is often excitement rather than anxiety. We always begin with a check in/body scan and breath work.  (She is an experienced meditator).  She then proceeded to groom the horse, paying attention to any shifts in her or the horse.  Her arousal level was her now usual 3-4, with some excitement just to be here.  Often, picking the hind feet is a struggle.  This session, the client got to the hind legs and the horse would not pick up the right hind.  I had to remind myself to keep myself grounded and allow for whatever needed to happen.  She tried for a bit and then got frustrated and reported she wanted to give up.  We discussed what might need to change in order for him to pick up his leg.  We discussed how it is important to pick out his feet and how sometimes we need to be more assertive with our needs, for our own good and the good of those in our care.  This is a big issue for her, as she has discussed struggling to say no and then being overwhelmed. I asked her to step back and take some deep breaths and tell me what she was feeling.  She scanned her body and emotions and then started to cry a bit.  I asked what was coming up for her.  She said, as she was standing by the horse’s hind end, that she was angry.  She went on to describe how she was angry at those in her life who she doesn’t stand up to.  As she said the word “angry” the horse literally started to lick and chew, dropped his head and picked up that right hind and just rested it.  She didn’t notice at first, but then I asked her what the horse was doing.  We then discussed what changed in her?  She said she was able to admit to being angry, to discuss what boundaries had been crossed and how she could better maintain her boundaries for the good of all in the various relationships.  We then discussed how she could try again and sure enough that horse picked his leg right up when she was finally congruent. The nugget she took away was that she needed to honor her anger, not stuff it and use the information it provided, i.e. boundaries, to help better her relationships with herself and others. Following this session, she spent a good hour in the freezing barn to journal with the horse. It was a great lesson for me in trusting the process and staying grounded, not trying to get the horse to pick up his leg.  It is hard for me to watch clients struggle, but it is so often where the learning happens.

Corey said that she also learned that it is not about constructing extravagant exercises but using the simple ones like grooming and leading that often lead to most lasting outcomes for clients. She has been training horses for over 20 years and she wonders sometimes, “Do I have to work with horses in some incredible way or can I just let the simple tasks and experiences with the horse be the teacher?”
Following is another one of Corey’s sessions.
Another session with Applause was a young client using the leading exercise and feeling the energy of Applause through the lead rope. He held the lead rope and used his energy through the lead rope to connect and communicate with the horse. Corey gave her client the lead rope to take home and use like “prayer beads” every morning before school to ground him and get him ready for the day. She is taking the “felt experience” he had with the horse and applying it to his daily life outside of the session. He was not going to school and so she set up an obstacle course from home to school with Applause for him to choose his own path and find his own way to school. Corey said that he is now going to school and remembering his sessions with Applause as an anchor to ground and support himself.
Remember that these two sessions were done during a very cold time of year and are examples of taking the elements and the horse’s and clients needs into consideration when conducting a session.

Just Breathe

September 7, 2013 by  

Forget about Enlightenment.  Sit down wherever you are and Listen to the wind singing in your veins.
~ John Welwood.


I have always resonated with John Welwood’s words and the simple wisdom represented in his books and essays.  As I was reading these words I recalled a session I had many years ago with a client.  She had traveled far to join me and the horses at Epona for a 4 day intensive.  As an accomplished equestrian and a successful psychologist she had experience and a room full of knowledge.  Like many others who are drawn to this work with horses, she was seeking the implicit knowing that comes only from direct experience.  (see Implicit Knowing versus Explicit Knowledge).

NocheShe engaged in a variety of equine experiences both on the ground and mounted on the horse.  I had a body worker come in for a massage and we practiced daily the Spring Forest form of QiGong.  Her busy life with a husband, a child, and a full psychotherapy practice was put on hold.  She fell in love with Noche, our wise older Mustang.  I believe Noche helped her “listen to the wind singing in her veins”. I asked her towards the end of our time together what she wanted to take away from her experience.  She replied simply and with an open heart, “Noche told me all I needed to do was Breathe.” 

I was touched by this simple statement.  It is a constant reminder for me to remember that “pure consciousness” only happens when we drop all of our doing, our roles and live fully in the moment between each breath. 

The following story is told by one of my students about her experience with a client and a horse called JR.  As she told me about this experience I found myself with tears rolling down my face and was deeply moved by JR’s wisdom and her courage to trust her heart, her intuition and his guidance. She said this was an example of what is possible when we allow the horses to do their work.

In the Company of Horses:

J.R. is a 14 year old registered Paint gelding, retired from mounted shooting competition. A gentle giant weighing between 1400 and 1500 pounds, this sweet soul is always honest and present for any client who wishes to learn more about life.

This day a man enters the round pen, not by his own accord but assisted by another young man, pushing the wheel chair that as of late has become part of his life. The man appeared to be in his 50’s, worn and tired as addiction will do to a person. It was apparent by the scars that this man has experienced extreme trauma in his lifetime and struggles to survive. The trauma even took his legs. J.R. retreats to the rail of the round pen, where he waits a few minutes assessing the situation. With J.R on the lead line, we approach the man whom I will call David with soft but deliberate steps. David calls to J.R., “Please, come see me J.R.” J.R. approaches David, breathing in information as his nose connects to the tips of David’s fingers. David responds, “Hello, J.R., it is so good to meet you.” David reaches to rub J.R.’s neck and smiles. Continuing to talk to J.R. and maintaining touch, I am able to see David’s body relax, along with his breathing. David is unable to identify his feelings as he shut down years ago as a way to survive, or at least exist. David leaves the round pen, his face brighter than when he entered. The rest of the group continues to make their personal introductions to JR.


Today’s activity would allow the clients to work on trust, communication, and letting go. It involved leading the horse around obstacles in the round pen. It was David’s turn for the obstacle course. He wanted desperately to participate, but knew it wouldn’t be easy getting around in the sand. The group sat in silence, watching and waiting to see what might be possible. Again, a fellow client says to him, “Hey man, I’ll push you around the obstacles; we can do this.”  David engaged without hesitation. They again enter the round pen.


JRWith safety in the forefront, I asked David if I could be part of his team as a buffer between him and J.R.This would be new for J.R.; being led by a person in a wheelchair. I wanted David to have this experience, but it would have to be safe for him to do so. Again, J.R. was given plenty of time to acclimate to the wheel chair along with the sound of the wheels going through the sand. We started out very slow. We created our grouping with J.R. on a lunge line, then myself, and finally David holding the end of the line. As I monitored J.R.’s response, I noticed his head lower; his neck was soft, and his eyes kind and gentle. There were a total of 4 obstacles. As we walked the perimeter of the round pen, past obstacle number 2, J.R. seemed to turn his nose into my chest ever so softly and I let go of the rope, still maintaining my spot in the group.


Continuing on, J.R again touched me gently and this time I stepped out of position ever so slightly. J.R. began to align with the wheelchair, maintaining a respectful distance. Past the final obstacle, it was David and J.R. in partnership. We came to a stop and J.R. again circled David in the chair, acknowledging each of David’s visible scars, focusing especially on the burn on his arm. David was quiet. J.R. then positions himself close to David, putting his head on David’s shoulder. David wraps his arm around J.R.’s neck for a long embrace and says “thank you J.R., thank you.”


I asked David what he would be able to take away from today. His response…”J.R. likes me. It doesn’t matter what I look like.” As he was wheeled out of the round pen, his group members gave a clap that could have been confused with thunder. The group was very emotional.


Though this story is about the connection between J.R. and David, everyone there was touched by this sentient being. I feel so honored to witness these acts of courage. As I learned early on in my journey; miracles happen when in the company of horses.  

Holding the Sacred Space

August 21, 2013 by  

Recently, I wrote about my experience with Maude and Hannah this spring in “Hannah’s Gift.” Please read Maude’s words about the event from her perspective as facilitator and Hannah as her co-facilitator. This is a great example of what I have termed “Relationship in Motion.”

So many times facilitators of Equine Facilitated Learning resort to their horsemanship techniques and patterns when doing active round pen work or giving the client an opportunity for a mounted session with the horse. I hope that the following discourse gives you a sample of the possibilities of a “simple” riding session. What is happening with the horse within a session? With…in the sacred space of possibility?


Within the Sacred Space:

image002For me there is a palpable sense that we are in this together… I am aware that Hannah is observing me, taking in what I am thinking.. doing… she is “tracking” with me. And I am aware that Hannah is aware …. that I am aware of her… she knows I am watching her, taking in where she is, what she is doing and conveying to me. This is where we begin….we are ready.

Kathleen is ready to ride. I check in with Hannah, ask her silently … “Are you good with this?” “Yes,” she replies. “I am fine.” I am holding the reins underneath Hannah’s jaw, as a safety check just in case she decides to move as Kathleen gets on. My other hand is gently against Kathleen. I am “feeling” her while at the same time providing physical support. I sense Kathleen gathering herself up to step up into the stirrup. Hannah is very intent on Kathleen; very still.

All of a sudden Kathleen stops and says “Wait a minute”… “I am feeling dizzy here”… we feel it too; we pause waiting. Kathleen is quick; she lets me know that she just had a sensation of falling down the long flight of stairs; that she needs to take a minute to process this. I check in with myself – my body – what do I sense about this? Is Kathleen okay proceeding with what she is doing? Yes, Kathleen is fine. She feels present, grounded…. Busy. I check in with Hannah. Hannah is aware; connected to what is happening. She is waiting. Okay, I wait too.

