His eyes met mine, filled with mist, hope, fear and anticipation. He had just spoken in front of a group of men. Not just men but veterans who had seen the worst and been effected deeply. He spoke of his fear as others listened; he spoke of having no way out. The others leaned in, curious, waiting to see how he would be met. My eyes also filled with the hurt I saw in his soul. I began slowly speaking about protection. That perhaps his fear was not something to discard but to see and hold as a way that he protects himself. He not only needs to protect, he deserves protection, after all that is why each of these men served in our armed forces. The issue then becomes not one of eliminating fear but of recognizing when he needs to protect himself and when to trust. He was shocked from my response, speechless in fact only able to say he never heard that before. The group breathed a sigh of relief; we had begun. The rest of the group shared, deepening with each man speaking.
We were at the Split Pine Ranch in Black Forest CO. Major “O” had arranged this day along with Cindy and Bill, the ranch owners. They requested my help in leading group Gestalt Equine Psychotherapy (GEP) sessions with these men as part of the PTSD research that Major “O” is conducting. I gladly agreed.
After we all checked in, I was notified that our time was short so we immediately went to working with the horses. Cindy brought Lex (her prized stallion) into the arena and I invited the man I spoke of previously to begin the process of working with protection and not fear. He stepped forward, saying he had never touched a horse in his life. We slowly approached, supporting him to stay grounded and with his breath. Lex lifted his head and made eye contact. He knew this man needed kindness and Lex could not have been kinder. He offered to be touched, gently and kindly. As he touched Lex, he trembled, shaking, breathing, deciding if he needed protection. He chose to step in, he chose to be with a horse in a way he had never been with anyone. Slowly, touching, stroking and walking he became a different person. He said he’d never been held so kindly; he spontaneously renamed his horse “Spirit”. Tears continued and now were tears of relief, of letting go; No longer needing the tears of fear or loss in this moment. The rest of the men came forward, touching “Spirit” and supporting their comrade. Each wanting to continue, each wanting to return.
We are grateful to each man, to Major ‘O” and to Cindy and Bill. I am grateful to my new friend.