Episode 57 // A New Outlook on Equine Assisted Therapy with Julia Alexander, LCSW
In this episode, I talk to a very special guest, Julia Alexander, and we have a wonderful conversation about Equine Assisted Therapy. We discuss some of the experiences we have had with Equine Assisted Therapy in the past, and how these past experiences have brought up thoughts and questions about the ethics and emotional state of the horses involved.
We also share our plans for what the future of Equine-assisted therapy could look like, and how incorporating consent-based training and cooperative care could have a positive impact on the horses, clients, and therapists alike.
More about Julia Alexander and the work that she does:
Julia provides compassionate therapy, education and consulting services rooted in anti-racist, social justice and liberatory frameworks. She offers a safe and accepting space to alleviate shame, heal trauma and discover inner resilience. Her approach is founded on an unwavering belief in the healing power of safe connection, and a deep knowing that sustained relationship to nature plays a major role in human healing. She specializes in providing eco and equine-assisted psychotherapy in the areas of childhood relationship trauma, coming out, systemic oppression, and shame held by white-bodied people. As a social justice educator, she offers customized consulting, curriculum design and group facilitation to individuals, teams, and organizations who want to understand their experiences and beliefs in the context of systemic oppression. She combines her expertise as a therapist and social justice educator to offer a unique form of equine-assisted psychotherapy rooted in the ethical inclusion of horses in human treatment. Through this work, she loves supporting people in exploring connection, dialogue, choice and consent.
[00:00:00] Welcome to season four of the willing equine podcast, the podcast where we chat about all things horses, and being the best horse people we can be for our horses. My name is Adele Shaw. I'm a certified behavior consultant, and my passion is for creating positive relationships between horses and people.
[00:00:22] Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of the TWE podcast. Today I have a very special guest. I want to introduce Julia Alexander. Julia provides compassionate therapy, education and consulting services rooted in an anti-racist social justice and liberatory frameworks. She offers a safe and accepting space to alleviate shame, heal trauma and discover inner resilience. Julia's approach is founded in an unwavering belief in the healing power of safe connection and a deep knowing that sustained relationship to nature plays a major role in human healing. Julia specializes in providing eco and equine assisted psychotherapy in the areas of childhood relationship trauma, coming out, systemic oppression and shame. Julia, would you mind sharing with us a little bit more about what you do and your background, and just kind of share more with my listeners?
[00:01:11] All right. Thank you. I'm so excited to be here and to be talking to all of the listeners out there about kind of what we've been coming up with. So my name is Julia, like you said, I'm a clinical social worker here in the state of Texas, and I'm also a social justice educator and an animal lover. And gosh, how did I get here? It's been a winding road.
[00:01:40] I think I've always been an animal lover and they've kind of been my sanctuary for as long as I can remember. And I've ridden horses my whole life. I started riding when I was six. And I don't think it was until I was in my twenties, late twenties, that I started having questions about some of the ethics around the ways that I was engaging with horses. And I was simultaneously getting a master's in social justice education, which asks us to really look at systems and kind of how we're a part of systems power privilege, and all of that. And, I was noticing some, some internal conflict when I would, you know, go to the barn versus when I would be, you know, in my social justice ed classes.
[00:02:25] And it wasn't until I started incorporating horses into human treatment that, you know, the ideas around choice and consent. And maybe some of the limitations of the way things are currently being done was became really apparent. And actually that's when I reached out to you, Adele, I was like, something's not right here and I'm needing some support or some help. And that was, yeah, no, it was like four years ago now.
[00:02:47] Yeah. Would you mind sharing more about your history with horses? Just like up to this point, like where you started and kind of just your background in general and your experience with horses and just kind of what has led up to you now?
[00:03:00] So I grew up in Michigan, I participated in four H from middle school until my first year of college. So I did, you know, really kind of low key showing. I did hunter, I did hunter jumper. And then I did all the things that come along with four H like games and I dabbled in Western pleasure and halter and dressage. I, you know, I learned at a young age that I needed to be the leader I needed to be dominant. I needed to have respect from the horse. Yeah, so it wasn't until I got to college that I started doing dressage and I loved, I loved dressage. It was where I was at that point in my kind of understanding, I was just felt like it was a really intimate dialogue with this animal. And I thought it was the most amazing thing. So I competed a little bit when I was in college and rode. And then after that, I ended up going to Spain for six months and working at a classical dressage facility there. And that really kind of enhanced my education. And I was like, oh my gosh, you know, I really want to do this professionally, I think.
[00:04:15] But there was some things that I was just starting to become aware of that I think I had already known you know, the kind of parallels of the inequity in the horse world. And then what was happening with the horses. It was like this simultaneous thing going on. I worked up in Vermont with a woman who was doing some Grand Prix work and I ended up importing a horse from Spain and unfortunately that didn't go as well as I had wanted. And, yeah, I felt a little bit lost, I think for awhile and had a lot of fear.
[00:04:46] And then I went to social work school and decided that the only way I wanted to do this work is if I could include horses and nature. And I felt like that would, you know, bring out the best parts of me and, you know, got a job out here in Texas doing equine assisted psychotherapy for a few years. And I think my relationship with horses really changed during that time. And since I've been in Texas, I think it gave me some opportunities to learn and to reflect. And I still love the way dressage feels. I haven't, you know, ridden dressage in a really long time. But I think my journey has really shifted since I was young and even, you know, since five years ago we're much more focused on what the experience is like for the horse. And not quite as focused on centering myself, which has been my whole lifetime with horses. So I don't know. Is that what you're hoping?
[00:05:46] Yeah, no, that sounds, that's all great. And I think you and I definitely, we have a lot in common as far as the, the dressage aspect goes. And I know from working with you and coaching you, you're very detail oriented and love that whole part. And I think people who are detail oriented and really want to work with the horse and help the horse be the best they can be to often find dressage to be very much like home for them. And so it's, it's very interesting to me that we're both come from that dressage background and love and passion for dressage. And then now we're really exploring, positive reinforcement and clicker training and just all that that brings.
[00:06:24] And now we're also going to be talking more about this all, but would you mind sharing more about, equine assisted psychotherapy and what that is, and kind of what that looks like and just, you know, just giving a general overview of what that experience is like for potentially a client and then also from your perspective too.
[00:06:43] Yeah. Well, I think, you know, the answer to that question comes with kind of the, all of the experiences that I've had with the way that equine assisted psychotherapy is currently done. So in a nutshell, you know, equine facilitated and equine assisted activities are really not regulated in the United States. And so there are some kind of governing bodies and there are not very many of them. And there there's multiple ways you can get certifications, but you know, in the shortest sense, it's where a, a board license therapist you know, creates a therapeutic experience for a client incorporating horses into that experience. So they have their treatment plan and the horses are part of that, a part of that treatment plan which means that for some people it's not a good fit. And for other people, it might be a great fit or for other people it might change over time.