Then Kathleen takes a deep breath and turns her attention to me and explains that she wants to take a moment to tell me about what just happened. She seems alert and energized. I acknowledge this and say “okay,” and “breathe.” Hannah is listening to us; she licks and chews (When a horse licks and chews it is a sign that they are listening and hearing a “truth”). Kathleen relays her experience and then is done, ready once again to ride. We re-do the mounting sequence. Kathleen is monitoring herself for a re-play of the falling sensation. Nothing comes up so she gets on Hannah.

Once up she seems to have an unsteady sensation; I pause. Hannah is watching Kathleen; right there with her. Then Kathleen is back again, paying attention to her comfort and lack thereof in the saddle. We adjust the stirrups; I lead Hannah for a few steps; Kathleen seems tentative and uncomfortable. I decide to work with her on her body comfort with the length of the stirrups; adjusting equally, unequally, stretching, feeling in certain parts of her hip, thigh. Her knee is paining her, so I take her leg completely out of the stirrup. I sense this is concerning her; I pause letting her feel her leg stretching pulling down from her hip. That is better she says. I gently bring her foot back to the stirrup. How does that feel now? “Good,” she says. “The pain is gone.” We talk about body comfort in position versus form as the objective. How important comfort is. Why I like dressage saddles; because I can feel the horse better. I feel more secure the more I can feel.

Kathleen is ready to walk on. All this time Hannah is listening to us. What are we doing? What is next? And I am listening to her; we are together in this sacred bubble. I show Kathleen how to hold the reins along with the grab strap and explain how this gives her something to hold onto if she needs. Hannah sees that now…we are ready to move? We walk off very slowly. I have to hold Hannah close to me. She is not used to taking such small slow steps. I am watching Kathleen. I feel her breathe; loosen. Okay, she is feeling better. “Okay,” she says. “Yep I’m fine, keep going.”

I am leading Hannah slowly in circles, Kathleen is relaxing down more into her seat and the saddle, so I mix it up a bit; travel in figure eights then change direction. This can feel so different from going in a straight line; changes in direction; one side weighted differently from the other; unbalance, shifting, rebalance. I sense this is making an impression on Kathleen. We continue slowly in silence. I keep watch constantly; Kathleen, then Hannah. What are they telling me?

Hannah is with us, just walking. Then she jumps a little sideways. She looks at me as she jumps… seems like just a simple reaction, perhaps to something she sees, hears, smells in the trees up on the hill above us? Not sure. I see Kathleen react, startled with the “jump”, she looks to me. I feel her inquiry, her emotion, where she is in her body. I sense Kathleen’s arousal level go up…come down a little…. and stabilize. I look at Hannah, this was just a blip. She is done and back to walking. So I keep walking. Kathleen is still looking to me. I look at her to acknowledge her; so she sees that I see; that this is okay. But I do not speak. Kathleen’s arousal level comes back down and we continue for a while longer.

Then there is a sense that this has been enough. I ask Kathleen how she is doing, if she feels like we can end. We agree we are feeling complete; that “just walking” around the arena is enough for today.

Hannah is calm…I sense she is ready to end. This has required her active involvement and consistent attention. We go back to the bale of straw and she stands perfectly still while Kathleen dismounts. We end here… Kathleen is going to journal. All is good.

Hannah’s Gift

June 28, 2013 by  

“To know our soul apart from our ego is the first step toward accomplishing the supreme deliverance”   

~ Rabindranath Tagore


Have you ever found yourself in a place when your body knew something that was not available to your conscious mind?

I was visiting Maude Maude and HannahBeauchamp at her ranch in Sacramento, California, hanging out with her horses and looking for inspiration and guidance for our workshop in September (more information below) when just that happened to me.
Passing the horses after a hike, I felt the nudge to ask Maude for a riding experience the next day.  I had not been on a horse since my fateful fall down a full flight of stairs in London in 2010.  This resulted in a broken ankle which required surgery and an extended period of convalescence, including a stay at a rehabilitation facility and a nursing home due to complications.
Maude had suggested that we begin the “lesson” in the arena with her mare, Hannah.  I sat on a straw bale and watched Maude ride Hannah around the arena.  It was a beautiful day and upon checking in with myself I felt good, open, and excited about the ride.  Prior to any experience with the horse, we do a body scan or are led and guided by the facilitator.  I scanned my own body and felt an open heart, connection and excitement about the opportunity.  My body felt calm and centered.


As I lifted my leg over the saddle to get seated on Hannah  I immediately felt the entire memory of the fall down the stairs which resulted in many injuries, trauma and the right ankle broken in a few places. Both Maude and I, being good facilitators, knew that I needed to step off the horse and to process this memory. It is important to know that I did not go into this experience with a goal or a conscious desire to recreate the experience of falling.  However, I know from my experience and from watching and facilitating others that the body always remembers and holds that memory.

full circleWe took the time needed, I shed a few tears and talked about the experience and when we both felt I was ready, I got back up on Hannah. Maude was leading Hannah and I was there to enjoy the ride and to allow my body to experience the guidance and safety that both of them were giving me.  If my breathing was even a little bit unsteady we would stop and wait for me to come back to a place of homeostasis and relaxation.  I could feel my legs, my bottom and my whole body in sync with Hannah as Maude led us around the arena.

 There are a few very important points I would like to stress about this experience for me that might also be helpful for others: 

1.  My body and my spirit were ready to process and heal the trauma from the fall.  I did not set out to re-experience it and have it healed and released.  It was released and healed because it was time.
2.  You must feel safe and protected when you are processing any trauma and know you are in capable hands.
3. Your body and your mind have an opportunity through limbic connection to experience limbic revision.  (for more on that, listen to my interview with Jennifer Oikle, “Limbic Lessons“)

In this work we teach about the difference between an outside fear and threat of physical, spiritual or emotional harm and the inside “fear” of vulnerability.  My body did not know the difference and was at first responding to the situation as if it was a fearful place and one to run from or avoid.  It takes some time to differentiate between these two types of fear. Both fear and vulnerability feel the same in the body and the body responds as if there is an outside threat. 

Many people remain stuck in uncomfortable situations and dead end jobs or relationships because of the inability to differentiate between these two emotions.  Real fear where there is a threat helps us to survive, however, learning to feel and experience the difference takes us to the place where we can thrive and live bigger more expansive lives.  It allows our body and our minds to experience what Daniel Siegel calls a wider “window of tolerance.” His books and research on this topic and on the effects of trauma are excellent resources:

I felt it important to share this experience with my readers because even though I am a teacher in this field of equine experiential learning and psychotherapy I was not consciously aware of the memory my body was holding.  I have done a lot of healing, body work and processing around the experience but my body, having a “mind” of its own knew that further release and rejuvenation was needed.   I do feel that the process with Maude and Hannah allowed for a complete release and a baby step to riding on the trails again.  I am forever grateful to both of these “wise mares” for their love and guidance. 

For more information on body memory and trauma look at Peter Levine’s work; “Waking the Tiger” Healing Trauma and the “The Body Remembers” The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment by Babette Rothschild.  These books have been useful for those of us working with trauma and the new neuroscience of emotions has given us even more evidence about the body’s innate wisdom.

The Power of Relationships

March 10, 2013 by  

Mentorship in Equine Facilitated Learning
When people ask me what is different about your approach and teaching style, I respond, “I am interested and very excited about what I call the ‘psychological/scientific/spiritual underpinnings’ of an equine facilitated learning experience.” I have found over my 15 years of teaching this work thatthe best facilitators really know and understand themselves, and are willing to identify and be consciously aware of their internal emotional, psychologically and physiological processes.

nocheIn the mentorship program I have created a concise and thorough way for my students to track this process for themselves, their clients, and the horses.  The best way to describe this to you is to give you an example from one of my current students, Vatonia (Toni) Harris, from Alberta, Canada.

Toni is about ½ way through her mentorship program, which means she is practicing with volunteer clients.  This essential practice is monitored and recorded by the student and discussed pre and post session with me.  To follow are Toni’s own words about her third practice session with a client.  Note her references to “arousal- window of tolerance” (Mindsight: The NewScience of Personal Transformation, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D); “feeling felt” (Siegel) and “limbic connection” (material and references from A General Theory of Love, Thomas Lewis, MD, Fari Amini, MD, Richard Lannon, MD). These notable researchers have given us valuable information about the importance of relationship in the healing process. 

Toni’s Session with her Horse Stocky and Client

“During my pre-session body awareness and observation process, I was surprised to notice how relaxed and confident I felt going into my 3rd EFL practice session. I observed mild excitement about what may transpire with my courageous client and equine friends. My bodily functions felt rhythmic, comfortable and relaxed. It was a beautiful day, and I believe the warm weather contributed to the relaxation and peace I was experiencing. I was thrilled to get outside the barn and spend the entire session outdoors amongst the healing presence of nature, and for my client to experience the possibility of more movement with the horses. My energy felt grounded and positive, and I was keen to share this energetic momentum. I was also aware that this positive arousal may inappropriately affect the creation of a sacred space. I was struck by the self-assuredness I was experiencing in relation to the potential usefulness or outcome of the session, as I was confident the horses would offer my client whatever she needed that day. I found it fascinating to monitor my inner experience so closely, and was amazed by the rich information my body was offering me as I went through this pre-session personal evaluation. 

