I began riding horses as a child. I would jump on every opportunity to be around horses that I could, even if it meant cleaning stalls for hours. I took lessons when I was in junior high and high school. Being around horses was and still is one of my favorite places to be. As a kid growing up, I just felt different when I was riding or doing chores. I felt better. The smells of the barn, the sound of them chomping hay and swishing their tales, or whinnying in the pasture were all soothing to my senses.
As an adult those feelings never went away. When I was riding it was impossible to worry or stress about things in life. All the things that felt so big to deal with on a day to day basis just dissipated and for that hour or two, with whichever horse I was able to be with, I was able to just be.
When I was undergoing the hard work of trauma therapy, barn time was a critical piece of my healing. Trauma therapy is grueling. It is by far the toughest season of life that I have endured. In order to heal from my trauma, I needed to expose it and that meant reliving it. It was vulnerable and painful. I can only describe it as being exposed to the world without even the protection of skin, gaping wounds that had been patched up but were diseased under the surface. It was tough work to face those fears again. And like an onion, we peeled back one layer at a time.
When I was able to connect with a horse after a session I was able to ground myself. I could take inventory with all my senses to convince myself that I was no longer in danger. The trauma was in the past. I was safe in that moment.
Being able to ground myself was the most important skill I learned while doing the work. Flash backs and triggers could blindside me like a swift and sudden storm. If there were no tools to combat the tailspin of emotions with, the most primal part of my brain would tell me to run away. Get out of danger!
But, I had my horse. I saw her gentle eyes. I could touch her soft muzzle. I could smell the sweetness of grain and hay on her breath. I could close my eyes when I sat on her back and feel the gentle rhythm of her walk. rocking me in steady motion. I felt her. She felt me. She could see me. It was going to be ok.