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#2206 - Tuesday, July 19, 2005 - Editor: Jerry Katz



This issue is about Equine Experiential Learning. From one of the websites:


"In Equine Experiential Learning (EEL) we partner with horses to create an opportunity to identify attitudes and behaviors that often inhibit our own empowerment. Horses interpret emotions as information and communicate with each other and with humans based on this information."



Windhorse Acres

Wind Horse Awareness stresses learning from horses

By David Heiller
Argus News Editor

Sarah Sander puts a lot of stock in horses and their ability to help people.

The Brownsville woman is starting a unique business at her home at 3956 County Road 3.

She calls it Windhorse Awareness, partly by virtue of the frequent winds that blow on the ridge, and partly because of the sense of awareness that Sander feels horses can impart.

A sense of awareness is a broad way to describe a complex and spiritual journey that people make with Equine Experiential Learning (EEL).

A synopsis of EEL can be found in a sidebar with this story. Sander shared some of the intricacies with this reporter on a warm July 7 afternoon, and yes, the wind was blowing at her farm at the top of the mile grade above Brownsville.

Sander speaks with a combination of serenity and conviction about her business, even though she acknowledged toward the end of our discussion that some people have a hard time grasping or even accepting it.

“It’s kind of woo-woo, I guess, people like to say,” she said. “It’s a little out there.”

But let’s start at the beginning. Sander, 38, works for United Auto Supply in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She moved to her farm 15 years ago after she got married. That’s when she got her first horse, Apollo.

She grew up in Milwaukee, but always loved horses when she would encounter them at summer camps and such.

She knew she wanted to do something with horses, because she felt drawn to them.

Then she read a book that brought it all together, The Tao of Equus, by Linda Kohanov. The book opened her eyes to a whole new world. Rather than having a horse be a slave to her wishes, she learned to listen to what a horse has to say. It opened different connections within her.

“I highly recommend anybody reading it,” Sander said.

She then took a three-day workshop program from Kohanov last fall. “I just came home reeling. It was like entering a whole different world,” Sander said. It helped her so much that she could not ignore it. She thought it could help others, so she became a certified EEL instructor under Kohanov’s tutelage.

Sander said the class made her more open, and taught her not to stuff her emotions.

People at a crossroads are the most likely to take an EEL class, Sander said. They might be looking for something different, making a transition from a death or divorce, or wanting to find more meaning in their life.

Horses are good teachers, Sander feels. “They are willing to meet you half way or more than half way if you’re willing to listen to them,” she said.

Horses convey freedom, independence, strength, and beauty, Sander feels. A lot of people grow up loving them, then life gets in the way and they ignore that, Sander said. People often tell her that horses have come back into their lives.

The animals have a mysterious connection with people, Sander said. “It’s almost like they’ve been led or have a calling [with horses]. Things have been happening or leading them on,” Sander said.

People in the Midwest are not as open to ideas like this as people in some other parts of the country, Sander said. Some folks have even asked her if what she does is part of a cult. No, Sander said, it’s an intuition, a gut feeling, a sixth sense.

Workshops chart feelings

Sander said her workshops cover several things. Participants will make an emotional message chart, and learn to look at negative emotions and find what lies behind them. They’ll explore things like sadness, grief, and depression. They will get help finding their authentic self rather than their false self.

The workshops, which always have two facilitators, do that in a safe environment. They have a welcoming sense of community that builds trust and friendship, Sander said. “There’s boundaries, and we like to keep people safe,” she said.

Horses enter this equation because people pick up feelings from a gut level by being with and listening to horses.

Participants will enter a round pen with the horse of their choosing. (Sander has three horses.) Often people are drawn to a certain horse. An abused person, for example, is often drawn to a horse that has a similar background, Sander said.

“People end up dancing with horses, literally,” Sander said.

People can release emotions with horses as a witness or partner, she said. “Things can come out that have been held back for a really long time,” she said.

Horses can read what’s going on underneath the social masks, Sander feels. For example, when a horse pushed a client, the woman stopped the horse respectfully and learned about boundaries.

I asked Sander what horse owners think of her business. She replied that some people know what she’s doing, but they put up walls. She feels a true horse person has these experiences intrinsically but just doesn’t acknowledge them or talk about them.

Her business is slow, Sander admitted. She has done only one workshop so far. Sander isn’t sure how to market her business, where to advertise, who to contact.

Our interview ended with Sander giving me a rundown on her three horses, Apollo, Agent (who people tend to call “Sergeant,”) and Riley.

“He’s taught me so many things,” she said of Apollo. “He’s a whole college education right in one body.”

About Riley, Sander said, “She has been incredibly good at this work.”

And Agent has lots to say but likes to do it in his own way.

For more information on Windhorse Awareness, call Sander at 507-724-5662, or email her at [email protected]


The following is from the Tao of Equus website mentioned in the article above:

What Is Epona?


Named after the ancient horse goddess Epona, a symbol of healing, transformation and balance for the Celts, Epona Equestrian Services is a collective of educators, counselors, physical therapists and riding instructors exploring the healing potential of horse-human relationships. Founded in 1997 by author, lecturer and horse trainer Linda Kohanov, Epona has received international attention for innovative programs employing horses in the work of human development.

People from across the U.S, Canada and Europe have gained a greater sense of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance. Alumni of Epona's personal development workshops and private sessions include accomplished artists, actors and musicians, counselors, social workers, psychiatrists and physicians, life coaches, body workers, business executives, teachers, and riding instructors. Survivors of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, Vietnam War vets, teens with anger management issues, children with attention deficit disorder, and riders with post-traumatic stress disorder have also benefitted from Epona's more intensive equine-facilitated psychotherapy programs.

Through a holistic approach to the equestrian arts, clients explore assertiveness, stress reduction, and emotional fitness skills, strenghtening self-esteem and personal empowerment in the process. Consensus building relationship models teach people how to take the reins of any situation without lasping into the pitfalls of dominance, alientation, intimidation or victimization. Many programs also employ journaling, mindfulness techniques, expressive arts, and music to enhance intuition, multi-sensory awareness and creativity.


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