The mentorship readings and consultations thus far have significantly expanded my understanding of this integrative process. I now have enhanced awareness of the valuable information my body holds, and its vital importance to the relationship and change process. It is essential we pay attention to our own arousal so we are able to understand the energy/thoughts/ feelings we are bringing to the relational experience about to transpire. It is essential we are able to separate our own history, preconceptions, emotional triggers, projections, counter-transference concerns and present moment bodily responses from those of our clients. A sacred space offering the client the experience of “feeling felt” (a term coined by Daniel Siegel) can be created only if we notice and appropriately nurture these fundamental aspects of ourselves.

My client was notably relaxed when she arrived for her session, presenting as relaxed, open and engaged. When I inquired into my client’s arousal level upon commencement of the session, she identified herself as being at a 1 or 2 which closely matched my own body sense and observations of her. This again affirmed the importance of acknowledging my body as a sensing device and as absolutely integral to the process of change facilitation. My client’s arousal stayed at a 1 and 2 for most of the session, with the exception of a short period during the Leading Exercise where Stocky refused to move or respond to any of her requests. During this moment of discomfort, I felt my own arousal begin to intensify as I noticed her increasing agitation with his lack of compliance. I found myself struggling with my own need to rescue, and the compulsion to take over and “show her what to do” to engage my horse and offer effective leadership.

As in the past, I used this rescue tendency as a learning opportunity to focus on my own breathing and self-regulation, offering myself as an energetic anchor by opening my core and focusing on the manifestation of limbic connectivity. When I noticed my client’s arousal increasing, I attempted to bring it to her attention by asking her what her intensity level was at that particular moment, and whether she noticed any changes in her body. Through this gentle encouragement of an internal assessment process, she was able to come to her own understanding that a shift had occurred as she identified herself at a 4 or 5. In fact, her ability to access this information and share it with me had improved exponentially from the first session. As a result, I do believe she is starting to become more in touch with her own bodily sensations and the rich information easily available to her.

Personal awareness is integral in an EFL session as it is a relational process involving a sentient being that is perceptive and responsive to energetic changes. Connectivity is directly impacted by arousal, so it is of vital importance we stay attuned to moment-by-moment shift. It is also important so that the client’s “window of tolerance” (Siegel) can be gauged throughout the experience, and addressed in a gentle, ethical and safe manner. Without understanding arousal, the risk of taking someone too far too fast is increased which can be detrimental to our client’s well being.

Throughout this session, there were many moments of intense connection and disconnection between my client and my equine co-facilitator.  It amazed me to see how “in the moment” these shifts would take place, fleeting and changing sometimes within a span of seconds.  The horse’s ability to mirror the client’s presence and offer immediate feedback will never cease to amaze me.
As always, I was offered a window into my client’s internal workings as she went through the leading exercises, which provided valuable material to work through during the session. My client seamlessly connected her experiential struggles with Stocky to her life “out there”, clearly indicating that she lacks integration between her 3 energy centers and that confidence, clear communication, and intention are extremely challenging.
hand on horseExperiencing the dramatic shift in Stocky when she (my client) managed to align all aspects of herself was quite profound and emotional. She couldn’t believe what it “felt like” to experience this type of leadership integration, and it was quite fascinating to watch her physically transform as the session progressed.  Her eyes lit up, shoulders went back, and she started walking with a new sense of purpose and belief. Stocky continued to respond to my client’s new found leadership, offering her his trust and following whatever request she made. I encouraged her to take this learning and look for opportunities in her “real life” to lead in an integrative manner, and to reflect on how well Stocky responded to her when she was able to do so.
During this session, the limbic resonance was immediate between these two, with my client finally opening herself to Stocky in a way she hadn’t in the past. She was drawn to him, and the unspoken language between them was beautiful to observe. As always, I struggled with containing my own arousal during the observation of this connectivity. Instead, however, I went inside myself, breathed deeply into my own energy centers, and did my best to offer myself once again as an energetic anchor to the sacred and healing moment occurring. The importance of this ability to “step back” and transcend ego-driven impulses continues to amaze me.
Once I have allowed these highly charged emotions to pass, I am blown away by what occurs without my outside interference. The saying “it’s not about me” takes on a whole new level of significance, and I am once again reminded of the healing nature of relationships. 
As always, I was touched by the beauty, grace, intelligence, receptivity, love, courage and honesty offered by my amazing equine co-facilitators. A common and often mundane therapeutic or self-help topic of “what constitutes good leadership” turned into a unique, experientially rich learning opportunity that engaged and captivated us both. I was struck by the natural unfolding of key elements important to this area of personal / professional development, and by the fact that I didn’t have to “talk” or explicitly “teach” any of it. The learning was clearly in the doing, impacting my client on a fundamental level that she can translate into all her relationships.

This mentorship experience has been incredibly fulfilling, enlightening and transformative for me on numerous levels.  The learning and development offered through the readings, consultations with Kathleen and the experiential sessions transcend words. I continue to be profoundly impacted by the connection and healing offered by these beautiful beings, and the overwhelming ‘power of relationships’.”

Thank you Toni for this excellent description of the experience between you, your horse and the client!  Toni can be reached via email at:

Kathleen and Lozen Having Toni focus on her inner process, I believe, is one of the biggest differences in the teaching and training I offer in this field.  This difference became evident to one of my students just a few weeks ago while we were working together in person. It was a beautiful day and my student’s horse was getting the opportunity to do his first EFL session with her mentor no less!  I noticed the horse’s confusion when my student and I were both in a very large arena as he kept turning his ears and head toward my student and then back to me.


I suggested that my student put her “heart in her feet”.  It was one of those moments when you come up with a comment that doesn’t sound logical but worked!  As soon as my student changed her focus, her horse joined up with me and we walked around the arena together at his pace.  A herd of cows distracted him for a short time but I took the pause and waited for him.  The look and the pleasure on my student’s face when we came back to her were priceless.  She learned that even good positive thoughts and feelings could affect the outcome of the client’s experience. 



July 16, 2012 by  

Mustang : The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West By Deanne Stillman[1]

Deanne’s excellent book is heralded by numerous authors and environmentalists as a tribute to the land and the horse.  This excerpt from the introduction will make you want to learn more about the Mustang and the many blessings of the horse/human bond. Many of us practicing Equine Facilitated Learning speak about this partnership, and I believe that Deanne speaks eloquently for the horse by exploring our relationships, our origins, and the compelling need to save the horses and ourselves.

From Introduction:     

“This is the great paradox of the horse.  It possesses a wild spirit but serves as the greatest helpmate this country—and all of civilization—has known. 
Other wild animals have been pressed into service or entertainment, but it is only the horse – the beautiful, mysterious, powerful great white –
that consistently moves back and forth between here and there, horizon and corral, range and rodeo, inspiring centuries of song, art, literature, and worship, and stirring passions that have wreaked havoc in everyone from King Solomon to the ancient Greeks to cowboy poets. We see your fire, all have said.  We want it…
Deanne Stillman and Bugz,
Deanne Stillman and Bugz, Photo by Betty Lee Kelly

How and when did the moment of partnership first occur?  No one knows for sure, and there is much speculation on this subject.  But however it happened, it’s clearthat the horses’ ability to provide flight was universally desired, and nowhere is this desire more pronounced, more extreme, than in America, where escape and the chance to start over is not a pipe dream but a birthright.  We may not think of ourselves as part of a horse culture, like the nomads of Mongolia, for instance, but in our own way, we are; we worship cowboys and we’re jacked on freedom and we love moving fast through wide-open space, preferably on a cactus-lines highway in our most iconic car, the Mustang, whose grille features a galloping pony.  Yet as we ply the road, many of us do not realize that the real thing is fighting for its life on the rocky playas just over yonder, staking our the dream, being wild and free for the rest of us…

As you follow the tracks of the wild horse, perhaps you’ll agree that it deserves a safe haven in the country it helped to build, deserves the protections it once had and were only recently unraveled; perhaps you may have a greater understanding of the forces that are contriving to wipe out our loyal partner, the one in whose hoof sparks this country was born.  We may be fighting wars around the world, but in the West, to paraphrase the great environmental writer Bernard DeVoto[2], we are at war with ourselves.  To me, there is no greater snapshot of that war than what we have done and continue to do to the wild horse.  As it goes, so goes a piece of America, and one of these days, bereft of heritage, we may all find ourselves moving on down the road.”

~Deanne Stillman

 So, it is not only the Mustang and wild horses in America whose freedom is endangered, but all of us who try to restrain and limit others and in the process also limit ourselves.  The horses’ ability to be in the present moment, to serve as our loyal friends, and to run like the wind reminds us of our own authenticity while they hold the sacred space of possibility for us to reconnect with our hearts and souls.

[1] Stillman, Deanne. Mustang: Saga of the wild horse in the American West. New York, NY: Hough Miffin Books, 2008

[2] De Voto, Bernard. The Western Paradox. New Haven: Yale University  Press, 2001

Healing Intuition Learned from Horses: Christy Allen, Lic. Ac.

March 13, 2012 by  

Christy Allen: Acupuncturist and Chinese Medical Practitioner

Christy is a friend and colleague who I believe is the best practitioner of traditional Chinese Medicine. Her skill and gentle touch have been a part of my healing for the past 15 years.  I credit Christy and other healing colleagues to my full recovery from my recent ankle surgery and full knee replacement.  
I have asked Christy to share a description of her work –  Christy is a fine example of our co-therapists, the horses, and their wide range as teachers and healers. 


