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Holistic Horse Issue 111

Indigenous peoples respect the old, traditional ways since they provide a prism of clarity to our viewpoint, telling us that horses and all animals will communicate with us if we learn to properly listen.”

When a Native horse-healing begins, John says, “I love if a kid says they are afraid. We don’t deny anyone’s feelings by saying, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ We don’t belittle feelings by saying toughen up or ‘cowboy up.’ I promise them that 100 percent of the time they will feel better after the workshop, then we start touching the horse and working on the ground, before we try riding.”

John’s workshops have included breeds ranging from mustangs to Gypsy Vanners. All horses he says understand how kids feel. “They’re extra careful. Some of the ‘roughest’ horses respond best to the roughest kids. At one workshop, there was one tough mare that, if you were an adult she’d make you exert yourself to work with her, but at teen youth camp, she joined up with a city kid, I guess you’d call him a ‘gangsta,’ right away.”

One of Michael’s earliest mindfulness teachers was a horse called Elmer. “When I worked with him, I had to ask myself, ‘What is this horse trying to convey to me?’ I started Elmer as a foal, first learning from his connection to his mother and then playing with him, touching him, until he got used to me and allowed me to be his partner.”

If Michael’s father saw his son caring for himself before Elmer, he’d ask, ‘How would you like it if your horse neglected you or did that to you?’ then explain how to gentle, not dominate, him. “He said once you traumatize a horse it doesn’t trust any more.”

“Animals,” Diana says, “can heal us and we have a responsibility to heal them if they need it. We must come together to honor and remember these connections. At NAHS, this work is about respect, responsibility, protection and compassion for all living beings.”

“Tribal communities are being devastated by teenage suicide and drug use,” she adds. “In one northern California community, there were seven teen suicides in 18 months.” (According to the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rate among American Indian/Alaskan Natives ages 15-34 is 19.5 per 100,000 people, which is 1.5 times higher than the national average for that age group.) “We need to bring animal healing and therapy programs to more tribal communities. They work.”

JoRee has seen the power of the horse spirit firsthand: “A clear example of a horse and young person connecting, with exemplary results of healing and honor would be a Crow youth named Kingston Hugs. Every time I see this boy, he is riding a different horse! He makes it known that horses are a part of him. It makes my heart happy to see Crow youth taking pride in horses and continuing our legacy as a horse-oriented people. “One thing about Kingston is his go-to phrase, ‘If you take care of horses, horses will take care of you.”


L.A. Sokolowski-Pomeroy, the original equinista (fashionista + equestrienne), is a 2016 winner of AHP Equine Media and Syracuse Press Club awards for excellence in horse sports journalism. The seven-time (2008-2017) American Horse Publications Equine Media Awards winner and finalist, and two-time consecutive winner of its Freelance Equestrian Journalism award, led Equestrian Press support for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and offers media consultation for an elite stable of clients while maintaining her unique byline among today’s equestrian lifestyle and sports media outlets.

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