[00:07:44] So equine-assisted psychotherapy differs from equine assisted learning in that you don't need a board certified clinician to do equine assisted learning and it's not therapy, it might be therapeutic but sometimes we get a little led astray by some of the wording that comes you know, in terms of marketing equine facilitated activities.
[00:08:07] And then to answer the other part of your question of what it might look like. I think it can look so different, because of that lack of, of regulation currently. And so, you know, there's a lot and you and I have talked about this, but there's quite a bit of maybe unspoken expectation about what it means for client to connect with, with a horse and what that even looks like. And if we talk about behavior, like what are the actual behaviors that we're looking for in, in the horse? And so. It's probably not the best answer, but I guess it depends. It can look like, I guess it could look like anything.
[00:08:46] Well, we've talked about how a lot of times cultural conditioning comes into play here. And like you just mentioned where there's expectations from the client sometimes when horses are involved to be able to ride and to be able to do certain activities with the horses and, but there's maybe more than one way to do it, but that has been a common path that different therapists have taken. And this is kind of leading into the rest of our conversation, but that's just to say like, there's, like you mentioned, there's no real regulation, which has its benefits, because then we can do things like over here and explore new ways of doing this. But on the downside of it, is it, there is no like, ' this is how it needs to be done.' And then every, and then clients know what to expect. So there's not a lot of consistency in it.
[00:09:34] So your answer was yes, what I was looking for. I was just curious, kind of your past experience, cause I know you've done, you know, we're going to go into this a little bit later, but we've been exploring and talking about and, and kind of, forging our own kind of path when it comes to this. We're working together on that, but I know you've done more of this in the past, in a little bit more, in a different way. And so I'd love if you wanted to explain more of what that looked like, like what a normal session would look like for you and your experience and kind of how you trained in the past.
[00:10:10] Yeah, absolutely. I'm sure other folks can relate to this when, when you kind of go back and look at those past versions of yourselves, like there's some cringy feelings that come up. And I think it's so important to hold ourselves with compassion, for what we didn't know, and then, you know, how we're moving forward with maybe new information. So, you know, I think that in the past a session, I'll give two examples. So one session might look like asking a client to pick a horse based on kind of whatever was coming up for them in the moment. And I will say that more often than not, the horses would be very voidant of engaging. And there would be a lot of effort and basically having to catch them. And then we would be taking the horses to a round pen you know, somewhere on the property. And then there was you know, a kind of pressure type of engagement with pressure. So like we would ask the client to have the horse move away from them and then, you know, release the pressure and have them come back to them. And I think that in the beginning there was something really like enticing or like it was very shiny. Like it felt really good. It was like, oh, we're doing something here. Like, look at how the horse is quote, unquote, connecting or not connecting, or look how the client can move their energy. There's a lot of talk about energy in that client assisted world. You can move your energy up and down and look how the horse responds and, you know, it's real time feedback. And so I think that-
[00:11:55] And real-time feedback from a very sensitive other being, which is, can be very helpful and has like tremendous amount of benefits. And I can definitely see why it was like you said shiny and it made a lot of sense. It reminds me a lot of a modification of like a more natural horsemanship approach from what I've heard. I've never participated in a session like that, but I've watched many sessions and heard, you know, different examples from different therapists. And that is kind of what rings a bell for me is, is, is following a similar thread is like the natural horsemanship type approach. So just kind of for reference for my listeners, that's kind of what we're picturing and that's kind of what happens in, in the sessions that you're referring to.
[00:12:40] Yes, absolutely. So you know, the, the thing about natural horsemanship that I really found appealing at the time was that it sounded so good. Like all of the language that was being used about around choice and consent and you know, connection and disconnection, all of these things where like and like the expectation that the horse would follow you and that's like the ultimate goal, even if that's not spoken, right. But honestly, being in that situation for many years we would get really excited when the horse would follow a client and that's what the client would want. And so even if we were saying that that's not what we're attempting to do, or that's not the task, we're not focused on the task in our bodies. There is a sense that that is kind of the ultimate way that we know the horse connected. So there was a lot of things that felt so appealing about that experience and I think that, you know, there were other ways that we might engage that were less intrusive. And so, you know, I think that there was some, like a different grounding or meditation work that, you know, we can do in a session that didn't involve haltering horses. It was a really big property that I was working on and we would move through the herd. There were also some things that, you know, got my heart racing, like, you know, approaching horses while they were eating, and other safety things that were like, oh, this doesn't feel great. But it took some time, I think for that shiny-ness to start to, you know, wear off just a little bit. To to the point where I was kind of questioning, like, what's like, what's going on here? Like, how are we naming this for clients, many of the all the clients that I saw had experienced pretty significant trauma. And so when we tell clients who has experienced trauma or any client that they're going to build this trusting, safe relationship with a horse, and yet we're going to be chasing them to halter them and then removing them from their herd to go into the round pen. You know, there is a level of something that's not quite lining up internally.
[00:14:57] And it actually took me, I think, two or three years in that situation to start to be able to put my finger on it. And it, there was one horse in particular and Adele, this is when I called you and I reached out to you. Cause this, this horse couldn't be touched without sedation and being lassoed basically. And those types of ways of engaging weren't working. And so it was like, I wonder if this one, this horse has some of the answers.
[00:15:25] I remember that now that was a while ago, I remember that.
[00:15:28] Yes. Yes. And you know, it was like, it was trying to sort out all of the kind of conflicting information that I been getting. And, and I think that, you know, I want to give other people permission to do that. Like that's okay. You know, and I, and I, it's not a sense of I think we all find kind of a path that we want to go down and it's not to say anyone is doing it wrong. But just that I had enough internal conflict, that the way that I had been doing it was not the way that I wanted to continue to do that work. But what I was finding was that I couldn't find other people that were really doing the work differently. And so I became really curious about fear free to the extent that we can, force free to the extent that we can, ways of interacting with horses where we could really genuinely like, or could we, I guess that's a question I had, could we genuinely say to a client, like we are doing everything we can to give this horse choice and consent and autonomy over their body, within the context of a domesticated life.