One of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked over the 17 years I’ve practiced Chinese Medicine is: “How did you develop the exquisite energetic skills you have, to perceive and treat the human energy field?” Over time, I’ve realized that horses played a major role in my earliest development! By age 5, I was riding in Western-style horse shows; and between the ages of 7 and 16, horses were my constant companions. Through them, I learned how to “listen” to nonverbal communication, to sense their moods and anticipate their desires. During hours of grooming, I learned the art of palpation – and I loved to drape my body over a bareback horse, and imagine that I could merge with its horse nature… and see the world through its eyes. I also learned to watch horses move, and observe subtle changes that suggested an injury or strain might have occurred. Decades later, I would find the same skills applicable to my work with humans.

There are many different traditions and approaches in Oriental Medicine – in this respect, it is similar to the martial arts: innumerable styles and forms, all combinations of technique and artistry. As the medicine of ancient China spread across the globe, its comprehensive approach to understanding not only the mechanisms of disease, but also ways to prevent illness and enhance strength and endurance became legendary. But less well-known in the West is what I like to call the Inner Tradition of Chinese Medicine – the vital role of the spirit; the knowing of the Heart; and the roadmap to illumination that dots the human form in what we now call “acu-points.” These points have ancient names (pictograms, actually) — like “Encircling Glory,” “Spiritual Soul Gate,” “Palace of Weariness,” and “Inner Frontier Gate” – and describe states of being that can be woven into a unique treatment that touches Body, Mind and Spirit, equally.

In my role as Practitioner, I seek to generate vitality and clear perception in all of my clients – for even as they work on the mundane issues of the body, patients can simultaneously benefit from the transformational capacities of this Classical approach I practice. Healing dreams often appear, populated by symbols that relate to the 5 Elements and/or the “spirits” of the acu-points. Patients also speak about a sense of personal “authenticity” they feel re-awakening, as their Qi (vital energy) becomes stronger and more balanced. Moods and cognition typically improve; chronic health problems can be resolved; and the higher virtues of existence become actualized.

If you seek to complement the work you are doing with horses by working on your own inner journey – and feel I can help in any way — please don’t hesitate to call on me!

Many blessings!!
Christy Allen, L.Ac., Dipl.O.M.(NCCAOM) – Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine

EnerQi Health, Tucson, AZ

Relationship in Motion (RIM)

December 11, 2011 by  

2011 has sure been an eventful year with many challenges and opportunities for all of us.  If you are like me, you are ready to see what 2012 is all about!  I see this as a time of expanded conscious awareness for all of us.  Certainly, my work with the horses all over the world supports this.  Recently I was asked, “What do you see and feel is the common denominator with horses and people in your travels?”  As always, my answer was “horses are helping us to wake up.

My colleagues and I have been working on a concept which we call Relationship in Motion or RIM.  Over the years in my work in Equine Facilitated Learning, as well as work with families and corporations, I have noticed that much of a relationship is lost or put aside when a goal, deadline, or time constraint is present.  In EFL I notice that people may love connecting with the horses on the ground through grooming, reflective round pen work (one in which there is no goal but to be in relationship), or just standing and being with the herd in the field.

However, because we are human, and many times goal oriented and constrained by time limits, I see people dropping the feeling of connection to get “the job done.”  RIM is a process we are developing that assists the person to be in relationship- or limbic connection– with the horse and get motion or movement with collaboration.  This may seem simple but those of us working with horses, children, spouses or employees know this is not always the case.  What parent hasn’t temporarily “lost it” when asking their child for the 100th time to clean up their room?  When you are going to get your horse for an activity with a client, do you remember to tell them what you would like?

We know that maintaining a limbic connection and asking for movement involves the heart, intention from the brain, and pressure (or direction) from the belly or power center of the body.  When one is predominant (or lost) the horse will often stand stock still or be overcome with confusion.  Active round pen work, as opposed to the traditional lunging the horse, can offer the opportunity to stay in connection and get movement and collaboration.  What I have seen more often, however, is that people get into the goal of the activity and the horse – who has learned to “obey” the signals- performs the activities mindlessly but is disconnected.  This disconnect, of course, will often translate into peoples’ lives outside the round pen. I have seen many times the person who wants to stay in their heart be unable to get any kind of forward movement.

As a facilitator of EFL I want the client and the horse to have the best possible experience – an experience which will help the client’s body to remember what it feels like in connection and with movement.  I recall a man who experienced post traumatic stress disorder and had limited his life to the degree that even benign opportunities for change frightened him and kept him isolated and alone.  We had introduced the concept of emotions as information, and especially the differentiation of fear versus vulnerability.  It was his turn to get the horse (with some assistance from the equine professional) and see if he could have an experience of movement in the round pen.   At the beginning of the workshop he had told part of his story and informed us that he was terrified of horses.  By the time we got to this activity he had been with the horse in a safe place and was open to the challenge of taking the horse for a walk.  The facilitator let this man take the time to connect with the horse, by putting on her halter and beginning the walk to the round pen.  By the time the man and horse entered the round pen so much had happened within the man that he wanted to just be with the horse.  Was this a success?  You bet it was.

When he came out of the experience and shared with the group he said, “Kathleen when you first introduced the difference between fear (outright physical or emotional threat) and vulnerability (inside change or opportunity), I was not sure I would be able to tell the difference.  I had spent so many years reacting to the feeling of fear that I had not allowed myself any opportunities for change.” When asked for one word at the end of the workshop to sum up his experience with the horse, his word was “Courage.”  The smile on his face when he faced the challenge of connection and movement with the horse is one that will remain with me for a long time. 

Another example of Relationship in Motion (RIM) involved a horse trainer and a reluctant horse.  The woman went to get the horse and, after checking in with her body, got the message to go slowly.  Later that message would have a lot of significance for her in her personal life.  As we watched the exchange between woman and horse we noticed how slowly and deliberately she took each step.  Now this woman is a horse trainer so she certainly knows how to get a horse to move.  However, she took the time to listen to herself – and what the horse needed – to get to the round pen.  I have to admit I had to let go of my idea of what might be happening to support what was happening between them.  It took her 40 minutes step by step.

When she got to the round pen I asked her what she wanted to do.  Her response was priceless, “I told him the goal was to walk to the round pen and that I would take the time he needed to do this.  Once that happened I learned what I needed from the experience.” This horse had a problem with people pushing him beyond his limits.  The trainer could feel in her body that the opportunity for him to create a new memory of pressure and release was more important than any goal.  As a goal oriented person, this lesson translated to her life and allowed her to feel what it would be like to have forward movement and to maintain connection with herself and loved ones.

We have had many opportunities to see and observe this connection and movement, or Relationship in Motion, with people and horses.  It is the “dance of relationship” with collaboration, full intention and respect that the body remembers when working with horses or people the next time a challenge and opportunity is presented.

I have mentioned just two examples of the work with horses and people from this year.  I have traveled over the world this year and seen many more.  For this opportunity, I would like to thank the horses and my colleagues; Wendy and Andre at Horse Spirit Connections in Canada (; Sun Tui and her herd in England (; Eva Balzer and her herd in Germany (; Drea Bowen in Washington state at the Equine Empowerment Center (; Lisa Murrell in New York (; Susan Castaneda in New Mexico (; and Eve Lee and her horses at Loghaven in Illinois (

Many Blessings,


The Change EFL Can Bring to the Horse Co-facilitator – By Beth Goodwin

December 11, 2011 by  

How the Horse’s Life is Enhanced and Benefited

Beth Goodwin

Over the past 12 months as I have begun my journey as an EFL Facilitator I have been amazed at the positive changes I have seen in my own mare and the horses who have co facilitated sessions for my clients who choose to work with their own horses.

One of the first sessions I facilitated was for a woman with several horses. She asked that I work with her and one of her geldings. However, when I turned up to her property it was very evident that another gelding wanted to work with her. While this may be no surprise to many of us in this field, it came as a complete surprise to his owner. She reported that she felt this horse didn’t like her – she had had him since he was a foal, and he always walked away from her in the paddock, especially when she had a halter and a lead rope in her hand. She retired him from his dressage career early as she felt he didn’t like her or the work she was asking him to do.  His owner reported, “What I found very surprising was that the horse I least expected to want to participate made it quite clear he wanted to be very much part of this. He was the horse who wanted to help me the most and this stunned me.” He was right there beside his owner wanting a piece of the action. After the session the owner reported how much love she felt had come to her from the horse during her session. What is really amazing to me is this “love story” has continued ever since, even 12 months down the track his owner still reports how he is there at the gate to meet her, and is happy to be caught.

Another interesting case was with a warm blood mare and her owner.  Her owner felt she had reached a bit of a plateau with her mare in their dressage work. There were also other things going on between them. When I made contact with the client a few days after the EFL session, she reported a real change in her mare and the previous relationship. She said she didn’t feel like she had to baby the mare anymore (she bred her) and that she had had some “exceptional “rides on this mare. She was really pleased with the change and it was way beyond what she had expected.

A teenage girl asked me to facilitate a session between her and her pony. She wanted to have a better connection with her pony among other things. Her Arab cross pony, while reasonably sensible, could be quite challenging for her. When I made contact with her a couple of days after the session she reported how “We had a lovely beach ride today and he seems very relaxed and settled around me, even when there were some dramas this afternoon”. Then a day later, He was even more great today after a ride through the forestry; prancing along at a fast walk with his ears forward the entire time!”

