In January, during one of our biggest storms of the season, we hosted an equine assisted learning retreat at the Ranch. Twenty-five dedicated women traveled through sideways rain

Equine-Assisted Learning Gathers for Action

By Stacy Claitor

In January, during one of our biggest storms of the season, we hosted an equine assisted learning retreat at the Ranch. Twenty-five dedicated women traveled through sideways rain, a flooded town, and falling trees to arrive at the Ranch to share their passion, skills, and goals of working with horses.

The term “equine-assisted learning” encompasses programs ranging from therapeutic riding to programs for groups as diverse as medical clinicians, corporate teams, first responders, and more. Here at TomKat Ranch, we offer equine coaching for our team, neighbors, and visitors as a way to increase skills in non-verbal communication, conflict resolution, and collaboration.

As the Ranch’s equine manager, I was especially excited to learn that researchers are exploring the horse/human relationship and beginning to verify what many horse enthusiasts have sensed for years. One of those cutting-edge researchers, Ann Baldwin, Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, joined us to present her research and findings.  Ann started researching equine guided work in 2006 to understand how horses affect humans and vice versa. Looking at HRV (Heart Rate Variability) as measured by an EKG, her studies show evidence that a horse’s heart frequency can influence and calm a human’s heart if the two are working together effectively. For more information, see: https://www.heartmath.org/resources/downloads/heart-heart-communication-horses/

The opportunity to see the amazing work of this group of equine facilitators is doing to serve their communities was inspiring. One participant who works with youth in the foster care system expressed her desire to “see an arena on every corner” given the benefits she has seen from people working with horses.  For me, I remember a quote that I jotted down years ago, “There is something about the gentle wisdom in a horse’s eye that can put even the most troubled soul at peace”.

If you are interested in learning more, email us at equine@tomkatranch.org.  We are happy to share names of organizations who offer this work in your area or talk to you about joining us for an event at the ranch.