[00:16:35] So around this time, I remember you've got your mare June. June is a beautiful, right. Is that the right timeline when you got her? It was around that time. Okay. And she's a beautiful gypsy Vanner, Arabian and she's now at my place, but at this time she wasn't at my place. She was somewhere else and, and we were doing some long distance coaching. And so you were starting to explore like cooperative care. That's something that's been a really big interest to you and for my listeners, cooperative care is typically that term is used when talking about medical. Um, So like, if you need to give a horse a shot, you can teach them how to cooperatively engage in that process. So essentially like at liberty for going to use that term, they can be taught to line up and then in and cue you when they're ready to have the shot given. And then they stand there willingly and then they will get reinforcement that follows it. So that's like cooperative care. Um, However, I expand this mentality, this process, this way of engaging with horses throughout as much of my regular, everyday handling as possible, including riding. And I'm sure you guys have been listening for a long time understand, you know, I've given lots of examples of this, but I, for example, I used cooperative, or we could call it, you know, giving them choice and control for the horse and when I'm even asking my horse, if they want to ride. So I teach my horses that if they line up at the mounting block, that's them saying, okay, I'm ready for you to get on. And then I get on. And then I also teach them a way to ask me to get off. So I, we could call this if we wanted to a start button and a kind of a stop button or an opt-in and an opt-out kind of option. And so I do this without, throughout all of my training. And so this is something we've been incorporating with June, Julia's mare and and then this started the discussion, Julia and I have been talking a lot about. How can we bring this into the therapy world and into the therapy sessions? Because it, especially in the, you know, I'm obviously not certified or anything, but it makes so much sense to me. And I want to hear more, what Julia would you have to say about it of teaching your other people, especially when they're coming from a background where they have trauma and stuff like that, like, this is what choice looks like. This is what respecting another living being looks like. This is what, just cooperative engagement looks like and where they have choice over the outcome and control over the outcome. And they are actually willingly engaging with us. And they're not trapped into that experience, which to me, you know, just engage, like just doesn't seem to align, like with what you said with all of what you're trying to, you know, share with your clients when you were talking about choice and you were talking about, you know, engaging in a safe way and with boundaries and all that with other people. And then we're over here, trapping horses and round pens and stuff like that. So, yeah. I definitely wanna hear more about what you have to say about that.
[00:19:33] Yeah, absolutely. I get so excited about cooperative care. I'm like, You know, I am, I'm still new. I come with a beginner's mind. I want to learn all the things. I think that, you know, we have so much that we can learn from the animal behavior world around cooperative care. And, you know, I think that, well, I'm gonna use myself as an example. If I were to take my, you know, Well, 30 plus years now of horse experience and, you know, tack it on to my degree and licensed as a clinical social worker and say, okay, now I can do equine assisted psychotherapy, I believe, and I did bring a lot of my baggage into my relationship and ships with horses and clients.
[00:20:28] I brought in kind of all of my assumptions about horses and how they learn and what they needed in terms of leadership, quote, unquote, and respect and all of that. So. Cooperative care. I think asks us within the horse community to really pause and say, what is it that I actually didn't learn? Like, what is it that I don't know? And, you know, I love watching and sharing videos of like polar bears getting like their teeth examined and like, you know, elephants getting their feet done. And this is all like in protected contact, like no touch, no force. And I'm like, if a polar bear can do it, the, the options for our horses are limitless.
[00:21:17] And so I think it's a hard thing because so many of us. That's in equine facilitated, work, do it because we have past experience with horses and we love horses and that's why we do it. But because we have a less regulated system than,
[00:21:35] I mean, there's less pressure or expectation to continue our learning and to learn about equine ethology, like science-based, equine ethology, not the equine ethology that we learned from our grandpa. For example. Well there's no regulation in the horse training industry either. So there is no pressure for us to continue our education either. I cannot tell you how many trainers and it just whatever they want to call themselves, I run into, and there's, they're just operating off of what they learned from past generations and how they grew up learning. And then this is how we train horses and this is what we do. And there's so much more information out there right now. And there's so much progress being made, towards improving living standards for the horses, for providing their basic needs for operating, you know, like creating training programs and processes around how they actually learn, like looking at their brain and looking at, you know, the, the lacking prefrontal cortex and like all that. We didn't know that we didn't know that a couple generations ago. So like it's still very new information for a lot of trainers out there right now. So it doesn't surprise me that in the therapy world, then all of the equine-assisted stuff that is also lacking there. But it's about time that the worlds start, both of them start improving and upping their education levels and bringing all of these new, like ethics standards to our practices.
[00:23:03] Yes, I a hundred percent agree. And it's it's probably a reflection of the way that culture gets built. You know, it's like, I think you know, we, the, my lens is always looking at systems and I get really, you know, excited and passionate about systems and how they operate and why they're there. And, you know, if a system is working for us, then oftentimes we, we don't have a vested interest in changing it. However, I believe that this system actually, isn't working for us and it's not working for the animals that we love either. And so I. It felt really important to me to humbly say, oh, there's a lot I don't know. And that's hard, you know, because I think when we do say that or come to that conclusion, there can be a lot of shame that gets kicked up around. Like, how did I engage in the past with horses? Did I hit my horse? Yes. Did I use a whip? Yes. Did I use spurs? Yes. But I keep them in a stall for eight hours a day. Yeah. I did all of those things and to be able to develop some compassion for the parts of myself that didn't know. But also some, I guess, enthusiasm about like how I want to be doing things differently.
[00:24:18] And so I think the cooperative care piece, I mean, You can probably attest to this, but June my sweet, sweet girl is you know, she is has a lot of thoughts and feelings and to be able to give an animal, the room to express when they are afraid or uncomfortable, or there's some sort of internal conflict is I think empowering for everyone. And it's not easy because it's slow, right? The process like working with your feelings is slow. Like that's why I'm a therapist. Like I know that the core of my being, and I think a lot of the times our equine assisted practices are suspiciously convenient. And I want to change that. I think that it makes sense to challenge some of that. And I think cooperative care is a really exciting way that, you know, I know you and I are talking about that. Like, we might be able to slowly start to make an impact on what sessions could look like with a client. And I feel like that change is really cool. And I'm excited for people to do their own exploration, I guess, about cooperative care and what that could look like and having horses be able or whatever therapy animal you're working with, be able to clearly opt out and say, no, you know, or walk away or understand very clearly, what the consequences will be if they participate, like what is coming next. That feels so important,
[00:25:48] To build on that when you said consequences. So just for reference, there's appetitive consequences and aversive consequences. So it's not in our human language and our human world. We often attribute the word consequence with like a negative outcome. But in, when it comes to things like cooperative care and all that we're talking. And when we talk in behavior and we're talking and learning when we talk about consequences, we're purely, we're talking about outcomes. So for the learner, what is the outcome of this action? And this is how horses learn, and this is how we all learn. It's such a powerful thing when, when the person can step back and say, and see very clearly, once you can see what's happening and the, how the horse is operating on their environment and how they are making choices. And then these are the outcomes for those choices. Of course, given the, this has given the fact that they're given a choice in the first place. A lot of times with horse handling and training unfortunately, the horses become very robotic and get into a state of mind where they don't have a choice where they just need to stand here and wait for somebody to tell them what to do.