The owner of a very upstanding and talented mare asked me to facilitate a session for them both. By now word was getting out that the EFL work was really benefitting the horses and the relationship between the owner and their horse. This horse had been chased by a previous owner, with a flag, into a wire fence. She was very weary of people and finding it hard to trust her present owner. She could not be paddocked with other horses as she hid behind them and was almost impossible to catch. At the beginning of the session this mare looked dissociative. During the session she slowly softened like cheese melting – kept her form but soft around the edges. On following up with the owner a few days later she reported a significant change in the mare. She felt both she and the mare had changed and they had a much more trusting and positive relationship. Several weeks later, the owner reported even more significant changes in her mare. She is now in a paddock with the rest of the herd and very happy to be caught. She can now be floated places as she stays in the float and doesn’t rush out the minute her chest touches the breast bar. The owner reported how she loads her and stands with her and “tells her stories”. She feels the mare listens and then continues to stand there after the story is complete. The owner also has ridden her bare back and jumped her – both for the first time. The owner reported how she had never jumped in her life before but trusted the mare to show her how. She said she was feeling really positive in herself and that she and the mare were helping each other. The day I saw the mare, several weeks after her session, she was happily eating hay with her paddock mates, looking very content with herself with a lovely clear and sparkling eye.

I have also noticed changes in my own mare after she has co facilitated a session with a client. She always seems very proud of herself and she glows with health for days after wards. On one particular occasion her change was really marked. She had worked with a client with cancer. After the session my mare looked like she had just had a body work session – her normally dippy back had come up and she looked like I had just washed and polished her with some show sheen. I took a photo of her and sent it to friends. They found it hard to believe she was the same horse. This change in her lasted for several weeks. I wondered who was actually healing who?

A change like this was also reported by another client who worked with her own 26 year old gelding in an EFL session. A few days after the session she commented how he seemed so much more alert and interested in what was going on around him. Several weeks after the session she said this change had endured.

However by far the most remarkable change in a horse I have co facilitated a session with has been with an 8 year old Hanoverian gelding. He began an early career in dressage with a previous owner and was starting to show intermittent lameness by the age of 5. His present owner was given him as a case study project for her equine sports massage practice. He was progressing nicely. However New Years Eve 2010, he got a fright in the night, and ran into a wire fence. He was found in the morning and by this time he was a mess, with lacerations and cuts all over his body. He was so bad the vet suggested euthanasia. However the owner felt she needed to give the horse a chance. At the time of the EFL session it had been 7 months since his accident. While his body had healed, his mind had not been so fortunate. He had been hyper alert ever since the night of his accident. Even the slightest movement around him and his head would go up rigid and he would take off around his paddock. Anything out of the ordinary upset him. He also found it very hard to be separated from his paddock mate.

He co facilitated two EFL sessions in the one day – one with his owner and one with someone else. In both sessions he found a “happy place”. While he was holding space for the clients to work, it also seemed like they were holding a space for him to work. Several times during the sessions the other horses in paddocks nearby would start running around but this horse just stayed totally focused on the client while in a really relaxed and “zoned” posture. His owner reported that this was really unusual for him since his accident – in fact unheard of. What is even more astounding is that he has maintained this chilled out demeanour ever since the day of his sessions. He is now able to be paddocked on his own, if required, without any fuss. He happily carries on eating while chaos is happening around him. He is really focused on his work and is not distracted by what is going on in his environment. When his owner takes him for a walk in the forest, he is totally focused on her and not wanting to return to his paddock mates as he had done in the past. His owner reports that he is “no longer spooky and lacking in confidence but rather confident and inquisitive”. She can’t get over “how mellow he has become”.

When I started out on my journey with EFL someone asked me who my primary target market was. I replied without thinking about it too much, that it was helping people to have a better relationship with their horses. At the time I wondered where this had come from in the recesses of my mind, but what had me wondering even more was how this was going to be achieved. In my training to that point, I had not seen any really positive effects on the horse co-facilitators. While they had not necessarily been adversely affected there didn’t seem to be any really positive effects either. I could see how if the owners could be more “in their bodies”, congruent and authentic then they would be easier to be around for both other people and horses. I never really expected to see the extraordinary changes clients have experienced both in themselves and in their horses. As one client commented, equine facilitated learning is an amazing experience and I believe that we are only just scratching the surface of its real potential for humans and horses.”

Beth Godwin

How Horses Help Us To KNOW Ourselves

December 8, 2011 by  

How Horses Help Us To KNOW Ourselves

 Efficacy of EFL supported by the latest brain research by Kathleen Barry Ingram

Co-founder of The Epona Approach

Describing the work with horses as co-facilitators in human development is not an easy task.  Simply stated the horses really do help us to know ourselves.

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.

[P. 192] “A General Theory of Love

 Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M.D., Richard Lannon, M.D.

Because our minds seek one another through limbic resonance, because our physiological rhythms answer to the call of limbic regulation, because we change each others’ brains through limbic revision—what we do inside relationships matters more than any other aspect of human life.

  1. 1.       “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. (pg. 170)  “

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]

Research on how we learn and how much we retain supports what the horses have been teaching us all along. Implicit Knowing which comes from actual experience supports experiential learning, in this case the work with horses. Explicit knowledge, while necessary and important, is not experienced directly but rather through study, education and the experiences of others.

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.

The 3 brain theory: Brain in the head; brain in the heart; and brain in the gut supports the work with horses who have a much larger heart field and gut than humans.  In fact, too much thinking and remembering can take us out of the moment without enough brain activity for feeling and experiencing.  We now know that intelligence is distributed throughout the body.  When you have a direct experience it does not go directly to the brain in the head.  The first place it goes is to the neurological networks of the intestinal tract (brain in the gut) and the heart (brain in the heart).  If we do not feel our values and or goals, we cannot live them.  The brain in the heart actually seeks out new experiences and is open to new possibilities which will intuitively matter to you in your life and work. The brain in your gut “reads” what others feel and measures the coherence and congruence of the other’s feeling state and checks it against its own inner state of coherent values, beliefs, and passions.  This is why horses, as prey animals, are so good at measuring the inner state of people, checking them out for any incongruence, and responding from their guts and hearts and not from the brain in the head where language can distort and deny what is actually happening.

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 very 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.

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 the growth of neural fibers that enable mindsight to flourish.  His concept of “feeling felt” is what most people and horses desire to live exciting and meaningful lives.

In equine facilitated learning this sense of feeling felt is necessary whether we are working on the ground or riding the horse.  The sense of feel that many individuals describe in natural horsemanship is this implicit way of knowing another being.  The explicit learning and knowledge we receive from our teachers and the horses, although very necessary, is not enough to really make the changes our clients and students are seeking.

Equine facilitated learning can and does transform the client’s limbic brain which takes much more repetition than does the “quick fix” of most brief therapies which address only the neocortical brain.  The neocortical brain can rapidly change didactic information but without the whole body, the brain in the heart and the gut; only ones’ thoughts and information change.  This, in my opinion, is why so many people “understand” why they might do “such and such” differently and still go about life unconsciously without full engagement and lasting results.  When all 3 brains are in agreement and the person is living from a conscious place, life becomes a symphony with each day bringing new challenges, joys and sorrows.

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.

Kathleen Barry Ingram, MA

© June 2011

Kathleen continues to teach internationally in training programs in the UK, Canada and the United States.
For more information on Kathleen and her mentorship programs contact her at




[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.


June 13, 2011 by  

Recently a good friend, Eve Lee, and I were sitting on her porch overlooking a pond where geese, ducks, and a family of sand hill cranes called home.In the nearby arena her three geldings waited for us to do “our work.”It was a beautiful spring morning with steam rising from the river beyond; an idyllic mid-west morning with a good friend and a great cup of coffee.

cranes at eve lees

Our musings turned towards our life’s work and the impact we both felt we still wanted to make on the world.By previous generations’ standards we “should” be talking about retirement, but retiring from what?Subsequently, I have spent the last couple of weeks playing with words and ideas to describe how I want to live my life and inspire others.

Inpondering, I recalled Erik Erikson’s 8 stages of life concept.Erikson (1902-1994) believed that culture has a massive influence on behavior and that more emphasis should be placed on the external world.His teaching was contrary to the beliefs held by the Freudians of his time.Erikson felt that the course of development is determined by the body (genetic biological programming), the mind (psychological), and the culture (ethos) of the time.Interestingly, Erikson based his premise partly on his studies with the Sioux Indians.

When Googling his name I found that Erikson’s 7th stage – which he describes as “Middle Adulthood” (35 to 65) – is when we can be in the state of Generativity, or self-absorption and stagnation.This stage of generativity applies the basic human strengths of productivity and care. He believed that this stage, where an individual has the option of caring for others and being productive, is a necessary step in development; without this people may fall into a place of self-absorption and stagnation.

The last, or 8th stage (65 to death), he describes as Integrity or despair.The basic strengths of Wisdom can be felt when we can look back on our lives with contentment and know that we have made a contribution. We have gained wisdom and compassion through caring for others; committing to a cause or belief greater than our individual egos, and inspiring future generations. Since most of us do not have personal role models in continuing beyond 65 years of age, I believe that our opportunity is to combine the Generativity of the Middle stage with the Wisdom of the of Late stage,thus my concept of Conscious Generativity.I also realized that, although, the discussion was centered on how Eve and I want to live, teach, and inspire others, this concept of Conscious Gernerativity applies to many of the people I engage with on a daily basis.

