Horse Sense

by jenna on July 22, 2010

This morning I did the Miraval Equine Experience, one the resort’s signature “clue-in” activities, meaning it’s an activity designed to help you look into yourself and come to terms with any internal and external conflict. Heavy stuff.

The clue-in activities are used as self-healing for people who are struggling with any sort of grief, loss or frustration in their lives. Or for people that just want to get to know themselves better and learn to live more in the moment.

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Even though I don’t talk about it much on the blog because it’s incredibly personal and if you have been reading for awhile you know any way, but my little brother was killed about a year ago. It was a tragic accident that took his life and I dealt with it the best way I knew how to then—by pushing forward and moving on.

It worked, but I still struggle a lot with feelings of letting go. I continue to push myself forward my life, surround myself with people I love and write, write, write. Writing is the best therapy that I know.

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However, there still come times when I’m faced with situations that force me to really sit back and look introspectively. It’s hard! We are culturally driven to go, go, go and that makes it pretty hard to really focus sometimes.

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When you deal with horses, doing simple tasks like cleaning out their hooves and grooming them, you have to focus. Horses can’t understand English, but they can feel your energy and if you’re feeling worn and and defeated, they can tell. They can also tell if you’re stubborn or pissed off. It’s crazy, actually.

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So, naturally, this morning I walk into this activity with typical Jenna go-go-go style. I’ve grown up around horses. I feel incredibly comfortable around them and have never had a problem before. I consider myself to be a “horse person” if there ever was one.
I stut into the ring feeling confident and determined. I knew what I was doing. This was going to be easy!

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But then Magic wouldn’t let me pick up his leg to clean his hoof. He just wouldn’t and no amount of coaxing and strutting would do the trick. I was at a loss. Feeling defeated, I took a new approach. I stepped back, took a few deep breathes and then tried again. It worked! Magic could quite poignantly sense my determination and lifted his hind leg. Success!
The next activity that we had to do was to gather in the corral and each take turns walking the horses without touching them. Again, I thought I had this. Surely, my horse mojo was coming back.

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It was so hard. Bailey kept stopping and wouldn’t follow my lead at all. It reminded me of the time I was in a riding competition when I was eight years old and Tally, my horse, wouldn’t jump. No amount of patting, snapping or prodding would do the trick. Tally just stood there in front of the jump and would NOT budge. In my eight year old embarrassed state (it was a BIG deal, ok?), I started to cry and finally had to lead Tally back to the gate. I got fifth place but have never fully recovered.
So after standing there today for a few minutes, shameful memories of Tally rushing into my head, Kellie (one of the activity instructors) asked me a few simple questions. She asked me if I was the type of person who always was on the go. If I constantly thought about and rushed into the next big thing without focusing on the task at hand. Uhhhhhh……
Turns out, I was so keen on getting Bailey to do what I wanted today, that I wasn’t even waiting for him to catch up to me. He was simply waiting for my lead and I was busy rushing in and jumping to the second step.
Lesson learned: live in the moment without worrying so much about the future. Slow down. Focus. Be mindful. Rest.

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea July 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Love this post. That is all.

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Heather (Heather's Dish) July 22, 2010 at 1:22 pm

that painted horse is beautiful…absolutely breathtaking!

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Beth @ Beth's Journey to Thin July 22, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Wow! I haven’t ridden a horse since I was a little kid. That looks so fun!!!

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Lindsey @ Foodie on the Rocks July 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm

so true. great post. learning not to worry to much about what’s coming and deal with things day by day is a virtue. one i certainly have not mastered yet. and i love horses too :D.

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Jackie (Peaces of Earth) July 22, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Wow, how awesome is this!! Animals and all they can teach us never cease to amaze me. I would LOVE to do something like this. I’m glad that you are learning and growing from this experience and thank you for sharing!! I know it can be hard.

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Ann July 22, 2010 at 10:06 pm

I totally agree with Jackie. I feel honored that you share these bits about your life that aren’t always the easiest to share.

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Jessica @ How Sweet July 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Sounds like an incredibly learning experience!

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Allie (Live Laugh Eat) July 22, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Caring for horses seems like a fabulous form of therapy. I think I’m allergic to horses (sad) but I think I’d brave the sneezes if I had a chance to care for one. Stay strong Jenna.

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Freya @ Brit Chick Runs July 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Great post! I’m horsey myself, and I firmly believe horses can read us and sense our emotions. Just today I was feeling down, but my horse knew exactly how to behave to cheer e up – it worked a treat :) I love her(and horses) so much – there’s nothing quite like them.

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Lisa July 22, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Beautiful horse! I used to LOVE horseback riding. Haven’t done it in about 10 years. I need to fix that.

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Lisa July 22, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I don’t have much experience with horses but I have lost a younger sibling unexpectedly and know the push forward and go way of dealing. What an experience you had today with the “clue-in” activity. Sounds like you really took something away from it!