[00:26:53] And that's such a sad state for any learner to be in any human horse, dog, cat, sheep. It doesn't matter to be in a state of mind where your world and your life happens to you and you don't have control over the outcomes, leads to some like long-term health problems, like mental health and emotional health problems. And, you know, I'm probably like, Julia you could expand on that a whole bunch more, but we need to recognize that in our horses too. Because, and I find this as really challenging to keep this at the forefront of our intentions and what we're trying to achieve with interacting with our horses, especially when we put pressure on it, to be part of a business, to be part of a service that we're offering, because there's this expectation of an outcome for us and for our other learner, which is the client. So I experienced this all the time with my students and stuff. And like when I'm teaching clinics or lesson, like they're here to learn something and there's an expectation of an outcome. And then we have this third being involved. So the horse, and they don't have any understanding of what's going on, to be that as a priority that my horse has control over the outcomes here. I am going to provide that for them, even if that means that the other two humans or the other two beings in this example, which are two humans, have to adjust their expectations of outcomes. It's such a hard thing to do. And it takes such, it takes a lot of willpower to make sure that that happens. And I kind of went on a tangent there, but I it just really, that's just something you said really triggered that for me. Like, meaning like it just brought up that thought process and why it's so important to me to really talk about bringing choice and, you know, it's a human construct, but the idea, and I, I just actually wrote a big blog article that I'll be publishing soon about consent. Maybe horses don't understand consent like we do, but they certainly understand choice and control of outcomes. And, oh, I know it's because you said consequences and that sent me on a whole tangent on there. But yes, that is such an important, I think it's, I guess the sum, all of what I was trying to say is, and really what we've been saying for a long time now, because we have a lot of these conversations is that it is important for everybody who's participating in this experience together to experience the ability to control outcomes and to have a choice in the experience. And by and large, I find that horses are the ones that get the short end of that stick and don't get to control the outcomes and they don't get to have a choice in the experience. You know, it's at their expense, basically that we get to have our positive outcomes and we get to have our choice and our control. And we love that. And it's so reinforcing that's the thing is choice and control are extremely reinforcing and there's a lot of arguments that it's a primary reinforcers. So right up there with food and water and shelter, and the ability to procreate like is right up there. So of course we're over here going, we want to have control over this outcome. We want to have choice. We want to be able to manipulate this situation, but we forget the horse needs that too. And that's why I'm so excited about these conversations, because I think it's going to really bring such value to the therapy and such value to your clients. And I know it's brought a lot of value to my clients as well.
[00:30:21] Oh my gosh. Absolutely. Yeah. I, I think that I have. Moved away just a little bit from, well, let me take that back. I moved away from having a kind of outcome based therapy session. I mean, that seems self-explanatory I guess, but I think that, that the problem can be that our, that our clients expect something specific.
[00:30:52] Just given what they've seen in the culture you know, on movies, TV, maybe what they've heard from their friend who did equine assistant work, So I'm wondering if we, you know, we all need to challenge some of those expectations. I saw something a post by someone and I feel bad cause I can't remember who posted it or who wrote it, but it was basically talking about having ethics and the, ethical treatment of the horses being a part of the treatment for the client and what can happen when we don't allow someone's healing to happen at the expense of another. And I think that's related to any system, whether we're talking about animals or people. I think there's something really powerful about that. And there's also probably like you're saying a, like some pieces that we will have to let go of, which might feel challenging at least in the beginning. When things maybe move slower or are more quiet or the horse decides it's time to walk away, do we have enough built into our plan that that's okay. And I think that's kind of an essential conversation to have, especially, you know, including the cooperative care piece of like, can we make the horse walking away or not engaging part of the process of saying, what does it look like to respect this other being who has decided that it's not interested today? And that feels so important and powerful.
[00:32:34] Also though, sorry, I didn't mean to cut you off. Go ahead.
[00:32:37] No, it was just thinking also about a conversation that you and I had a little while ago about like demand, right. And helping consumers understand the benefits of seeking out equine-assisted activities or facilities that are doing things differently and how important that is as well. Yeah, absolutely.
[00:32:58] And then something else that came to mind as you were talking about, especially the horse walking off, I know we've had this conversation before. It feels like in a situation like that, from my experience, what I have heard again, I have not actually firsthand experiences, but this is what I've been hearing from different therapists and different things I've read. And also from you, oftentimes that action from the horse becomes very much about what the person is or isn't doing.
[00:33:23] And we forget to look at the horse as an individual and look at their learning history and look at the fact that there are other things going on in the environment too. And it's not all about us. It's not all of that. Like us and our, you know, human centered, like, oh, I must have done something wrong. And the horse hates me now, like, or my energy isn't right or whatever. Like there's so much more nuance to it than that. And the horse has their own learning history that they're bringing to the table. Like, for example, I will use one of my own horses as an example here. My I have a mare named Cashmere and she is a beautiful, warmblood. She has a long, long history with people. She was on the show circuit. And she often attributes people and being interacted with, with what comes next, based on her learning history, which was being tacked up, which was being ridden and doing all the things you didn't like or being separated from her companions. So she didn't develop a very positive association with people. So I have had her for a couple of years now, and I've done a lot of reconditioning of that. I started, you know, she's starting to develop a new learning history. She's starting to kind of like write over some of the old stuff and she's starting to associate people and we've come a very, very long way with positive outcomes and she wants to engage now and she wants to do things. However, Sometimes new people are at my facility or they want to engage with her. And she kind of reverts reverts back to that older learning history sometimes assuming that this is, you know, a regular person I've become like the exception to the rule for her. So I am now a person that predicts positive outcomes whereas most people do not predict that for her and because they are the stand, like they, they are more connected to our past learning history. Whereas I'm the exception to that rule at this point. So her walking away from a new client is not really has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with her learning history and looking at it from that perspective. And so I think it's, this kind of goes into this conversation about, outcome-driven type situations where we're trying to achieve a certain outcome. If I were to take Cashmere and say, we need to achieve this outcome with her, for this client. We're again, we're like hyper-focusing on the client and forgetting about the horse. And then also, if we were to then say, to said, client that, oh, this is because you did this, or you did that. We would be missing a whole piece of the picture and also putting a lot of weight on what the client did or didn't do. And that's again, we're, hyper-focusing on us humans, the client, and we're forgetting about the horse again. So I think there's so much here. There's so much nuance to it and how we can kind of shift our focus a little bit more towards the horse and a little bit less on the humans.
