CORNVILLE – There are no couches in equestrian therapy. And no horse will answer you with words of wisdom.
But Red, Toto, Joker and Odin had a lot to say at Michelle Peterson’s Medicine Horse Journey workshop on Saturday.
The rescue horses, which have their own issues, slowly drove around with seven people sitting on low plastic lawn chairs in the middle of a Cornville pasture.
The curious 1,000 pound animals hovered above the group of workshop attendees, who were opening up wounds about their grief, loss and grief.
A horse started playing with a woman’s straw hat. Two horses fetched a woman’s blonde curls. Another just walked in the middle of the circle and didn’t move.
The ice was broken.
“For me, it’s a space where people can heal,” Michelle Peterson said. “I know it’s because horses create a very calming environment for people.”
She calls it a “trip” and not “therapy” because they don’t address specific issues.
Peterson said if a group is sitting in a circle and just staring at each other, human-to-human contact is hard for some people to handle. Many people’s pain is due to relationships with others.
At Peterson’s studio, they discuss and meditate between horses, a cow, goats and nature. It’s an environment where people feel safe to express themselves, she says.
People come out and quietly connect with the herd, she said, “with all that they travel in their hearts.”
“We invite people into the horse world,” Peterson said. “And they are invited to learn about themselves through horses – what horses embody.”
Peterson explained that people get closer to their feelings by entering this world.
Peterson said many people offer different types of horse therapy. “It’s way more popular than I’ve ever seen it.”
But she knows that her workshops are unique.
She said there are therapists who are interested in equine therapy, but she thinks someone has to be a horse first.
She has been riding and working with struggling horses since she was 12 years old.
Peterson began training as a horse healer in 2005 in Massachusetts, where she was trained in horse-inspired learning. And she has taken many healing arts trainings and coaching over the past 20 years.
She runs about 12 workshops a year, three group retreats, trainings, starts a year-long mentorship program, and also works with people who adopt rescue horses.
Peterson has her own horse rescue operation that is out of her home in Cornville, with some having physical or behavioral issues. She also does a lot of rehoming.
Peterson’s Medicine Horse Journey Saturday workshop was held at TCL Sanctuary in Cornville with friend Tracy Campbell who also has many rescue horses on the property including Red, Toto, Joker and Odin, who only has an eye.
She never knows what’s going to happen in one of her workshops, Peterson said.
Saturday’s session was amazing, she continued.
People just sat in a circle around a horse for an extra hour to talk about what was going on in their lives and in their hearts.
“Everyone comes together like a human herd,” she said. It’s very special.
Contact Vyto Starinskas at firstname.lastname@example.org.