For example, in the late 80’s and early 90’s IBM was laying off workers who once thought they would stay with IBM until “full retirement” at age 65.Many of the people were confused, scared and totally unprepared for a new career.An outplacement firm hired me to provide a series of inspirational talks designed to motivate and encourage a revised frame of reference for the former employees’ current situations.One of the talks I gave was called, “There are no more Gold Watches.” Some received the news of early retirement with anger and resentment feeling they had been “done wrong”.However, a few people took this as an opportunity to create and design a new life.Since the IBM lay offs I have counseled, coached, mentored, and taught these people, the ones who are interested in seeking a better way to live and to reach out to others.

Eve Lee's horse

The field of Equine Facilitated Learning was not even practiced consciously until the early 90’s.We did not even have a name for it then, but trust me the horses were doing the work and just waiting for us to listen (See “Unexpected Grace”) As I describe in “Unexpected Grace,” it was the horses that really taught me how to “hold the Sacred Space of Possibility” for people and for our animal friends.

One would have to be living under a rock today to not be affected by the confusion, fear, and uncertainty generated by the recent economic, political, and environmental events of the last couple of years.Since most of us are still in the process of Generativity (creating, providing and generating), it is more important now than ever for each of us discover our life’s work.When I talk about moving from possibility to probability—it is about living bigger from the heart.So please join me in this concept of Conscious Generativity and challenge others to do the same. As the Hopi elders teach, “We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting for.”

Kathleen Barry Ingram, MA
© June, 2011


April 13, 2010 by  

It’s early on Easter morning, April 4, 2010, and I woke up thinking about life and all of the challenges we are facing with the global economic crisis, environmental changes, poverty, war, competition for limited resources, and just, well, all of it! I am used to asking for answers to these kinds of unanswerable questions by paying attention to what floats through my mind in the early hours before my rational mind takes over. What a surprise to see an image of Forrest Gump running in the desert. It came to me then that I want to be more like Forrest and remember what life was like in the innocence of youth before my ego and my rational mind hijacked my spirit and my soul.

Some notable quotes from my new role model, Forrest, might just enhance my point:

Forrest Gump: My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
Mrs. Gump: You have to do the best with what God gave you.
Forrest Gump: Mama says they was magic shoes. They could take me anywhere.
Forrest Gump: Now you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows. From that day on, if I was ever going somewhere, I was running!
Forrest Gump: When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.
Elderly Southern Woman on Park Bench: And so, you just ran?
Forrest Gump: Yeah.
Forrest Gump: My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.
Jenny Curran: Were you scared in Vietnam?
Forrest Gump: Yes. Well, I don’t know. Sometimes it would stop raining long enough for the stars to come out… and then it was nice. It was like just before the sun goes to bed down on the bayou. There was always a million sparkles on the water… like that mountain lake. It was so clear, Jenny, it looked like there were two skies one on top of the other. And then in the desert when the sun comes up, I couldn’t tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It’s so beautiful.
Jenny Curran: I wish I could’ve been there with you.
Forrest Gump: You were.
Forrest Gump: Mama always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them.
Forrest Gump: What’s my destiny, Mama?
Mrs. Gump: You’re gonna have to figure that out for yourself.

Well, I wish I could be more like Forrest, and sometimes I can feel his innocence and awe for life without all of the shouldas and ought- tos coming in to disturb my present moment. I know with humility and extreme gratitude that my teachers, the horses, my dog Grace, and all of the animals and nature are really speaking to me, if I would only listen! Remember how Forrest ended up being in a lot of places just because he showed up?

Thinking about all of this brought me back to the work of Anthropologist E. Richard Sorenson and his research on what he calls preconquest, characteristics of the minds of indigenous peoples, versus postconquest typified by modern rationalism and the consciousness that develops from these different worldviews. His research is extensive and interesting as an understanding about what happens when the logical, rational Western mind overtakes the liminal awareness of the indigenous tribes and the animal kingdom. Preconquest consciousness is rooted in feeling and sensory awareness. Like our horse teachers, individuals in such societies are highly sensitive to changes in muscle tension in others indicating shifts in mood. If others feel good then you feel good; if others feel bad then you feel bad. Sorenson calls this “socio-sensual” awareness.

I believe that many of us are throwbacks to this type of consciousness and that our sensitivities and “sixth sense” are a result of us recovering our true natures. We feel what is not right but often feel helpless to change the situation. In my 30 years of experience as a therapist, I encountered many sensitive individuals who had been broken by the system or had used drugs and other means to dull their senses to survive in this paradigm. When individuals who operate from an epistemology of feeling encounter reason, they will automatically be overshadowed by reason. Individuals operating from a feeling perspective will be abused or silenced by having their experiences matched against the rigorous logic of rational analysis. Feeling individuals feel invalidated, and innate understanding is blocked by “truth.” The question is “What is “truth”? Our opportunity is to be able to integrate our understanding based on scientific knowledge and mystical wisdom and to create a new paradigm which is inclusive. Clear reason is rooted in the wisdom of the body through feeling which is certainly something the horses demonstrate for us.

This is a lot to digest, especially on a warm Sunday morning in Tucson, Arizona. However, I believe so many of us are interested in horses and other forms of animal assisted therapy for just some of the reasons stated by Sorensen’s work with the indigenous tribes of New Guinea. We need and are looking for this type of consciousness, awareness, mindfulness, and sensibility; and I believe working with the horses is one of the ways to be in this state of grace and openness. I especially like Sorensen’s observations that preconquest groups are both individualist and collective. When we look and observe the horses in their natural settings, we see this behavior and way of being all of the time. This consensual type of leadership allows for individual creativity and “socio-sensual” awareness when the motivation for individual well-being is integrated with the well-being of the entire community

Maybe this is an opportunity for us to learn from indigenous people, the animals, and to remember what Forrest Gump had to say. So thank you, Forrest, for reminding me, as one of my role models, to stay in the present, enjoy this day, and be grateful for Spring!

Kathleen Barry Ingram
April 2010


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.

The Way of the Horse: Kathleen’s Youtube Interview, 2009

January 4, 2010 by

Watch this interview with Kathleen produced through Horse Spirit Connections, Toronto, Canada in February 2009.

October 2009 Horses are Challenging us to WAKE UP!

October 2, 2009 by  

Newsletter article for

Horse Spirit Connections present “The Way of the Horse” and interview with Kathleen Barry Ingram, see it on You Tube!

Will Rogers said, “There is nothing better for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse”. I would take this one step further and say also the insides and the outsides of a horse since they teach us so much about being in the present moment and coming from a congruent place in our hearts. My privilege for the past 10 years has been to learn from these consummate teachers about myself, life and relationships. I began my journey with horses as therapists at Sierra Tucson, a hospital in Arizona specializing in addiction treatment, where Reed Smith hired Barbara Rector to engage equines in the treatment team for the new adolescent center in the early 1990’s. At the time I was the corporate director of marketing for this world renowned center and you can read more about this story in the article titled “Unexpected Grace”.

In 1992 I began my private practice in psychotherapy and I worked with Barbara Rector and Ann Alden, it was at one of their workshops that I met Linda Kohanov. Linda and I developed and taught the Epona Approach™ for eight years. We taught nine Epona apprenticeship classes together, many workshops, and experienced the incredible growth of this approach working with our equine colleagues. I have immense gratitude for all that Linda and I experienced, learned and developed over those years. What I lovingly call the “straw bale/ porta potty days” with our first workshops in late 1999 to Epona’s move to the magnificent facility at Apache Springs Ranch located in Gardner Canyon in Sonoita, Arizona; we met, taught and engaged with people and horses from all over the world.

In 2008 I began my current journey which has taken me to England, Ireland, Belgium, Vermont, Florida, New York State, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Canada. One of the most consistent observations I have had is that the horses world-wide are speaking to each other. Rupert Sheldrake’s concept of the morphogenetic field; Candace Pert’s research on the molecules of emotion; and Larry Dossey’s description of the nonlocal nature of mind has demonstrated that all of the horses are communicating with each other and are taking us to new levels of personal and interpersonal awareness. They are literally helping us to wake up!

I have been conducting advanced workshops with others, some of whom were my students, and also am teaming up with people like Wendy and Andre and teaching what I call the psychological/spiritual/scientific foundations underlying equine facilitated learning in various training programs. What I have noticed as a theme is the people I am teaching and training are asking for guidance and direction for their life work based on their own intuition, self-awareness, and personal knowledge gleaned from life challenges; and turning possibilities into probabilities. Some come as students to learn this work with horses and people in advanced human development, others come for their own personal growth, and some come as a group to learn leadership from a collaborative point of view. The horses, as always, infuse people with wisdom, courage, vision and strength. As our role models, they teach us to offer support when appropriate, wait for the right moment to intervene and not take anything too personally.

