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  • Susan Brown

Step - By - Step

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

The winter sunlight gleams on Snazee’s reddish-brown shoulder as Kathy Sanders leads her toward the ring where the client is waiting. In the background, crows create a distant ruckus and Reno in her pasture snorts loudly. The sound of the horse’s hooves on the gravel drive is a measured crunch. This is the scene played out over and over with the clients for Courageous Connections.

Calm. Assurance. Growth.

I’m not great with horses – they’re big and twitchy and I don’t always have any sense of what they might do next. But this lesson is all about the confidence and healing that a bond with a horse can create.

Shelley is a petite woman, a school teacher, who is intent on trust-building with Snazee. Following Kathy’s encouraging directions, she touches Snazee first on her shoulder and then gently pats her neck and nose. Movements are unhurried and intentional. Horses, Kathy has explained, react to emotion and respond to confidence. Shelley is calming herself, using her own body’s position to mirror the horse’s actions and thus invite Snazee to connect with her. After a few moments of apparent indifference, Snazee swings her head toward her, liquid eyes making contact.

“Great, that’s great!” Kathy calls. “It’s a game of communication. So, what can you do with that?”

Shelley nods intently. With a loose rope, she next leads Snazee around the ring, first at a walk and then quicker, at a jog. When Snazee drops back, Kathy calls for Shelly to lead strongly. “Head up. Shoulders back. Look forward. She’ll follow.”

And amazingly, Snazee lifts her head and trots alongside. Like a dance, her hooves fall into sync with Shelly’s steps. Fluid and lovely. Primal communication between person and horse.

Too quickly, the time is up. Shelley is smiling. Snazee’s eyes are clear and alert.

The crows are still creating a racket while Snazee’s hooves crunch the gravel on the way back to the barn. The pact between horse and people has been reaffirmed. It’s a difficult and scary world, but the horse is calm and the woman who offered reassurance can grow in her own confidence.

It’s been a pretty good afternoon’s work.

Contributing Author: Susan Brown

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