Lessons from a Horse: Taking it Slow

Some of you may know that I recently adopted Loki, a therapy horse for our programs at the Wish Fulfilling Tree—Therapeutic Ranch. She is such a joy to work with! She brings a natural sensitivity, grace, and intuitive reflection into each relationship. In addition to offering powerful life lessons for clients, she has been sharing life lessons with me. Loki and I get to play together on the weekends to deepen our connection and to support her stepping into her confidence as a therapy horse.

Over the past few weekends, we’ve been exploring leading from different zones. In horse training, as you prepare a horse to be ridden, it’s important to be able to lead them from different places (or zones) around their body (ie. from their head, shoulder, barrel, hindquarters, and behind). As we began exploring leading from Loki’s barrel, I observed her body language to shift conveying a sense of nervousness, followed by her going into “freeze mode”, literally stopping and not moving her feet.

As we slowed down to explore this together, I realized how she was processing each moment, each shift in energy, and each movement trying to figure out the solution because she’s so smart! So…I slowed down too, literally asking her to move one foot at a time or even shift her weight and then positively reinforcing her with heart connection. Quickly, she understood the concept, the nervousness melted away, and she began to show confidence in her abilities.

I began thinking about how some of my clients are stepping into new situations this Fall from the start of school, to going to a new school, to sleep away camps, to moving homes and how these unknown situations have been bringing up worry and anxiety. I’ve been supporting these children in breaking down each situation into smaller/more accessible steps and utilizing their life tools such as:

  • Taking deep breaths

  • Taking space

  • Identifying safe places

  • Asking for help

  • Visualizing how they want the situation to go

Ah…ha…I then realized the parallel life lesson from Loki about slowing down, break things down into smaller steps, and taking it one step at a time. The outcome? Being able to successfully navigate a new situation with confidence instead of avoiding the situation driven by anxiety. The statement “slow down to go fast” feels like appropriate here.

This movement into Fall often brings transitions into new situations, if you find yourself or your child experiencing anxiety about a new or unknown situation, try slowing down, breaking things down into smaller steps, and practicing tools to regulate your thoughts and feelings each step of the way. I’m curious to hear how it goes and if you or your child might experience something similar to Loki and I.

If you or a loved one could use a little extra support this Fall, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Wish Fulfilling Tree for a lesson from an animal.

Also stay posted for exciting upcoming events in our Fall newsletter.

Thanks for reading!


Shanti Hill-Gauer