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Equine Therapy for Therapists and Counselors

Brenna Gonzales, MS, LPC, Therapist, Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows

I have been through the desert on a horse with no name, and it was a profound experience. The experience I’m talking about is the Horses Helping Clinicians workshop offered through the Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows. It takes place on a beautiful ranch, tucked behind some mountains, just outside of Wickenburg, Arizona.

The first morning of the workshop, after introductions, workshop facilitator Colleen DeRango said, “Pick a horse or let a horse pick you.” As I made my way from horse to horse, I waited for a sign, not really knowing what a sign would even look like. After standing in front of a number of horses, a black and white horse with no name picked me.

It’s hard for me to describe this experience with words. It just isn’t possible to do justice to exactly how incredible this workshop was for me. What I can tell you is that without any words at all, that horse gave me a great deal of valuable information about myself. He showed me how I relate to myself, my feelings, and my biggest challenges in life.

The most ironic part of this experience was that the horse that picked me was the least trained, most rebellious, and most anxious; yet, I’ve never felt safer. Through the daily experiential exercises with my horse, I was able to see how I could trust myself and find safety, even with a 1000 pounds of horsepower coming directly at me.

The workshop is facilitated by Buddy Uldrickson and Colleen DeRango. They are the perfect pair for this type of work and create an environment of acceptance and safety that really helped to instill a sense of confidence in me as I did my work.

Buddy is an expert horseman and Somatic Experiencing practitioner. When I met Buddy, he did not fit the image I had of a healing professional, but he ended up being a key part in my growth. He offered me patience, guidance, and help when needed.

Colleen is equally amazing. She is a therapist and a Somatic Experiencing practitioner with years of experience working with trauma and trauma-related issues. Colleen seemed to be really in tune with my needs all week. She offered me permission to honor my feelings exactly as they were with no judgment. That was something I had rarely been able to even offer myself. I entered this workshop without any specific goals in mind. I just wanted to remain open minded, and see what I could get out of it. Watching myself and others heal through the work with Buddy, Colleen, and horses were deeply cathartic. I went in with a small bit of skepticism, and few walls, which were repeatedly knocked down by that horse. That horse with no name wiggled his way into my heart, opening me to healing more and more each day.

So I’ve told you a little bit about my personal story and you might be wondering, what’s in it for me as a clinician? I left the workshop with some new skills to use in my own groups here at Rio Retreat at the Meadows.

I also gained a deeper understanding of how important the mind/body connection is within the therapeutic context, especially as it relates to trauma. And what better way for one to learn than to do the work yourself? (Some CEUs don’t hurt either!)

Register for Horses Helping Clinicians

Our professional development equine workshop, Horses Helping Clinicians: Somatic-Based Skills to Assist Clients in Restoring Resiliency, is designed to allow professionals to do their own work through the use of equine therapy, safely surrounded by their peers. While this workshop is not designed to teach therapists how to facilitate equine therapy, 18 clock hours of continuing education are offered for attendance. To enroll in this workshop, please contact our intake department at 1-800-244-4949.