[00:36:15] Yes. Oh my gosh. Yes, absolutely. And you know, like any type of but I think practice way of engaging it's like we've had as humans, so much practice being with horses in this way that I imagine that there's gonna be 10 to 20 years where we're gonna collectively have to kind of figure this stuff out. But those practice ways of being with come up as patterns that I see happen a lot, and this is the same in my social justice work. And I look at patterns and how we, how we view things and language is a really big part of that. And so if you, like, you're saying, if we're, if we're, if we're led to constantly be describing as the horses engagement or lack of engagement or the horses response, or lack of response is something that's happening within the client. I, I feel like, Ooh, we're, we're, we're tiptoeing into really tricky territory there. And what would it look like to expand? Like you were saying our sense of what could be going on with the horse in that moment, having a conversation about Cashmere and her history could be such a rich experience, I think, for any client, and helpful to depersonalize, right? When someone might need to take a break and walk away. But it's hard, you know, it's hard to challenge, I think all of the different ways that we might use to describe horses that benefit us and. Yeah, I think that probably brings up a lot of emotion for people, which is totally reasonable and makes sense. And again, I like a broken record. I'm like, how can we come back to compassion so that we can talk to each other about. These types of conversations that elicit a lot of emotions. Because I get really excited about the possibility of like, what could equine assisted psychotherapy or equine assisted learning look like if we, you know, really had the latest understanding and ethology, if, you know, we had basic understanding of learning theory and humane hierarchy and, you know, Lima, I think that it could be so exciting and not just for horses, but for all animals that are involved in human treatment it's like the sky's the limit. Um, But we have kind of a long way to go, I think, which no, that can feel hard. Oh, then she keep bringing up other animals because you and I have talked a lot about sheep.
[00:38:57] We're going to have sheep therapy session. We love sheep. We're always sending each other Instagram, like sheep videos, like anyway, especially there's a couple of accounts that I follow that do like clicker training with sheep and stuff, and I'm obsessed. And like we're always sending each other stuff or like, yes, this is, this is happening. We're going to do horses and sheep.
[00:39:16] Oh. And they're so cute. They're so adorable.
[00:39:19] Okay. I got to figure out how to, I mean, I know some people that do sheep shearing cooperatively, so I'm excited about that because then I can, because before I didn't want to have sheep because I didn't want to like go through that whole situation. And like, of course we can do a proper, like, that makes so much sense.
[00:39:34] Yeah. So, okay. So we've talked a lot about. A lot of the reasons why basically that we've been exploring changes and exploring reevaluating, some of the stuff that we're doing. I think it would be useful now to talk a little bit more about what that might actually look like. So not just talking about it, but saying, okay, in practice, what does this look like?
[00:39:57] And obviously we're still at the very, very, very, very, very beginning of the mountain. Like we're, we're still exploring. We are, I know at least for myself, I'm speaking for myself, I am no way an expert in this area. But be in interest of helping other people who are interested giving them ideas and kind of, you know, saying this is what we're thinking. We're still implementing it and we're still finding all the little kind of like little road bumps and all that, then we'll need to smooth out and figure out, and we don't need to go into like, okay, exactly how we set this up or whatever, but just kind of talking about general practices that we would, we're reevaluating and looking at expanding on and just kind of what that looks like. Yeah. So you want to start us off on that?
[00:40:44] Sure. Yeah, absolutely. Well, we, you know, had quite a few conversations about this before we started. And I think the biggest thing that stands out to me as like a starting place for anyone doing this work would be environment that, you know, the horses are in. And, one of the things that felt really important to me was that that we always start off in protected contact and that we actually don't ever go in the pasture with the horses unless you are present. And even then I think really we've kind of landed on work. We will work one-on-one with the horse. And so, that felt really big, you know, I think I always have questions about like, if there's an idea that I have, that I think is a good one, how does, how do I make it accessible? And I think that there's a lot of ways that I you know, want to create something that's like accessible and like be able to, to like Adele, let's go show other people like what we're doing. And so I've been thinking a lot about that. And even if somebody is not using positive reinforcement, even if somebody decides that they are not going to do cooperative care, I think there's so much richness that can happen when we observe horses in their own space and notice what comes up for us on the outside of a fence and like body awareness, grounding, meditation, and discussion about boundaries and safety are all like, so relevant in that context. And so, that's the first thing that comes up. That's like, we slow it way down. And then we are not even entering into the dilemma of, are we removing a horse from their herd? Are we trapping a horse in the round pen? Do we have to catch them? You know, all of those things. And we're also not dealing with the enormous safety risks of bringing. A novice horse person or, you know, not even, novice maybe a person that's never been around horses into a herd of horses where there are so many dynamics that happen simultaneously. That can be very dangerous. So that's the first thing that pops up what comes up for you? And I talk about that.
[00:43:04] Yeah. So the herd situation, I totally understand the, the idea, the intention behind it, but speaking from a behavioral perspective from a, I'm a certified behaviorist and I've worked with horses daily. There's so, and also you brought up just the environment. I can't tell you how often, you know, I have somebody call me in and they want to improve this behavior in their horse or that behavior or the horse is acting dangerous, et cetera. How do we fix it? Like a lot of the time. A lot of the times it's changing the environment. So I manage the situation. I'm like, okay, we need to move this fence over here. We need to not be walking into the herd, like in the middle of it while they're eating, there's so much that, and this goes back to like, just how we've learned as horse people and like cultural stuff. We've been taught a lot of really unsafe practices around horses, honestly, and we have been taught, a lot of very intentionally invasive and threatening behaviors around horses, meaning that we are taught to do these behaviors that are threatening to the horses that are invasive and are intrusive. And they are just putting ourselves in a really dangerous situation, but also kind of antagonizing the horses, not into like we in our minds are not saying, oh, I'm going to go antagonize this horse today. We're not doing that. But because of our learning history, we just do these things and we don't look at them through the lens of the horse and how this could be really threatening to them. And one of those that I find is, Really just getting our, I just like walking right into a horse's face and walking right into where horses are and our eating and our sleeping and our being as a herd, we are not a horse. It's just, it's just plain and simple. We're not horses, horses. Don't see us as horses. We're actually more, we might even think of ourselves as more of a predator and they're prey. So by nature of kind of that species difference, we're already at a disadvantage when it comes to being amongst our horses. And we have to work hard to overcome that. And this is where it really positive reinforcement really shines because it creates a really strong, positive association with our presence. So going back to, because I could speak a whole hour on practices of was like how to keep horses and manage horses and set up your, your environment. And I joke all the time that I need to change my business over to like advising on equine facility setups, but there is so much we can do with our horses, that it's in a very non-threatening position and it's also very safe and it can help facilitate that positive association through fence. So protected contact. That's where we have a barrier between us and the learner though, the horse in this case. And it puts the horse in a situation where they feel perfectly safe. And then also our clients and ourselves, we feel perfectly safe. And so the environment is set up for success as far as helping us develop that relationship. And I think in our human minds, we say there's a fence between us. We can't develop a connection this way. We can't engage with the horses way because there's a barrier when in reality we can absolutely, I do a lot of training through protected contact and it's actually very common in, working with exotic animals and other species and is less common working with horses, but that's a really unfortunate. But I have spent years sometimes, and that's pretty unusual, but I have spent years working in protected contact with certain horses so that they felt safe and I felt safe and we've made a ton of progress. And we definitely have a quote unquote connection to the point where it would be like clients' horses. For example, they see my truck driving up the driveway and they come running to the fence and they're calling to me and they know exactly who I am. They want to be there. They want to engage. They are ready to go. There is a connection. There, there is a relationship there and all this whole time, we've done it through a fence.
