What happened when I – a skeptic – did Horse Therapy

Sometimes, you’re in so much pain that you seem to push right through to the other side. It’s like your pain went 360 degrees around, and the wholeness feels almost as satisfying as it does wretched.

It was March and the coldest day of the year so far. The sun was shining fiercely, one of these perfect, crisp, Winter days we get in Ontario. My friend Jenn and I were driving through the countryside to her farm.

She’s a business buddy, a former therapist who now does Equine Therapy – therapy for people, using horses. I’d been curious about it ever since I read (one of my heroes) Martha Beck talk about it. But also, I was secretly a bit skeptical. I mean, it’s a horse. What can it do for me?

A few weeks before, I’d been telling Jenn that i LOVE conventional therapy and was intrigued by how horses could possibly help. She told me that she wanted to tell the story of why she does what she does, but was stuck on which bits to tell and how to make it compelling. We decided we’d do a trade – I’d help her pull out her business story and figure out how to shape and tell it, she’d give me a spot of equine therapy on her farm.

I felt like I needed this visit for two reasons: firstly I was at a transition in my business – moving from just teaching people about networking, to now also helping them tell their story, but there were a lot of questions, and I’d heard mutual friends tell me that they’d got some real clarity about their work from Jenn and the horses.

And…I needed to take a break from grief.

Five months after the biggest break up of my life, I was desperate. I knew that I needed to grieve and time is the greatest healer and blah blah blah. But I was exhausted from feeling so, so sad, all of the time. I knew that the relationship had been wrong for me and we’d be better as friends, when we eventually made it to there. But I still felt like I was walking through life with this filter of melancholy on everything, a little stone in my heart, drip-drip-dripping sorrow.

In my anguish, I’d turned to another of my heroes. Susan Piver’s book The Wisdom Of A Broken Heart had been a life-saver throughout the break-up. That week, I’d decided to do the ‘course’ at the back of the book. Lots of writing, meditating, contemplating, and doing what I needed to let go.  It was Friday. Painfully, but in a way that I knew was healing, I’d been knee-deep in grief all week. After I got back from the horses, I was going to finish up the course, do the final bits of writing, and see if I couldn’t move on.

Back at the farm, Jenn and I went out to the field where the four horses were. We were bundled up against the freezing cold, trying to enjoy the sun on our noses, pretty much the only parts of us exposed.

“First, just go and spend a bit of time with each of the horses. Don’t touch them or talk to them. Just be with them, and see which one you feel you’d like to work with.”

i mean LOOK at himI went first to the white horse. God, horses are AMAZING. You forget until you’re close up to them. I liked the white guy, but he seemed… a little too obvious, maybe. Like fancying the conventionally good looking person at the party. I moved on and walked to the other side of the field.

The other horses were all sweet, but I was drawn in particular to a brown one who was eating hay. I felt like I felt safe with him – or, I thought I did; I can never tell if I’m just making that sort of thing up.

I called Jenn over. “This guy,” I said, pointing at him.
“Ok,” she said. “That’s Buck. We’re just going to stand nearby and do some grounding exercises.”

These involved me shutting my eyes while Jenn asked me to picture various images and states of mind. As I stood there, breath clouding in front of me, sun warming my face, I suddenly felt something, a nudge on my arm.

The white horse had walked across the entire length of the field to get to us, and was nuzzling me.

I opened my eyes and Jenn smiled, “This is Lucky. Buck’s still eating just now, so why don’t we do the first couple of exercises with Lucky”.

Jenn made me stand about twenty feet away, then step towards Lucky and stop where I thought his boundary was. I felt like I was totally guessing, but went with it. The whole time, in my head, I was trying to articulate exactly which question I wanted to ask about my business. How do you even ask a horse a question? As I stood near Lucky, he nuzzled me on the arm again.

After a couple more exercises, Jenn said, “Hey, how would you feel about us working with Lucky instead? It seems like he really, really wants to work with you.


“Ok, I’m just going to get Lucky to stand over here,” she walked him about ten feet away, and then said, “Now, ask the question you want to ask, just in your head.”

I looked over at Lucky and, just as I was about to ask my business question, another one shoved it’s way into my brain and wouldn’t let go. It was:

How the f–k am I going to cope with this?? How am I going to deal with this pain? I don’t think I can take any more.

Immediately, I broke down, devastated. I’m SO bad at crying in front of people, and felt self-conscious in front of Jenn, but there was nothing I could do. It’s ok, I reminded myself, She’s a therapist. People cry in front of her all of the time.

Jenn said, “Just wait and see what you get back from Lucky”.

I looked hard at him, tears spilling down my cheeks, shoulders shaking a little.

Suddenly – I felt a sensation in my legs. It felt like someone was pouring marble into them, that then filled up my whole body. Not in a claustrophobic way; more that I was solid, rock-strong.

And then, not a voice, but just a deep sense. You’ve got this. You’re strong. You can handle this.


I wasn’t really sure what had happened to me. So I just stood there.

Jenn said, “Go and spend some time with Lucky. You can hug him, if you like.” That last seemed ridiculous – I mean, it’s a horse – but I went over and stood by him. I started stroking him, took off my mitten so I could rub my fingers through his thick, white fur.