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Amber K July 22, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Wow, that is truly inspiring.

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Kara July 22, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Great post Jenna. I needed to read this.

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Rachel @ Suburban Yogini July 22, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Mindfulness is probably the single most important thing we need to work on in this life. It is also probably the single most difficult.

Much love and luck :)

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Jennifer July 22, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I have enjoyed reading your post and adventures in life, healthy eating, etc. for a while now – but this one I needed to respond too. I lost my brother two years ago to cancer, he was truly one of my best friends and I absolutely identify with the need to push forward and stay forever occupied. What an amazing opportunity to simply slow down for a moment to feel – simply feel. I know from previous experiences (having lost my mother to cancer when I was much younger) that there will come a time that the fun and wonderful memories are more clear and remembered than the pain and grief – being able to slow down is what helps us get there. I hope that today brought you that one step closer in your own personal journey – and I am inspired by your story to make sure that I continue to move that one step closer in my own journey too. Thank you for sharing this story.

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Whitney July 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Wow….I’m in love with this place already! Isn’t it amazing how animals can sense how we’re feeling? I think I would greatly benefit from a place like this! Just taking time to slow down, focus on my breath, and myself. I’d love to experience that!

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Anya @ Fitness & Sunshine July 22, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Thank you SO much for this post. <3 I have been dealing with some frustrating health issues lately and it's just what I needed. Sometimes I just need to slow down and enjoy the present. This really lifted my spirits.

I find that working with animals in general is pretty helpful in helping me relax and increase my focus.

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Lisa (bakebikeblog) July 22, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Beautiful post Jenna. Horses really are such magical creatures aren’t they :)

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Kathleen July 22, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Amazing. You are the second person today that has referenced horses and their healing therapies, must get me to the nearest horse. Love this post!

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kalli@fitandfortysomething July 22, 2010 at 2:47 pm

wow what an experience! lesson learned…..

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Jaime July 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Love this post – exactly where I’m at right now. Ps. That place looks beautiful!

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Liz @ Tip Top Shape July 22, 2010 at 3:07 pm

I read some of your previous posts because I was not aware of what had happened with your brother and I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart how sorry I am for what you and your family went through. No family should have to go through that. I read those few posts in April, though, and could hardly believe that it is the same person who I have read for the past few months. You are such a positive person on here and it is nothing short of a miracle that you have remained that way after what you went through. This was a beautiful post and I wish you nothing but the best luck as you continue moving forward!

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Amy C. July 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I love your blog. I love this post. That is all. :)

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Heather @ Side of Sneakers July 22, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Wow that sounds like an amazing experience. What a great opportunity this trip is!!!

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sarah (this is it) July 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Sometimes I feel so programmed to go-go-go. Some ways are hard to change, but sometimes I really need a reminder to just let go and be in the moment. Thanks for sharing this part of your trip!

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Cynthia (It All Changes) July 22, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Animals are so therapeutic. Glad you were able to enjoy the time with Magic.

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Jasmine @ Eat Move Write July 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Wow. Great post. You really have a point. I tend to move so fast that I don’t know what’s actually happening right here, right now.

Glad you enjoyed the experience as heavy as it must have been.

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Molly @FuelHerUp July 22, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I’ve heard of people using that method for anorexia recovery, and I have to say, having my own horses makes life worth living :)

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Jess-The Semi Abnormal Gal July 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Sounds like an amazing experience. I am a “horsey gal” too, and grew up showing hunter jumper and grudging dressage. We used to do some Parrelli training with our horses and you do have to be super calm and focused, but patient, just like your experience with Bailey today.

Enjoy your stay-because I can’t wait to hear more!

PS. Totally jealous of the “whipped cream” bedding! :)

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Jenna [ healthyhoofbeats ] July 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Love this post! So amazing, everything you said about horses is so true. I’ve had horses my entire life and I believe they are the best therapy out there. :)

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caitlin July 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm

i love you, that is all.

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Lindsey July 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm

You are a beautiful writer. You have the perfect balance of funny, serious, sincere, goofy, everything. Thank you for letting me into your life!

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Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) July 22, 2010 at 4:09 pm

What a beautiful post! And I love the concept behind the entire “equine experience”.

Thanks for being so open and honest with everything you’ve been through!

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Dorry July 22, 2010 at 4:21 pm

You inspire us everyday. Thanks for sharing. :)

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Kimberly July 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I think Miraval is what heaven is like.

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B July 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I am so happy to read this. And so glad you are using this to help heal wounds. Take every opportunity to be present in the miracle of this moment.

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Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum July 22, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I am really sad for the loss of your brother. I am a “new reader” and had no idea about that. Thanks for your post, it helps me to slow down and think about what is important.