[00:46:59] And so I think there's so much value to bring to the table here for both the horse and for the clients and for also the therapist or the trainer by utilizing protected contact. And then it frees up us to as the professional. So whether you're a therapist or a trainer to really focus on your human learner, and, and teaching them, it also frees up your human learner to make mistakes without potentially putting themselves at risk. It also takes the pressure off of them. They don't have this large thousand pound animal right on top of them. And then also it takes the pressure off the horse to engage in a certain way. And it is less likely to activate a long learning history that they may or may not have with people and being pressured and chased and all these other negative associations they might have with people. So there's so much benefit there. Like you said, to working in protected contact and you can do things like leading and teaching horses to, you could teach them a behavior. You can teach them to do almost anything with protected contact. More examples might be teaching them to back up, teaching them, to follow a target, teaching them to stand on a pedestal or a mat, teaching them to take food safely, teaching them to wave with their head. Like yes and no, they can say yes or no with their head. They can smile. They can, you can do Spanish walk, which I don't recommend for beginners, but that's just something you could do pretty much anything. It's really hard for me to think of something you can't do in protected contact, probably riding. That would be the one thing you can't because you have to, but there's so much power there for everybody involved to utilize that. And then the horse can feel very safe in leaving and in disengaging. And then also very safe in engaging. They're much more likely, especially if they have that past history to they're much more likely to choose to engage because they will feel safer and they're not having to like worry about like, what's going to happen next. And anyway, just overall I love protected contact and that's a huge thing that we could start implementing into our practice.
[00:49:03] Yeah. Oh my gosh. I totally agree. And you know, I think that might require us to let go of some things, but I think those things are, you, you mentioned like a history of learning how to engage with horses. And a lot of what we've learned is, threatening to the horse and actually really not safe for us. And, you know, I always again go back to systems and it's like, we often design our facilities and the way that we engage with horses to assert our power over and can we create an environment where there's less of that? And I think protected contact is a beautiful way to do that. And we might need to change up the expectations right that our clients have coming in. But I think that that's okay. And so, you know, what do we need to unpack or heal within ourselves so that we can slow down to be able to maybe do some of that work. Is there some beautiful work, like you were saying at all, that can be done in that way. And I'm excited to continue down the path of cooperative care and what that will look like with clients. You know, once we have more data of like, what happens, like what happens for clients longterm and who is that best for like what our clients presenting problems that really benefit from working with a horse in that way? .
[00:50:29] Yeah, I completely agree. Another thing that came to mind is, you know, if we can set up the facility as best as possible, or just arrange our. Sessions, coaching, whatever it is around our horses needs. So a lot of times, and I'm speaking more from a trainer's perspective, because again, I have limited experience in actual therapy sessions, but, it's very common to like go take a horse from the pasture, take them to the barn and tack them up when they're tied up and then take them to the arena, go do your ride and then untack them and then take it back. So in general, the horse has left with their companions and is probably not have food for two to three hours. From that experience, just like looking at that whole setup, both of those things needing forage 24 7 and, or access to it, being able to keep their seeking system like satisfied and all that that, and also needing to be with their companions is is a basic need for our horses. They need those things. And, so I'm not saying that you can never go any period of time without providing horse food. And I'm not saying they can never leave their companions, but three hours is a long time. And especially if your horse has any stress around that experience or has potential physical things. So like horses that have ulcers, which is most domestic horses, they're going to have a really hard time with that three hours without forage. And then. You know, horses that have any separation anxiety, which is a lot of domestic horses, whether it's recognized or not, most of them do have some level and we call it separation anxiety or buddy sour or whatever. When honestly, it's just a natural behavior. Horses were not designed to leave the herd, you never see feral horses going like, bye guys, I'll be back in three hours. Like they just don't do that. So we're asking them to do stuff that is super unnatural for them. And then on top of it, not adequately preparing them for that expectation. So if I do have a horse that I know I need them to be able to leave their companions, like let's say they need to go to the vet, which is all horses need to, at some point separate from the companion to go to a vet, unless you live in a very, or have a very specific setup where you can take two horses and that's great. And I work very hard at trying to do that. You can strategize preparing your horse for having a positive association with leaving their companions for a certain amount of time. And that's for a whole nother podcast episode. But, when we're, when we're setting up our sessions, when I'm setting up my training and like at my place, and Julia, if you've experienced this, where I have my whole herd, they're in their pasture. And then I have a couple of pens that are inside the pasture and the rest of the herd. So we either do it. One of two ways. We have the horse we're working with, goes into the pen and the rest of the herd is nearby, but not like in the training area with us or the opposite happens. I put the rest of the herd into their pens, and these are like 10 by 10, maybe 12 by 12 pens. And you can make them larger if you need to, or want to. I put the rest of the herd into their pens while we work with the horse that is in the session. The setup I use most often, because that gives us a lot of space. And then we often use the pasture fencing for the protected context. So we've got three things have just happened here. We haven't taken them away from their forage because they're either on grass or their hay is nearby. We have protected contact, which has provides all of the benefits that we mentioned earlier. We haven't left their place of safety, which is their pasture area. So they feel very safe. They're very, an established area and their herd is nearby. So they have that social network. They have that social support that they need, and they're, we're not asking them to do something that is unnatural. So we've met all of their basic needs and we're still able to do our training and we're still able to have our sessions and that can be and we can have all the benefits for the humans whilst making sure that we are continuing to meet the basic needs.
[00:54:17] Yes. And I it's like coming up for me of how important it is that I'm able to learn from you also. And I think that that's another piece that I would love to see more of in the equine assisted world. You know, there's lots of different models out there and oftentimes we kind of have this triangle model of like, we've got like an equine specialist and like a therapist and the client and the horse, and they're all in the session together. And you and I have talked a lot about like really honoring, like our scope of expertise and what that looks like. And you're going to see things and know things about the horses that I might miss and that I don't know. But we've also talked about keeping our roles pretty separate. And that's another huge shift. I think that doesn't often happen in the equine assisted or equine facilitated world. So along with like facility setup and environment and, you know, free choice access to forage you know, being with our herd is also like, you know, working with somebody who knows equine behavior, if that's not you. Right. And then being able to really separate, okay. What's therapy and what's learning, I mean, I'm an educator as well. And I think that there's there's learning in everything. And so, that's been something that's been a really interesting conversation between us of like, how do we stay in our areas of expertise?