One of the key components developed at Epona is something Linda created called the “Emotional Message Chart”. Horses teach us to use emotion as information and that no emotion is good or bad. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s ground breaking book, “Positivity”defines, records and validates her research and findings over a period of 20 years regarding the importance of balancing Positive Emotions with Negative Emotions. She has found that a ration of 3:1 positive to negative is needed to balance our emotions. She says, “Negative emotions are necessary for us to flourish, and positive emotions are by nature subtle and fleeting; the secret is not to deny their transience but to find ways to increase their quantity. Without a balance of positive to negative emotions, she has found that people get pulled into a downward spiral, their behavior becomes lifeless, rigid, and predictable and they begin to feel burdened. It is also important to note that she is not advocating suppression of any emotions but rather balancing them. All positive emotions have one thing is common, which is they are reactions to our current circumstances and are not a permanent state. Why is this so important to note and remember? Positive emotions tend to be more fleeting than negative emotions and happiness is the overall outcome of many positive emotions. She says that positive emotions are triggered by our interpretations of our current circumstances and are felt not only in the body but also tell us what we need emotionally and mentally for the future. This helps us to broaden our minds and outlook and to build what she calls the “broaden and build effect”. Positive emotions are a narrower band of feelings and not an overall judgment about life. A study cited in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in November 2008 called “Open Hearts Build Lives” looked at the effects of loving-kindness meditation on people’s resources and attributed the benefits not to learning loving-kindness meditation but to the daily increase in positive emotions that the participants got from this and they concluded that over time positive emotions literally change who we are. I often refer to the psychological concept of a “corrective emotional experience” which happens consistently in the work with horses. When the identity of the facilitator/horse is confused with past figures from childhood, the horses help correct negative thoughts and feelings about certain circumstances or memories by responding positively in the present. This experience helps the client to develop new “neural pathways” in the brain with positive emotions which eventually replace the “super highway” reaction based on past experiences.

We and the herd of horses at Horse Spirit Connection invite you to take this journey with us and begin to live from your true essence. We are often asked how does this work with horses enhance and develop us as Spiritual beings. Michael Singer’s book, “The Untethered Soul” gives one of the best definitions of Spirituality I have seen:

Spirituality begins when you decide that you’ll never stop trying. Spirituality is the commitment to go beyond, no matter what it takes. It’s an infinite journey based upon going beyond yourself every minute of the day for the rest of your life. If you’re truly going beyond you are always at your limits. You’re never back in the comfort zone. A spiritual being feels as though they are always against the edge, and they are constantly being pushed through it. (p 124) “The Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer

The essence of spirituality is letting go of this false sense of self, this façade, and this need to have others behave predictably. It is being in the vulnerable, unknowing part of you. It is taking the risk to Chart Your Own Course. You decide to take the journey by constantly letting go, not clinging, and being a witness to your thoughts, your feelings, and your state of mind. Living authentically from this soulful place is the way to true freedom.

What would it be like to live in the Undivided Self, to use the power of the undivided self to create, to live and to participate fully in life and to Chart Your Own Course? What would it be like to view all people and experiences as new opportunities to see with the heart and the mind?

What I have noticed with my travels is that there is always one common thread. That thread is each horse’s innate ability to take in and honor the essence of the individual exactly where they are in that present moment. We know that being in the present is really the only place where actual change can happen. We have also seen that the experiences with horses allows the individual to “implicitly know” what is important for a full life and also gives them a glimmer of what that could look like.

Seeing with the heart allows us to be in present moment awareness and to live from our authentic self. Your heart is an instrument made of extremely subtle energy. When you “feel” music, see the beauty of a flower, or bird song, you can hear it and see it, but the feeling comes through the filter of the heart. The heart controls the energy flow of opening and closing to others. The heart closes when stored energy, feelings, or unfinished business block the opening of the heart. Barbara Fredrickson and Marty Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association and founder of positive psychology, among others have taken the scientific rigor developed in traditional psychology, based on the medical model and directed it towards understanding human potential Seligman challenged the field to look at what makes a person healthy rather that what makes them sick. Fredrickson says that one way to increase positivity is to be aware of the present moment, because she says most moments are positive. She says we miss many opportunities to experience positive emotions by thinking too much about the past and the future, rather than being open to what is. “Living in my head got me through difficult times when I was younger and helped me become a great student. But I think it disconnected me from my heart”. I would encourage Barbara and others to join us in nature, to enjoy the present moment, and learn directly from the heart of the horses.

Kathleen Barry Ingram, MA

September 2009 ©

Equine Facilitated Learning, Psychotherapy, & Coaching: A Comparison

March 1, 2009 by  


The field of Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) has undergone a lot of changes in the recent years.  There has been quite a controversy about how to name what we, who co-facilitate with horses in advanced personal development work, actually call ourselves and how we identify what we are doing.  The Epona Approach™ and the work I am currently engaged in with Leigh Shambo at Human Equine Alliances for Learning (HEAL) both agree that the horses are our full partners in this endeavor.  Their innate knowledge, wisdom, and accurate intuition guide us as human facilitators when we follow their lead and learn from these consummate teachers.  Some practitioners/facilitators identify themselves as practicing Equine Experiential Learning (EEL); Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning (EFEL); Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL); Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) Equine Therapeutic Learning (ETL); Equine Assisted Coaching (EAC), however I refer to what I practice as Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL).  The following information is presented to shed some light on the various ways of working, and on what I feel are some of the most important principles and guidelines to follow as we continue this important partnership with the horse.


                   Psychotherapy                                                    Coaching

• Therapy is about uncovering &                        More about Discovering    

• Based on the Medical Model                            Not about disease but about                  
   of dis-ease and diagnosis                               optimum health

• Examining the past                                          Being in the present

• Looking to therapist for solutions                   Mutual examination
   for emotional concerns

• Helping clients move from a state                    Assisting people who are highly
   of dysfunction to one of being                         functional but may not be achieving
   functional                                                         their full personal or professional

• More of a doctor/patient relationship               Partnering with clients in a creative

Equine Facilitated Learning and the lessons we acquire from interactions with the horses is based on mutual understanding and respect.  As professionals in this field we do need to be aware of the clients’ projections and transference involving ourselves and the horses, and our own counter-transference issues.  Much of the information in the coaching profession as well as experiential learning has come from traditional psychotherapeutic principles and dynamics.

 The pioneering work of Adler and Jung is noted by Patrick Williams, a psychologist for 28 years who moved into the coaching profession and in 1990 helped in the formation of the International Coaching Federation, (ICF).  Williams says: “Adler and Jung saw individuals as the creators and artists of their lives and frequently involved their clients in goal setting, life planning, and inventing their future —- all tenets in today’s coaching.”  He also points to Carl Rogers work with client-centered therapy as a “significant precursor to coaching”. (Williams, “Counseling Today” December, 2008)    

Edward Colozzi, a career development expert and author of the book Creating Careers with Confidence says; “Although coaching has its limitations, its practice harkens back to the times in many cultures when spiritual leaders, shamans, mentors or others in the community offered informational guidance. It is, in a way, a back-to-the-future paradigm shift. A life coach is a mentor—a person who joins us on a journey.  Many people have performed that role in the past.  But in a society such as ours that starts to have rules and regulations—that may be where counseling was born.  Now, perhaps, we are seeing a return to something more basic.”  (Colozzi, “Counseling Today” December,2008)

Irvin Yalom, MD, considered by many as the “Father of Group Therapy”, says that with the current crisis in psychotherapy, there will not be enough trained individuals to do the work.  “Psychiatry is on the verge of abandoning the field of psychotherapy.  Young psychiatrists are forced to specialize in psychopharmacology because third party payers now reimburse for psychotherapy only if it is delivered by low fee (in other words, minimally) trained practitioners.”  Even though Yalom is concerned about the current state of affairs, he is confident that a “cohort of therapists coming from a variety of educational disciplines will continue to pursue rigorous post graduate training.

Equine Facilitated Learning can fill some of  what is missing in the health care system . Individuals seeking change from old dysfunctional patterns of behavior and automatic responses based on unconscious motivations can find help and assistance through the Way of The Horse.  Yalom says, “At its very core, the flow of therapy should be spontaneous, forever following unanticipated river beds” Therapy following a managed care protocol does not allow for spontaneity and reflection.  The horses, as our teachers, and co-facilitators demand that we “go with the flow” and therefore, keep the interaction dynamic and in the present moment. 

 Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy, an area I studied extensively in post graduate work with one of my mentors, Dr Paul Rosenberg, works with the unconscious forces (the dynamics) of inner conflict by holding a supportive container for clients to experience in the present moment emotions and memories from the past.   Much of the material and teaching I developed for educating students of EFL came from the theories behind this approach and the clinical experience of my clients.  What I got to see for myself as I engaged more with the horses was that this dynamic was present in many of the sessions I conducted with a client and a horse.  The challenge was how to develop a process in experiential learning that held the container present in a psychotherapeutic session.  The container suggested in the phrase I call holding the sacred space of possibility  was essential in establishing safety for both the client and the horse.  Without suspension of judgment and personal desire for an expected outcome, a reflective round pen and any active or passive engagement with the horse becomes more of repeat of old behaviors and attitudes.  “I am the expert and thus you and the horse should do this my way.”  The facilitator’s understanding of their own unconscious forces or dynamics underlying their thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviors is absolutely necessary for the client and the horse to have a truly creative and innovative equine experience.  The Johari Window, the Karpman Trauma/Drama triangle and the thorough study of projection, transference, introjection and countertransference are ways to enhance and support students participating in an EFL training program.  If the student is interested, engaged and encouraged to explore these dynamics themselves, they will be far ahead of many who practice equine facilitated learning, equine experiential learning, psychotherapy and/or coaching. 

