Diane’s Diary #34: Equine Therapy at Big Heart Ranch
Note: This is Excerpt #34 in Diane’s Diary. If you would like to read previous excerpts, you can find Diane’s Diary 1-33 here.
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Diane’s Diary #33 was part one of a two-part entry. That entry shared that the people from Merging Vets and Players (MVP) attended a volunteer day at Big Heart Ranch (BHR) in June 2020. The following weekend was the equine therapy event with Suzi Landolphi, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the founder of BHR. But before I tell you about that day, let me tell you about MVP. Merging Vets and Players is an amazing organization whose mission it is to: MV]
empowers combat veterans
Empower combat veterans and former professional athletes by connecting them after the uniform comes off; providing them with a new team to assist with transition, promote personal development, and show them they are never alone.
Basically, veterans and former pro athletes share a lot in common, and the founders of MVP, Jay Glazer (Fox Sports NFL Insider) and Nate Boyer (Former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks football player) are changing lives with these two special populations. They work together through physical fitness and peer to peer support and engage in variety of different empowering programs.
One of the empowering programs is equine therapy at Big Heart Ranch. The participants were a mix of veterans, male and female, some of them wearing fatigues, and athletes, including a wrestler and co-founder Nate Boyer.
After some introductions, Suzi invited us into the ring with a few horses and donkeys. I couldn’t resist and went into the ring too. It was obvious that many of the participants had never been that close to such a large animal before and felt intimidated. Suzi made sure everyone felt safe and also explained that the horses are prey animals and are highly sensitive to our feelings. She taught us that the horse’s energy extends out 30 feet and there was a lot of energy in that ring.
We each gravitated toward one of the animals. Suzi told us a bit about that horse’s personality, and we shared what it was about ourselves that would attract us to that horse or donkey.
Suzi was teaching us about compassion, trust and humility, which we could experience in the ring with the animals.
The next activity was in a different ring with two wild horses that were brand new to the ranch. They hadn’t been gentled or trained yet and were clearly not used to being in a ring with people. And the people, despite how comfortable they had become in the last exercise with the gentled horses, were uncomfortable again with the wild horses. It was a fascinating dynamic.
Note how the horses are on the opposite side of the ring at the beginning. Each participant learned how to speak both verbally and non-verbally with the horses and within a few minutes, the horses felt safe enough to come explore the people and the people felt comfortable enough to allow the horse to be close. Our lesson here was about honesty.
And the final activity for the day was a team-building exercise that was a lot of fun. The lesson was about pressure and the horse was calmer when we released pressure on her. These lessons all carry over to our personal and professional lives.
I am way oversimplifying the experience in a short post. But it was beautiful, and I could see the participants having magical moments and aha’s.
My initial intention was to make a mini-doc from this footage, and I still may. But I may also use it in the docuseries. We shall see!!!
**WATCH our most recent Mini-Doc!**
Before the pandemic (when this was filmed), therapy animals were making finals week just a tad bit less stressful for college students. Can you imagine how excited students will be when these visits resume in person?