• nancy willbern

Heart to Heart

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

In an earlier Blog post, (see Horses as Healers), I introduced a new adjunct to my private practice, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. In this post, I would like to give you more information about the power of the work through sharing some exciting research findings on the topic.

Watch this video and then I'll explain it to you. Here's how to access it: Go to the: mind-body-science.com Home page and click on Second Video, a little past the middle of the page.

In the film, a horse is walking along the fenceline of a round pen. In 10 or 15 seconds, the horse looks up, turns his head in the direction of a woman sitting in a chair in the middle of the round pen. He then walks over to her, greets her with his muzzle and then stays with her for the rest of the video.

This horse did not just radomly walk over to the woman. The woman was wearing a Heart Rate Variation monitor to measure her level of Congruency, which you may remember means a sense of inner peace or well-being. When she reached the Congruency level on the monitor, the horse sensed this and immediately walked over to her. This episode is part of an on-going research project of Dr. Ann Baldwin, a professor in the College of Medicine at The University of Arizona.

Dr. Baldwin, in conjunction with the non-profit, Heartmath Institute is conducting research exposing the unique connections that can be made between humans and horses. The video shows the horse's innate ability to be in tune with and to be drawn towards humans (which is also true of other herd members) who are calm and in the present moment. Other significant findings show that often just being in the presence of horses can alter heart rhythms that are physically and psychologically beneficial to humans. In a study conducted in 2014, healthy shifts in Heart Rates, Respitory Rates and Heart Rate Frequencies (HRF) occurred both while anticipating being with the horses, as well as during the actual time in their presence. Further benefits occurred when intentionally adding the goal of either gratitude or mutual respect. These benefits stem through a measurable exchange of electromagnetic energy which naturally emenates from the heart of both species.

When acknowledged and valued as part of an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy program, this relational interchange between humans and horses can have the power to induce calmness and reduce anxiety, to bring clients into a state of mindfulness in the present moment, and to open the heart to an experience of deeper connection with the self and with the horse. It is possible, then for this heart-to-heart experience to be translated into healthier connections with parts of the self and with relationships with others in the client's larger world.

If we recognize that all psychological disturbance, with the exception of organic disorders originate in some way within broken or misinterpreted relationships, it makes sense that healing occurs through some form of healthy re-connection. Horses, as relational beings equipped with huge beating hearts and even larger instinctual guts are organically programmed to help humans learn to re-connect. As the dominant species, we have used horses for thousands of years as utilitarian pack animals. It is an amazing discovery to both horses and to humans to now recognize that they have hidden, innate talents that can affect our hearts and souls.

Experiencing these talents up close and personal has the power to bring healing shfits at the cellular level - where we live and breathe.

Starting in the fall, I will be offering Equine Assisted Psychotherapy sessions at The Hopeful Hearts Ranch in Leander. I would love for you to come out and experience these benefits and new ways of connecting for yourself. (No previous horse experience is required.) For more information or to set up an individual session, please contact me at: nwillbern@gmail.com