Healing with Horses: A Somatic Experience.

How do you live in your essence?

A common VivaMyYoga pondering that was on the top of my mind yesterday as I met Drea Bowen, a magical (yet very real) horse and human healer.

Drea and I connected over coffee (tea, actually) to collaborate our efforts in healing with horses for an upcoming retreat I am planning to benefit breast cancer survivors. This retreat has become a combined effort of so many wonderful souls. I relish the opportunity to put my passions into gear—helping to make Cowgirls vs. Cancer a truly remarkable, healing experience for all involved. Think fire ceremonies, lots meditation, horses, yoga, and nature under Big Sky country—all while kicking cancer’s [email protected]!

Photo: CowgirlYoga.com 

So many beautiful people have entered my life because of this heartfelt and meaningful work. Drea is now one of them. Rarely in my life do I get the opportunity to meet other like minded souls who are passionate about understanding horses and their immense power and healing potential.

What makes working with horses so particularly enriching you may ask?

Horses allow humans the opportunity to move from our thinking brain into our limbic brain, providing an overall somatic experience. Basically it gets us into feeling, rather than being in our heads. We’re social beings. Most of us just want to get noticed and be accepted for who we are.

Horses do this. If your actions and appearance are not congruent with what is lying under the surface, horses will pick up on this incongruence—they won’t let you get away with it. They will become anxious, just like you (by not living in your true essence).

So basically if you pretend to be calm and zen while approaching a horse (while underneath you are scared to death and faking false bravado) they will pick up on this. It won’t sit well with them.

A metaphor for life: you can’t find harmony in your life when you are pretending to be something you are not.

Photo: CowgirlYoga.com 

Horses are a safe place to try on your authenticity. You can compare where you feel this authenticity with the horses, to where you feel it in your life.

~ Drea Bowen

Photo: Wild Wisdom Natural Grace

I often find myself around my horses when I am feeling the most emotion in life. They don’t expect me to be anything else than whatever it is I am experiencing at that moment. When I am sad or angry and crying, they are OK with that—I can sense their relief and support at my willingness to be vulnerable. When I am happy and elated, they are OK with that too. And most often are happy to join in with me on the bliss.

Horses still have such a wild nature about them. They are amazingly connected to an ancient, primitive wisdom. And because they are accessible to us, we get to experience it through their offerings. We are taught healthy boundaries, and that what you resist, persists!

Horses don’t judge you or have expectations of you, they just want you to be real with them and to treat them with respect for the tuned in individuals that they are. If you’ve ever looked deeply into a horses eye, you know exactly what I am talking about!

Photo: Francine Gonzalez 

One of the most important takeaways from my time with Drea was to open up to what it is you are feeling while you are around horses. Most of us (people) are terrified of being vulnerable. Society has taught us that if we’re not constantly in left-brain mode, achieving and being successful (winning!), then we won’t make it. We’ll be kicked out of the tribe. We’ll be left alone. We won’t survive. It’s become a basic instinct!

But the desire to feel belonging in this disconnected way, means a whole heck of a lot of people running around with extremely high levels of anxiety, depression, sadness and confusion. They’re lost. And who’s to blame them?

What needs to happen is a return to our soul essences.

It takes being vulnerable and being willing to acknowledge your feelings as opposed to your thoughts. Horses provide an excellent platform for this. They are willing to accept and acknowledge the subtle shifts you make in being heard and understood. All it takes is baby steps. Once someone realizes that they aren’t going to be shunned for being themselves, for being human and vulnerable, then they can start to take these lessons out of the arena and into life (sound like stepping onto your yoga mat, anyone?).

As Drea says, “When you’re aware, you’re halfway there.” Horses get people into their bodies whether they like it or not. They allow you to start watching yourself from the inside out (moving from your soul’s essence) and recognize what it is that you feel: your heart’s desires.

Horses have always been an essential element of my life—always will be. I am grateful for the sacred space of possibility that these majestic mammals hold for us. They allow us to move into whatever is happening within, and to know that it is OK. We can then begin to start exploring what it is life means to us in our own unique way: take it off of the saddle and into life—begin taking the reins of your own being!

If you’ve never spent much time around horses (or if the experience has been lying dormant within you) I encourage you to try it for yourself. And send lots of love and healing light our way as we gear up to an incredible weekend of healing, horses and empowering women. Not merely surviving but thriving—and kicking cancer’s [email protected]!


Jessica Cartwright’s life work is to bring out the spiritual warrior within us all, and to help others recognize and achieve their Personal Legends through the teachings of yoga, guided meditation journeys, energy healing and all forms of personal exploration. Through her organization, VivaMyYoga.com, Jessica offers bilingual (spanish/english) yoga, works with many non-profits and helps organize yoga retreats in her hometown of Bozeman, Montana as well as internationally. You can connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

For more info on this retreat, scholarship nominations for fellow breast cancer survivors and our fundraising efforts, just check out the Cowgirl’s vs Cancer site. To find out more about Drea’s amazing efforts in working with horses for, your heart, your spirit, and your lymbic brain, find her at Horses Heal Hearts and on Facebook.


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  • Assistant Ed: Dusty Ranft
  •  Ed: Brianna Bemel

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kris Jun 13, 2013 5:01pm

I have read that animals are often regarded to be another kind of people that’s why I won’t be surprised if like dogs horses will turn out to be man’s best friend too. I love the idea of “Healing with horses”. I am honestly afraid of riding a horse and just a mere thought of it scares me to the bones. Well reading your encouraging post made me think of the possibilities of trying. Who knows?

Thanks for sharing this by the way.

Carolyn Riker Jun 12, 2013 9:03pm

This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I will be sharing it too!

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