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Mom July 22, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I love you

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Lola July 22, 2010 at 5:57 pm

It reminded me of the movie “28 days” with sndrbulloc…seems very interesting, i want to do it someday

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Dee July 22, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Again, another beautiful post. Wow. so many little nuggets to think about!

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Kristin (Salty Tooth) July 22, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Truly wonderful post.

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eatmovelove July 22, 2010 at 6:05 pm

I love that your mom wrote that she loves you…

I’ve heard about the healing therapies of horses – they are insightful “beings”.

I would love to try this someday. I can see how it just requires so much of the present…

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Exercise and Eat July 22, 2010 at 6:16 pm

My condolences to you and your family about your brother. Amazing post, sounds like a great experience.

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Rachael July 22, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I truly believe in equine therapy. Horses force you to be transparent with your thoughts and emotions in the gentlest way possible. I think that’s why the trust and bond you build with a horse is so empowering and special.
I did a little horse therapy when I first started recovering from an eating disorder, and I remember the affront I initially felt that my sheer willpower and stubbornness couldn’t make another being do what I wanted. And then I learned :)

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Jenna July 22, 2010 at 6:59 pm

So so so so so true about living in the moment!
I am just learning to do so:)

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Kelsey (Nourishing Noshes) July 22, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Oh Jenna, it looks like you are having a fabulous time. I’m so happy that you get to take this time for yourself and relax. You deserve it :)

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Lisa July 22, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Wise words from a lovely, wise woman. So glad you are having such a significant time. Just wanted to say a quick thank you for some recommendations you gave me for when my family and I were out in California a few weeks ago. My husband and I took a quick romantic get-away and spent a little time in Healdsburg. We lunched at Zin like you suggested and it was delightful. Hope your time at Miraval continues to be amazing.

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Suzanne de Cornelia July 22, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Wow, that’s amazing, Jenna. I never knew you rode. My son and I rode hunter-hack/steeplechase (him only) /3-day event starting when he was 7 and I was 24!

The two year anniversary of my brother’s death is tonight at about 4:15AM. I stopped by the Carmel Mission today to light candles for him and there was a Carmel Bach Festival rehearsal going on–every moving and beautiful.

I suddenly realized that the Carmel Mission was built in 1771 BEFORE the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (1830s) that we consider so ancient!

I think you are incredibly brave to push forward in life–but I also have to say as relentlessly forward going as I have always been–my brother’s death is the one thing that completely undid me. At two years now, am much better (and in large part from your example), but I have also accepted this has completely changed me, and it isn’t anything I will ever ‘get over’ but integrate in my life story. Perhaps that is what peace is–when we reconcile the inner and outer life. Feel am almost there.

LOVE LOVE LOVE horses and LOVED this post. Now am going to drink wine and watch ‘The Grocer’s Son’ a famous French film never watched. I just realized too, that my brother’s sons names are Adam and John–

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Kim July 22, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Love. Love. LOVE this post. I am also a crazy horse lady. I immediately looked up a horse therapist in San Diego after I read this. Thank you for the inspiration.

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Chelsey July 22, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Horses are such amazing creatures – I have always loved horses and been fascinated with them! I am the type of person to go go go and never slow down as well. I always am looking forward to “the next thing”. I’ll take this as a reminder to slow down and enjoy life.

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your little brother. Having a brother myself, I cannot even imagine the loss you must have/and still are going through. You are such a strong woman, I know you’ll keep on going!

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Susan July 22, 2010 at 8:03 pm

I will probably read this post two or three times, it was just THAT good!

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Staceyhttp://stacey-healthylife.blogspot.com/ July 22, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Sounds like a great experience and I hope it really helped you.

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Mindy July 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm

I’m happy for you that you were given the opportunity to enjoy the resort and the equine experience. Healing is not easy nor is it a fast process..

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Julia @ Brit Bride July 23, 2010 at 2:14 am

Jenna,

I don’t know if my last comment posted so I will say it again. I didn’t know that you lost your brother. I think that you are AMAZING, so strong and positive, and that you deserve every happiness and success in life.

Julia x

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Maura July 23, 2010 at 5:27 am

I definitely consider myself a horse person too and its so true that they can sense what is going on with you! It forces you to dig deep and figure out what is really going on. Kind of freaky but therapeutic for sure!

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Emily B July 23, 2010 at 5:50 am

What an awesome experience!

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Jean July 23, 2010 at 6:50 am

Sometimes we need a reminder to slow down & relax… what a great exercise! Love the horses.

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Kristy July 23, 2010 at 7:03 am

This post really touched my heart. I grew up around horses too, when I was younger I took for granted the peacefulness that creatures provide for us. Experiencing the moment at hand is something I rarely take advantage of. I’m constantly preparing or trying to prep for the next moment, event, day – We all could use a little more of right now…

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Shelley July 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm

love this post. that is all :)

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