My own personal opinion around the discussion and controversy of whether to use the designation of equine facilitated learning, equine facilitated psychotherapy or equine assisted coaching when describing your practice is simply this, “Know thyself”.  I believe if you know your personal style, understand your thought processes and emotions, and are actively and enthusiastically engaged in a relationship with any sentient being, the likelihood of a mutual and successful partnership is possible.  The excellent facilitator is a mentor, a truth seeker, a challenger, and most of all someone who guides each person towards personal accountability, integrity, ease, and fulfillment. 

Our teachers, mentors, friends and co-facilitators, the horses say “Thanks for listening”.

Horse Wisdom

Horse Wisdom: photo by Larney Otis


Kathleen Barry Ingram, MA
Excerpt from “Unexpected Grace: How Horses Changed my Life”
Copyright, 2009

Unexpected Grace: How Horses Changed My Life

December 13, 2008 by  

The working title for a memoir I am writing is, “Unexpected Grace: How Horses Changed My Life” so this is the beginning of the story.  I believe it is in those spaces in-between what I call “holding the sacred space of possibility” that grace and guidance happens. I follow what Robert Johnson calls, “the slender threads” in his book, “Balancing Heaven and Earth” and at this stage of my life look back on people, circumstances, and experiences that have guided me, I know the nudges I followed were many times where the most significant changes occurred.    As a child and young adult I remember riding horses across fallow corn fields in Indiana with my cousins and feeling the wind in my hair and the pure joy of being in sync with these magnificent beings.  When I was older and had children every family vacation included at least one horse ride.  My youngest daughter, Meghan, tried many times to covince her Father and me to get her a horse but eventually had to settle for riding her friends’ horses or the horses at my sister’s ranch in Colorado.  I loved it all and have to admit I took much of it in stride until grace entered in and changed my life.

My grandmother, Frances Shea Klein, probably wasn’t doing anything extraordinary on the day this picture was taken.  This image of my grandmother, placed on my mantel with other family pictures, was one of many in an old photo album I found of hers.  Grace is why I believe this particular image was the one I decided to take and reprint for my sisters, children and Aunt.  My grandmother, gone many years, was such an important part of my early childhood and I love to think about her in this innocent, beautiful scene with the black and white working horses.  What was she thinking about?  Her whole life was ahead of her and I imagine she was out on a morning stroll and stopped to commune with the horses and maybe have a long chat.  Equine Facilitated Learning is a name for a new field of working with horses in human development but somehow I believe my grandmother already knew this.  Barbara Rector came to see me for some consulting and noticed this picture and asked “Are you a horse person, Kathleen?”.  Little did I know then where that question and her observation would eventually lead me.

Frances Shea Klein     Wisconsin 1908

Frances Shea Klein Wisconsin 1908

My first introduction to working with horses in this way was through Sierra Tucson in the1990’s.  At the time I was director of marketing and intake at the center for the treatment of addictions and co-dependency.  In a recent newsletter sent out by Sierrra Tucson honoring their 25 years of service , co-founder Bill O’Donnell is quoted saying, “In the beginning, we had more horses than patients.”   I wonder what the horses knew then that had not been revealed to us?  By the late 80’s we had 185 beds for adults with chemical dependency and other addictive disorders, and had acquired dual lincensure as a psychiatric hospital; a 72 bed eating disorder unit; and were in the process of building an adolescent treatment center.  Reed Smith was in charge of creating the new center for adolescents and he wanted to bring the horses in to work with the children. I called Reed a few weeks ago to ask him what made him decide to do this work.
Here is a portion of the interview I had with Reed:
“When I was eight years old my father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and became bedridden.  I had been with horses at my grandfather’s ranch and so turned to them for companionship during this time.  I had heard how the horses had helped my great Uncle when he was suffering from depression.  At that time there were not many “cures” for depression or what they called “melancholy”, however, I remember stories of how the horses “healed” my Uncle in the late 1800’s.  I grew up with this story so when I was struggling with the crisis of my Father’s illness I began to think about how this might be just what would help me.  I applied for my first wrangler’s job at 8 years old.  Well, I didn’t get the job but I started volunteering and working with the horses.  I learned to halter train them as foals and started them bareback.  When I was 11 years old I became a camp counselor for kids and worked with the camp in the summers until I was 18 years old.  The horses saved my life in many ways.  Horses as healers goes back thousands of years in Arabian families and we all know the stories of the horses in the Old West.  All of the years that I worked at the Bar L Ranch in Guthrie Center, Iowa we never had an accident with the horses and the kids.  I attribute this to [1] Safety[2] the relationship with the horse and human being the most important, the horses were not passed around or deadened [3] the horses were pasture bred and raised.  When the idea to work with the horses at Sierra Tucson, which was on the property of an old dude ranch where the horses could be ridden by the patients, I knew I wanted to create something like the Bar L.  I had heard of a woman, Barbara Rector, who was one of the founders of TROT in Tucson where the horses helped them work with handicapped children.  As soon as I met her, I knew she had the understanding and the vision to help me create this innovative program to work with the adolescents.  She was very safety minded, well trained and had a natural way of working with the horses which was full of respect and not technique.  Thus began the collaboration with Barbara a year before the center was ready to open.”
My next meeting was with Barbara to find out about her recollection.  Barbara had been the first person to ask me to work with her and her partner Ann Alden in Barbara’s program, “Adventures in Awareness”.  We recalled the other day that this was around 1994-95.  I began working with Barbara individually and then participated in several workshops before I started to teach what she called” taking therapy to the barn”.  I would work with them at workshops and did a lecture on the benefits of working with horses as co-facilitators.  We didn’t even have a name then but knew it “worked”.  As a practicing psychotherapist, I really saw the changes in the clients and referred many of my clients to Barbara and Ann.  I wanted to ask Barbara what she recalled of the “early” days in the field of equine facilitated learning and her time at Sierra Tucson in 1990-1993.
Barbara said,
“Reed hired me and we began our collaboration to put together the program at adolescent.  We called it STIRRP, Sierra Tucson Integrated Riding Resource Program.  Adolescent opened the the fall of 1991 and the program was a huge success with the adolescents and their families.  We began to see how much the horses impacted the children and the family system. In 1993 I presented a paper and a training video on the STIRRP program, then referred to as equine facilitated psychotherapy, to the International Riding for the Disabled Conference in Aukland, New Zealand.” Barbara can be contacted at
The curriculm and program developed intially by Barbara and Reed has undergone changes and the equine program at the center continues today and is fully integrated in the primary group process.
My next stop was a visit with Ann Alden down at her ranch in Sonoita where she lives with her 16 horses and her partner, Haus  When I asked Ann, “Why Horses?” she replied.
“Working with the horses has validated what I knew as a child and couldn’t express in words.  I remember reading a book called “Kinship with all Life” by J. Allen Boone when I was 16.  I would go out and sit in the grass and commune with the animals.  My relationship with animals as a child has continued into my life today and prompted me to take what I knew then and work with the horses in this area of human development.”
By the time the center at Sierra Tucson had opened, Wyatt Webb was the executive director and began his journey through the way of the horse.  Wyatt works today at Miraval and is the innovator of their successful Equine Experience program as well as the author of two books about his work with horses.  Wyatt and I worked together on the management team at Sierra Tucson in the late 80’s early 90’s.  I certainly wouldn’t have predicted that either one of us would be doing the work we are today.  You can contact Wyatt and find out more about the equine program at
Through my work with Barbara and Ann I met Linda Kohanov and thus we began our collaboration in 1998 and we worked together until late 2007.  You can read more about my work with Linda under the Equine Facilitated Learning section of this website and can contact her directly at
I think about my grandmother, Frances, often and would love to have a conversation with her about her early life, what she was doing with the horses, whether she loved them as much as I do, but most of all to thank her for the way she guided me to this work.  I really know that when we are open, we receive these gifts of grace in many unexpected ways.
Cisco at Yvonne Monahan's Ireland

Cisco at Yvonne Monahan's in Ireland

Memorian for Charlie McGuire & Nicole Christine

December 8, 2008 by  

Once in awhile you met an extraordinary person who changes your life.  I have had the honor to call Charlie McGuire and Nicole Christine my friends, my mentors, my colleagues and my sisters of the heart.  Both of these women have left this earthly plane this year, Charlie in May and Nicole in October, however their influence and presence is so profound that I sometimes hear their voices of support, encouragement and feel a personal challenge to be authentic and accountable.  Charlie was a graduate of the first apprenticeship class from Epona Equestrian Services and both Linda Kohanov and I count her as one of our guiding lights and mentors.  Charlie started the Holistic Nurses Association, and with her life partner, Robbie Nelson, founded Buffalo Woman Ranch where Robbie and her colleagues continue to teach, educate and support many in the field of equine facilitated learning and personal development. 

Charlie embracing life

Charlie embracing life






Nicole, recommended to Linda and myself by Charlie and Robbie, was the administrative assistant to the growing Epona program from 2002 through 2007.  Her dedication, honesty, integrity, and genuine positive regard for all gave us the solid foundation needed in this growing field of Equine Facilitated Learning.  Nicole was an avatar with deep spiritual beliefs and connections to the Magdalene energies.  You can find out more about Nicole at

Nicole at Summit 2007
Nicole at Summit 2007

My Dear Sisters,

Thank you for your love, guidance and for paving the way for all of us seeking a new way of living.
Blessings, love, and gratitude,