Welcome to the first blog post on our new-look Earthhorse website. This equine work springs from vulnerability and emotional honesty, for us, for the horses, and for our clients. In these posts we are going to share our own experiences, introduce you to our herd, and highlight some amazing moments with our clients (while maintaining confidentiality).
How did we stumble across this fairly rare kind of work? This is my third career, my first as a professional musician, and my second as a university academic. But I have always been crazy about horses and had meantime learned as much as I could about natural horsemanship, barefoot hoof trimming, and Equine Touch bodywork during my spare time while working in universities. Then, seven years ago I took on a job as Dean of Humanities in an Australian University. I took up the five-year contract, motivated by a desire for adventure, as well as (if I am brutally honest) the attraction of enhanced status and high earnings. But you know when you have a gut feeling that something is just not 100% right? Well, I knew from day one that the new university was not a happy place and that I really should not have taken a job there. Actually, I also had that feeling at the job interview, but I was so flattered to be offered the job, I thought, “hell, let’s just do it anyway”. The Australian job went downhill very rapidly and I was made redundant after 18 months, along with many of my colleagues. Fortunately my gut instinct had alerted me to the inevitability of such an outcome, so I had meantime begun to train as a counsellor. This is something I had always wanted to do and which I had been putting into practice informally as a university manager. At this stage I also learned about practitioner training from the Equine Psychotherapy Institute in Victoria, and since we were still in Australia I knew this was a “must do”. I had a very positive “yes” gut feeling to the idea. I soon realised that my life experiences such as dealing with childhood sexual abuse, addictions and depression, as well as thirty years of exploration of a variety of spiritual practices, set me up well for this kind of work. I was blown away by how effective the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy training was, and it was also personally helpful, as of course it was necessary to go into therapy myself in order to be a practitioner.
Redundancy turned out to be an extremely painful experience — much more than I would have imagined. For one thing, I was totally humiliated by such a resounding “failure”, regardless of how I could rationalise it. I “unfriended” most of my old friends and colleagues out of intense embarassment, and I tried to keep my hurt to myself. This of course, was not a healthy way of dealing with grief! After a year of unsuccessfully applying for jobs the money ran out, savings disappeared, and we had to sell our little farm in Dunedin. All this was heartbreaking and worrying, and eventually I had to face the reality that as a woman in her early 60s I was not valued, either by my industry or by wider society. Self-esteem plummeted, the black dog of long ago revisited, and huge financial worries dominated. Meantime, I qualified in counselling, in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, and in Equine Touch bodywork. But starting a new career in these modalities in Australia was not an option so we scuttled to Sarah’s family in the Waikato where we received wonderful unconditional support. Fortunately, at the point of selling up in Dunedin, we had bought 11 acres of land near Raglan. At this time we meant it only as a “land bank” as we fully expected I would get another academic job. The land ended up being the sum total of our worldly possessions — apart from our two beautiful quarter horses that we brought from Australia (who are actually not possessions to us, but family). We borrowed from another family member to buy a caravan and we now live on our beautiful Waitetuna Valley property with our herd. People ask us if this is a temporary living situation prior to building a proper house, but no … this is it. However, one year of caravan living later, we look at life very differently. We no longer think of “poor little us living in a caravan”, but are very grateful that we have such a comfortable and simple way of life. Our life is no longer looking to the future and worrying about all the “what ifs”. We embrace the reality of the temporary and cyclic nature of all life, and we give thanks for the gift of having our beautiful herd with us (now up to seven). We gain wisdom every day from living right in the midst of nature and from leading our clients to discover their own truths and strengths, learning from horses how to live in the moment and how to be emotionally honest.
That, in brief, is the journey that brought us here. I’ll share parts of it in more detail as we go (and you may, occasionally hear from Sarah on these pages) but mostly I’m looking ahead and invite you to come with us as we bring this beautiful modality to our community (and to all of you) with the help of some of the best therapists and counsellors we know – our herd of beautiful and loving horses.