[00:55:47] yeah. And so as a behaviorist and not equine-assisted psychotherapist, this is something where I talked to you about like, okay, so, you know, I don't, I'm going to be here to support and make sure my horses needs are met and make sure that we're respecting our horse, my horses and the horses that we're working with and that, I'm here to educate you and educate the clients. For safety reasons and also to benefit the session and all that. But then I have my, you know, there's a, there's a boundary like where I need to step out and like, I am not involved in this part and I need to talk to you. We have ongoing conversations about like dialogue, like what should we say? You know, what's good conversation. What's not, what's helpful, what's not. How much time should we spend doing this versus that. And we're still experimenting with the format of the overall session. Right, but that has been a really important ongoing conversation in, and like you said, there, we have our areas, we have our areas and when you kind of stay in our lanes to a certain degree, but then of course there's a lot of overlap, but we just need to be clear about when we're overlapping and like, okay, this is where I think maybe we need more of this over here versus that.
[00:56:59] I don't know if that's making any sense, but hopefully it is absolutely.
[00:57:02] And one of the things that helped with that is for us to come up with an amount of time that you would be with a client working on you know, basically the learning part and in the hands-on engagement with the horse. And then the amount of time that I would be with a client and me setting the expectation of client that the time that they're spending with you is learning, right? I mean, they're really learning the whole time, but that will process the therapeutic and a therapy part afterwards. So that doesn't put you in a position where you're having to hold something that's confidential or sensitive. And it doesn't put them in a position where, you know, there's lots of information being shared with someone other than their therapist. And so I love that that's an ongoing conversation and I would love to even encourage other people doing this work to consider what that could look like for them. You know, having it be pretty clear, like, you know, you're entering this space with this person. And again, like you said, we're working on the format and we're, you know, it's a, the learning process is never linear, so we're probably like, let's try something and like, you know, do something else and then come back to it. But I think that that's a really great thing. And my experience in the past with equine-assisted experiences has been, it's been messy, you know, it's been, it's been pretty messy. And so I liked that there was some, some clarity to that.
[00:58:23] Yeah, for sure. And I appreciate that too, because I definitely recognize my limitations when it comes to what you know, and what you do. And I don't want to, I don't want to make anybody uncomfortable and I also don't want to overstep where I am. So having that ongoing conversation has been very important to me as well. And, And I, I just love those conversations and I think it would be, I think whether or not you're going to implement, you know, positive reinforcement or clicker training, or cooperative care, having that aspect where you have an equine professional, somebody who does this for a living and behavior is their specialty and like day in and day out, because we can only be, we can only specialize in so much, right. There's only so many hours in the day. There's only so much room in our brain. And so you can't be a specialist in everything. And so everybody has their quote on quote lane. My, I know, I, for example, I know quite a bit about barefoot trimming, but I don't barefoot trim my horses because it's not my specialty. It's not what I do. I could, I could trim up a horse here and there. I could step in, should my farrier get hurt or whatever, but I could not do what she does. And so I pay her for her time and her expertise to come work on my horses. And so that is not my area. I have some education in it, but it is not what I do. Same thing applies here, I think, no matter what type of program you have when it comes to equine assisted therapy or learning it is so important to bring in the expertise of somebody who does this, that there is their specialty. They, I literally, I, I spend hours and hours and hours reading horses, basically like watching them, learning from them and focusing all my attention on them. And so I can, somebody like myself or myself can bring to the table, you know so much value, whether or not, it's me teaching you as the therapist, or if you want to collaborate in some way, it doesn't really matter. But that person, that that's, their specialty is going to really focus on making sure your horses that are in your program are having their needs met, that are being heard, they're being heard, and that you are being safe with your practices and you're teaching your clients, you know, safe practices and, good practices as well. So I think bringing in somebody that that's what they do is such an important part of having a successful program and making sure that the horse's needs are being met as well. Yeah. And so that's just something I thought of, as you were talking, if another thing that we have talked a lot about that could benefit everybody.
[01:01:00] Yes. Absolutely. And it might be interesting at another point to like put together some resources for people that are doing the, the act like they're the equine expert in that and that collaboration. And like, if they wanted to continue their education or if they wanted to learn more, you know, what would that look like for them? Maybe they could reach out to you. And you know do like a consult or something, because I think that, I imagine that there's a lot of people that are really wanting that information, but don't know where to get it. And I mean, same with the therapist. I imagining that that's, it's the same for both. And I think that's why this collaboration has worked so well, is that we, you know, we both understand the areas that we have expertise in and I love horses and I love horse training. I do not know as much as you do. There's never an expectation that I will. So if I can bring you on board and say, okay, you get to put your eyes on this horse and have this interaction and support my client. That seems like the best of both worlds, in my opinion. I mean, I feel pretty lucky.
[01:02:06] Yeah. And, and, you know, there's not going to be the ability to always set up a practice like that. And, but this is, you can still bring in experts for consults. I mean, consults are definitely even long distance. Sometimes it's super helpful. Are pretty much, it should be all the time. Very helpful. And there's so much access now with internet and zoom and just like, you know, so much that we never had before. And so there's really not a whole lot of reason not to bring on somebody, at least for a one-time consult to say like, okay, how is, how does this look to you? Like, is my horse expressing to me any stress? Cause I mean, there might be subtle forms of communication that your horse is throwing out there that maybe you missed. A really easy one to miss is a state of learned helplessness. And I'm sure you guys that are listening to this that are familiar with therapy stuff and terminology, like that sounds very familiar to you when it comes to humans, but it also applies to our horses too. And unfortunately, a lot of horses out there, domestic horses when it comes to engaging in training sessions and with people they are in that state. And this goes back to, we were talking about earlier, where they have experienced when being around people that they do not have options. They don't have choice, they don't have control of outcomes, so they just need to stand here and tolerate. And so being able to recognize when that's happening is takes training and takes experience. And I, you know, for me and you, I know as well, Julia, we were very, We definitely don't want our horses to be in that state when we're working with them, we want them to be operating on their environment. We want them to be making choices and to be active participants and engaging and not just tolerating this experience. And I would imagine most people listening would are saying the same thing, but sometimes it's hard to recognize that when it's not happening versus when it is, especially based on what we keep going back to is like a lot of our training as horse people in our cultural conditioning, like that's been most like swept under the rug and really labeled as like an obedient horse or a quiet horse or a bomb-proof horse or a family-friendly, you know, husbands safe kind of horse like those we've used these really nice terms to mask what's going on for the horse and from the horse's perspective. And I would not expect most horse people to be able to recognize that that should be a best when you, you know, it's really important to have an educated trainer or a behaviorist, especially a certified one, be able to say like, this is what's going on. And it's hard though. It's hard when you start to realize that's what's going on. If ever that experience happens for one of you guys listening, like the emotional part that comes along with that realizing that's what's going on for your horse, it's really hard. And so that's the other role that we can take is supporting you through that and realizing that's what's going on and then helping you make that transition for the horse and helping the horse out of that into, not just a more we'll call it like an awake state or an engaging state or a willing state, but also making that transition safely because there's some unsafe ways to do it in some more safe ways to do it.