“Thank you,” I whispered, though I wasn’t sure why. “Thank you.” And then – I realised that I needed to hug him. I put my arms around his giant neck, and pushed my face into his fur, wiping my tears on it. He stood there, unfazed.
“Thank you.” I was still mired in this grief but it felt like something might have just happened…

Then I stood back, and Jenn said, “I’m now going to let Lucky release what just happened,” she walked over to him, then led him forward a few steps.

And, out of nowhere, I wasn’t sad.

It was so freaking weird.

In that sudden moment – as soon as he walked – it was like the sadness just TOTALLY DISAPPEARED. My cheeks were still soaking wet with tears, my eyelashes still sticky with them.

But I wasn’t sad.

At all.

What. The. Heck.

Jenn smiled, and suggested we go inside, where her boyfriend had just arrived.

I said hi to him, while I took off my shoes – then told him, “I just have to quickly go to the washroom”.

I actually didn’t, but I know that, when I have plunged, suddenly, into grief like I did then, it takes me a couple of hours to feel normal again. I can pretend to be fine – I’m an expert at making everyone think everything is ok even when it’s not. But I’m usually quite shaky, and definitely need a moment the first time I meet someone.

I sat on the toilet, expecting to do some deep breathing, and maybe a short meditation to feel grounded again.

But – I didn’t need to. I was fine. Like, one hundred percent fine.

No sadness. None. This continued for the rest of the day, as we all chatted. Eventually, I came back to Toronto – and realised I couldn’t finish up the Wisdom Of A Broken Heart course, because all of my grief had just totally gone.

It was so bloody weird.

It was like the horse took all of the sadness out of my heart, and just…dissolved it.

The lack of sadness lasted for the rest of that day, and then for two weeks afterwards. Eventually, it started to drip back in, bit by bit.

But something substantial had shifted. I had touched what it was like to feel normal again. And knowing that it was possible meant I knew what I was striving towards. It gave me hope. And that was healing.

All because of a horse.

To find out more about Jenn and the work she does, go to www.jenniferschramm.com

If you want help telling your story, have a look here: yesyesmarsha.com/whystory.

Look how bundled up I am! It was minus 35!!Thanks so much for reading!

You rule,

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha



PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:

PPS Seriously. A horse.



  • Summer

    Reply Reply December 2, 2015

    Don’t blink! I used to offer horse therapy. :) And your description of what happened to you is the most beautiful description of it that I have ever seen or heard. Animals are the best therapy. They accept you just as you are, and they share whatever you want to share. Very nice story. Thank you.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply December 2, 2015

      Summer! What an honour to have an EXPERT say that – thank you so much!

  • Jo

    Reply Reply December 2, 2015

    It’s a fantastic story, beautifully told. Thank you for sharing how totally amazing this horse was! Makes me more aware that all animals are pretty fabulous but we just don’t take the time or have the quiet skills to notice it.

    And yes, you’ve gotta go and talk to the best-looking dude at the party. How else will you find out if they’re just a pretty face or have as much depth as a horse? :)

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply December 2, 2015

      Haha, good point, Jo! The conventionally pretty chaps and ladies CAN be deep, too!

      (i just tend to be more drawn to weird angles and big noses :) )

  • Julia

    Reply Reply December 2, 2015

    Wow, Marsha, what a story! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m so enjoying your advent present – maybe this is even better than little bits of chocolate. :)

  • Paige

    Reply Reply December 2, 2015

    Thanks for sharing your breakthrough! Love how you, Lucky, and Jenn created a beautiful space to release grief! Big hug to you from Texas. Yes Yes Marsha to you and to equine therapy! And you are already telling great stories. ;)

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply December 2, 2015

      Thanks, Paige! It really was amazing and unexpected. Big hug back from Toronto!

  • Katie Braja

    Reply Reply December 2, 2015

    Ugh, this story was awesome. I’ve never heard of this kind of therapy, but it sounds profound and beautiful. I send both you, and the Marsha-of-the-past, a big nuzzling hug.


    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply December 2, 2015

      Katie – I think you would LOVE the horse therapy. Big hug back from us both! xx

  • Catarina

    Reply Reply December 2, 2015

    Love this on so many levels! Going to add it to my stash of therapy techniques to try myself & recommend to the ladies I coach. I’ve had so many WTF therapy experiences – some crazy, powerful, magical stuff out there! x

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply December 2, 2015

      So glad!

      And YES on WTF therapy experiences!! I do sensori-motor therapy with my therapist, and it makes NO sense but it’s so effective!

  • Sam

    Reply Reply December 3, 2015

    This story is so amazing!!!
    It totally makes me want to try horse therapy. I wonder if it would work the same for someone who’s used to being around horses.
    Love your stories Marsha.

    • Thanks Sam! Gosh, I never thought of that. Though most of the people I know who’ve been enthusiastic about Horse therapy *seem* to have experience with horses, so I’m sure it would do something!

    • Jenn

      Reply Reply December 6, 2015

      Hi Sam,
      It absolutely works for people with horse experience. I thought the same thing years ago before I tried it as I’d been a horse woman all my life. I definitely recommend:) My connection with horses deepened and I also got a ton of insights for my life. xo

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