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Equine Therapy: A Personal Experience, Part Four

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This blog is the fourth in a series describing a personal experience with equine therapy, as well as an excerpt from my most recent book, ON THE BACK OF A HORSE: Harnessing the Healing Power of the Human-Equine Bond, now available through Amazon.

His sides were tight with bound energy, and I squeezed harder than I should have. Often, the first steps forward will spook a young horse, too, as they feel the weight of a rider for the first time. Sometimes as they feel this weight, and perceive the rider moving along with them, they’ll bolt away in fear. I wanted to push past this; I didn’t want to take the time to reassure Nimo. I didn’t even have both hands on the reins. I just wanted to trust him. And, sure enough, those first steps forward were anything but hesitant. He marched forward with the authority of a horse many years older.

Then, all of the sudden, he swung his head around, arched his back, leaped into the air, and landed cantering off – not so much in fear, as what seemed awfully like glee. Nor was I afraid. I just pushed him forward, gripping the reins in one hand, the other still resting on his neck. Instinctively, I lifted myself up off of his back a bit, supporting my weight with my legs. We galloped around the ring with a big bounding stride better suited to a horse twice his size and he played – hopping and leaping, changing leads every three strides. I just let him go. I didn’t have the strength to stop him, and somehow, I knew not to.

His head wasn’t down; he wasn’t trying to get me off. I turned him left, and then right, and he changed leads perfectly, as if he’d been doing it his whole life. It really was as if Nimo had done this before, as if he already knew what was supposed to happen. I couldn’t avoid trusting this animal.  He wasn’t trying to be independent. He was just trying to take me with him, to a better place. In his way, he was trying to tell me that I was still alive. You are still here, he seemed to be saying, You are alive. Can you feel it? His play was exhilarating, and jubilant. I didn’t have to try hard to stay with him either. He may have been moving fast, but he was definitely trying to stay underneath me. He squealed with delight, like he was truly happy I was finally riding him.

I brought him back to a trot, after of few minutes of this joyful play, and we went all around the ring circling and bending.  I wasn’t surprised by Nimo’s incredible balance, but what was surprising was how relaxed he was. The tension I had felt when I first got on by now, was completely gone, and his whole body seemed at ease. He bent both ways smoothly and easily, collecting and extending his stride without hesitation. It was pure satisfaction for both of us.

I pulled Nimo up and ran my hand along his neck, thanking him. I had no words to describe that moment, but he did. As I sat there praising him, he turned to me and nickered. This wasn’t the kind of nicker you’d expect from a stallion either. He was nickering affectionately, the way a mare does with her foal, You’re ok, friend. You’re ok.

I burst into tears, unable to hold it in any longer. Everything just hit me in that moment. All the rage I had felt was gone, and there was only sadness. Just sadness. And yet sitting there, I knew for the first time in my life exactly where I was supposed to be.  There was no question, no misunderstanding, no mistrust between this horse and me. No need to hide. Safety was right here.

Photo by Bubblejewel96, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

Equine Therapy: A Personal Experience, Part Four

Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT

Claire Dorotik-Nana LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in post-traumatic growth, leveraging adversity, and other epic human achievements. Claire has written multiple continuing education courses for Professional Development Resources, Zur Institute, and International Sport Science Association. Claire has also authored multiple books, including:
Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards and On The Back Of A Horse: Harnessing The Healing Power Of The Human-Equine Bond. For more information about Leveraging Adversity or Claire, visit

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APA Reference
Dorotik-Nana, C. (2011). Equine Therapy: A Personal Experience, Part Four. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 16, 2018, from


Last updated: 14 May 2011
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 May 2011
Published on All rights reserved.