Getting Back in the Saddle – A Personal Gestalt Experience

A few weeks ago, I clung to the back of a very large mare, in the fetal position, close to tears, begging her not to explode beneath me. Her entire body shook as she screamed for her companion who was at that moment, out of sight. This 1600 lb horse was vibrating with nervous energy, an explosion was imminent.
I shifted my weight, freed my foot from the stirrup and swung down … for the third time that day.

On my long drive home, my pride severely wounded & my nerves frayed, I found myself questioning why I train horses.
I found myself not wanting to do it anymore.

I got bucked off a young horse named “Blue” in August (for the first time in my 14 years of riding btw) I severely injured my ankle, and finally got back to riding in October.
I’ve been on several horses since the original incident, but not with the confidence I had before. I found myself and my stomach wound into tight knots each time I mounted, even on my own horse, Molly, who is by no means an easy ride but in the past I’ve trusted her – literally – with my life, without a second thought.

After getting my emotional ass kicked by a giant draft horse, it was time to make a change. Either throw in the towel and quit, or figure out how to get my confidence back.

I opted for option B, though option A was extremely appealing at the time.

I contacted my very dear friend and long time mentor, Damian Ficca and scheduled some bareback riding lessons.

On a Saturday morning, I stood next to a horse named Snickers who was having himself a good roll in the sand, as he sat up like a dog, I gave him a treat.
Snickers proceeded to lay back down and roll to the other side, as he started to sit up Damian says
“Quick, Get on his back!”
Startled, I say “What? Now?!”
Damian shoved me forward “QUICK, Get on his back!”
Without another thought, or time to think one, I threw a leg over, grabbed mane, and up we went!
I looked around from my perch and looked at Damian, who was laughing gleefully and I had to laugh too. “Okay, that was pretty cool.”

So, my lesson began.
I had no reins, no lead rope, nothing to hold on to, nothing to Control this horse should he decide to spook.

Let me repeat that – I had No Control.
All I had was a handful of mane and thighs that haven’t been worked out in many moons.

Damian led Snickers around by a lead rope & halter, corrected my leg position a few times as we walked and then says to me
“Okay, now let go of his mane and put your hands on top of your thighs.”

Okay. I trust this man, I mostly trust this horse.
I do as I’m asked. We continue to walk.

Damian says “Okay, now I want you to hold your left arm straight out to the side.”
As I do this, leaving my right hand on my thigh, I’m brought back to “Blue” and the round pen we worked in on the day he threw me.
This was the exact exercise I was doing with him, except I was in a saddle.

I can feel my anxiety rise in the present, as I picture the past clearly – the explosion that happens right after this part, when I raise my left arm straight up in the air and the horse beneath me loses his mind.
But that was then, and this is today …

Damian says “Okay, now put your left arm straight up above your head.
I say to him “This is what I was doing right before I got bucked off.”
I raise my hand up anyway … we walk … nothing happens.

Below me, is a steady lesson horse. Within me, the trauma that has gripped me for 2 months begins to release. I feel the knots loosen with every breath, with every step. I think to myself that this is Gestalt.

Damian: “Raise both arms above your head.”

By the end of the hour long lesson, my confidence had returned. I was comfortable and having a conversation with both arms above my head, while riding bareback, hardly thinking but feeling the movement of the horse, feeling in sync, breathing easily.

I am a Gestaltist. This moment is a beautiful capture for me of why I chose the path of Equine Gestalt Coaching – that moment of release doesn’t just happen on the back of a horse.
It happens in a chair when someone wraps up their unfinished business with a lover who abused them, even though the lover is long gone.
It happens when someone drops into the arena sand, hurtful words they’ve carried with them their whole life and never picks them up again.
It happens when someone tells the troll on their shoulder who keeps telling them they are not enough, to “Fuck off” because they ARE ENOUGH and always have been.
It happens when a horse looks into your heart and your soul, and whispers “Trust Me”.

I am a Gestaltist. I am a Horse Trainer. Working with horses brings me great joy. Bringing people together with the healing power of horses, is profound and life changing for everybody involved.

What can the horses help you heal?

Contact me at to explore your options and set up an appointment with me and one of our equine healers.

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