[01:05:11] Oh my gosh. Yeah, absolutely. I imagine that, you know, it could be really powerful too have programs that are hard doing this work to be able to feel safe enough to ask the question, like, is there anything about my facility, even just small changes in where one fence is, or how I, my routine, or the way lead my horse that could have any impact on their felt sense of safety, their ability to choose, you know, et cetera. And I think sometimes maybe we, we want to start with like the training and this might be a conversation for another time where, you know, sometimes it's hard for us to talk to each other about what type of training we do. But my gut is like, let's take it back even further and like talk about like, how can we set up the environment to be one that is safe, where we're not being set up to have to be aversive or punishing to the animals that we're working with. And then we can keep our clients safe too. That feels like a really great place to start. And then there's experts like Adele that you can call up and be like, can you look at my facility through my phone? And then like, tell me what you think. So that's exciting that like we're moving in that direction and the information is out there.
[01:06:30] And again, coming back to that compassion part, when the shame comes up or the emotions come up around, like maybe my horse is experiencing learned helplessness, or maybe I have done it in this way in the past, and that's been harmful and now I want to change it. Creating some space for that growth, you know, and giving ourselves time to do that. Do that growing, I think is super important.
[01:06:53] We've we've talked on and off about how there needs to be services offered for horse people that are making transitions in their training to be like therapy sessions, or we can talk about it and work through because there's a lot of grief and shame that comes with that. And just the processing of that information and acknowledging what was happening and, you know, even unintentionally, it just, it happens. And now what do we do with that? And now how do we move forward? That, that is a huge step and it's a, it's a big. Yeah, this would be a whole nother episode. So we're not going to go into this too much, but that's a lot of what I do when I'm helping my clients transition and learn about some transition into doing something new with their horses and learning. I mean, just learning about horses, how they communicate stress and recognizing calming signals and displacement behaviors and signs of stress like that is it takes off the rose colored glasses and makes the huge perspective shift that can be very overwhelming and bring on a lot of feelings, really strong feelings, and it can be very paralyzing too and prevent people from moving forward. So a lot of what I do is helping clients through that and be able to keep moving forward and be not get paralyzed, but there is so much value to being able to talk about it. And this is where I would say to my listeners, if you're going through that. Talking to a counselor talking to a therapist, you know, getting you are, you are experiencing something that needs to be talked about. And maybe Julia, you could share just a little bit on that and maybe how people could get help for that. And then we'll kind of wrap up there because that could be, we can go on a long time about how for sure.
[01:08:40] I know I could talk for a whole hour about shame, but that's an area that is really near and dear to my heart. And you know, I have so much empathy for folks that do experience that. I mean, I know what that feels like firsthand because I have been. I'm very familiar with shame and, you know, the social justice work I do combined with the horse stuff that I do, there was many opportunities to experience shame. And so I would echo Adele. You said that it is so valid and worthwhile to seek out support and that could be support from a counselor or therapist or could be support from a really trusted friend. You know, when we feel shame, we tend to assume or feel like we bad in some way, and that can be really detrimental to moving forward and to change. When we can feel a sense of, we did something and we didn't like how we did it and we feel bad about it. In other words, maybe we feel some guilt, but we can stay in the experience that, that doesn't change our self-worth. I think that's really powerful and that's where a lot of movement can happen, but the greatest antidote to shame is empathy. And if you find that through therapy or counseling, or you find that through somebody that you love and trust that's really, really powerful and can help be a motivating factor to continue. And to be less paralyzed, we call it in kind of the social justice world, like keeping that foot on the gas pedal, like let's not stop, but also really take into account that a lot of the experiences that come up when we start to see things differently can be super overwhelming and we need support and community around that.
[01:10:31] And that's, I guess the other thing that I would say that like, you cannot do this alone and you're not meant to. You know, there's lots of, I think, reasons why we need each other through that, especially if you're experiencing shame. So that'll be my plug for getting and getting support and empathy if you're experiencing shame, but also to normalize it, like it is so normal. You know, as an, a universal human experience, we just don't want to stay in there for very long.
[01:10:58] Yeah. I mean, I've definitely experienced it with my own. I've talked a lot about it on this podcast. My episodes and a lot of my old practices and how I've changed and my thinking and ways of doing things is always evolving. And you know, it's not like there's not even necessarily like a before and after or a, this is, you know, I was a bad horse person and now I'm not like I make mistakes on a daily basis. And so it would be very easy to get stuck and to not want to move forward and feel paralyzed and then to feel a lot of shame and guilt and all that. And I do, I'm not saying I don't, but it's been very helpful. Our conversations we've had together and also different resources I've found and stuff. Just to keep realizing that like, like you said, that was a really good analogy. Like keeping your, what is it, keeping your foot on the gas pedal? Just keep moving forward. Like let's keep going. Let's just keep going. Keep making progress. Yeah.
[01:11:49] Well, awesome. Well, thank you so much, Julia. This has been such a wonderful conversation. So much, there's so much content here. And like, I really want to just keep going off on tangents, but I think this is a good stopping point for this episode. And we'll have to have the follow up one on dialogue and being able to have empathy for each other. I really want to expand on that. Would you mind sharing with my listeners, how people could reach out to you and learn more and maybe even any recommended resources, if there's someone on the top of your head, like a book they could pick up or something just some of your favorites. I don't know, I'm kind of putting you on the spot, but just anything.
[01:12:25] So you can always find me at my website. It's just Julia Alexander counseling.com. It is under construction. So you'll find some like blog posts that I've written and then my email address. It's a little sparse other than that, but stay tuned.
[01:12:39] And then, you know, as we're kind of on the topic of shame and, and. I think the Brené Brown books are a really lovely introduction. They're usually pretty quick reads too great on audible. So I would highly recommend any of her writing around that, around that topic. And then Adele, I can send you some other resources as they come to me and then maybe you can kind of post them on the the notes or whatever and keep it from looking.
[01:13:07] Yeah, absolutely. And you're on Instagram as well, right? That's just Julia Alexander counseling, right? I think it's Julia Alexander underscore LCSW. Okay, cool. Well, I can put that in the notes as well. So for you guys listening, if you want to check out the notes on this episode, there will be a lot of resources that are linked as well as Julia's contact information.
[01:13:27] Well, thank you Julia so much. We're going to wrap up here and I really enjoy talking. Same. Thank you.
[01:13:33] thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast episode, I would love if you left us a review on wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you'd like to learn more head to our website, the willing equine.com, where you'll find a bunch of links to our different social media platforms. We have Instagram, TIktok YouTube, Facebook, pretty much everything.
[01:13:57] We also have our blog, our training services and the TWE academy where you can enroll in the foundation course that opens a few times a year. Thanks so much for listening and I look forward to chatting with you in the next episode. .