Highly Sensitive People and Horses Workshops
Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) will join four to seven horses on the ground (not riding) who are specially trained for this work, plus human facilitators certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association or EAGALA: Alane Freund, who is also a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Monica Zimmerman, our “Certified Equine Specialist,” of Heart and Mind Equine. Elaine Aron, PhD, is our HSP consultant and loves to join the herd for these workshops whenever possible.
What is EAGALA? It has two aspects. One is therapeutic, but this workshop is not at all intended to be therapy. The other, what we will use, is Equine Assisted Learning, the EAL part of EAGALA. EAL is an experiential learning approach that uses horses, not as tools, but as active participants that help to facilitate the learning experience for the human participants. In the case of HSPs, we think that by examining equine behavior, and how the horses may or may not react to us, we can better understand sensitivity and our strengths and challenges in social situations.
The EAGALA method uses a team approach, bringing together an equine specialist, a trained facilitator, and the horses, to assist participants in their own growth experience. Through a collaborative experiential learning process, participants use experience, reflection, generalization, and application to facilitate learning. The equine assisted model helps individuals to learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses and then processing feelings, behaviors and patterns, recognizing how, in this case, these may relate to life as a Highly Sensitive Person.
Why horses with HSPs?
Horses come with as many different personalities, attitudes and sensitivities as HSPs. But because they are prey animals, their acute awareness of everything in their environment keeps them alive. Sensitivity is their greatest asset. They have to be extremely sensitive to each other’s shifting feelings and to everything around them. HSPs will experience their own sensitivity in a new and deeper way by seeing it in another species, where it is a distinct advantage. We might also observe circumstances in which, for horse or human, sensitivity becomes a problem, especially when overstimulated.
Interacting with horses provides the opportunity to gain fresh, honest awareness of our truths. They give us the chance to learn what is profoundly difficult to learn from our human relationships because, unlike most people, horses have no agenda, and they don’t care about our power, position, title, degree, or salary.
Responses to Past Workshops
Our past workshops evoked much praise from the participants. For example:
“To my fellow HSPs who might be hesitant to travel, or to participate in a multi-day ‘group event’…. this workshop is not like any you have ever done before. The schedule, setting, and thoughtful planning were well-suited to HSPs. The support and validation of the group (including the horses), combined with the skills you learn, is priceless. This workshop is absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
“I loved the workshop. I really, really loved it. I thought the EAGALA framework was fantastic.” And as with other all-HSP events, “It was just very validating. Other people were feeling and experiencing things the same way.”
“I would absolutely recommend this workshop to others. It was very powerful in giving a sense of belonging, strength and pride…as well as practical tools.”
“This workshop has been a wonderful experience for me. My skin fits better now. Both the workshop and the setting were a 10!”
“Even if all I got was the point about clear communication, I would highly recommend this weekend workshop. But spending so much time with the horses was a gift. One horse in particular was so patient and beautiful.”
“One of the horses trusted me so much…and I trusted him. It was transforming for me.”
“I liked very much observing the herd of humans and horses. It made me feel comfortable with the overall dynamic.”
“At the workshop I learned trust and boundary setting. I loved how the facilitators focused on the horses as our teachers. I never thought I could learn so much in such a short time…and from these beautiful creatures.”
“Your horses are just amazing and have wonderful personalities. They provided so much support. I loved spending time observing them, petting them, and learning from them.”
“Huge therapeutic value and a peaceful escape. A great place to learn about my HSP trait and how to reconcile my sensitivity in and with my life. My favorite part was the communication and boundary exercise—the biggest of my epiphanies during the weekend.”
“Wow, what a beautiful setting. I enjoyed the freedom to spend so much time with the horses and to be alone whenever I needed. I was really able to take care of myself. I also loved being with other HSPs and that validation I felt.”
“I would really recommend this workshop to other HSPs. It has helped me to realize I’m not alone, and it has given me tools to help me out in life. I loved the time to meditate and my special connection with one of the horses who helped me learn about myself.”
Where are the workshops?
The workshops are held at a small, private horse facility in Woodacre, California, a small town northwest of San Rafael near Point Reyes National Seashore. Woodacre is about 30 minutes from Highway 101 and about 90 minutes from both the San Francisco and Oakland airports. We will provide details for getting to the workshop and accommodations when you register. To register, see below.
How much does it cost?
The cost is $685 for the two day retreats, and $385 for our “daylongs” (continuing education credit for clinicians and nurses is an additional fee.) It includes catered snacks and lunch as well as all facility charges for our beautiful rural setting, and above all the herd of Highly Sensitive Horses (HSHs), and certified and/or licensed facilitators. We like to keep these workshops small and intimate, so they will fill fast.
Will I be riding horses? Do I have to have some experience with horses?
EAGALA’s format involves individuals and groups working on the ground with horses—not riding. You do not have to have any experience around horses. In fact, you may gain more if you have no experience at all with horses, but some appreciation of them would help. You will be in an uncrowded pen with up to six of them, so you can’t be petrified by them, but you do not even absolutely have to touch them. The focus is on your own observations of them and your experience or the group’s experience interacting with them, at whatever distance feels right to you. We’ll do some activities and play a bit—it will not be hard. Here is an insight from a previous HSPs and Horses participant: “I’ve always loved horses, and I am an HSP. What spoke to me the most was recognizing the differences in the horses. They are all sensitive, but they are sensitive in different ways. It helps to see the different ways we humans can be sensitive. I had never looked at horses quite that way—they have a lot to teach people.”
How do I register?
Go to our HSPs and Horses workshop registration form. It will send you to the PayPal button for purchasing the workshops. Complete the form, click on Buy Now, choose the right workshop for you, and you are registered. Based on our past experience, the sooner the better, as the spots could fill up quickly.
If you have questions, please complete the form anyway, including your questions. When you click “Submit,” your questions will be sent to Heart and Mind Equine for an answer. If you wish, you can complete your purchase later after you have answers to your questions.
What about refunds?
If we do not have enough registrants, we will cancel the course, and you will receive a full refund. This is important to know: If you have to cancel, you will receive a refund (less 25% processing fee) only if we are able to fill your spot. That would require our having a waiting list, which is likely to happen, but the sooner you let us know, the more likely we would be able to fill your place. Otherwise, given the limited space available in our workshops, we are unable to offer refunds; please plan accordingly.
Again, why horses with HSPs?
Besides being prey animals and highly sensitive in order to survive, horses are powerful, beautiful animals. They carry archetypal meanings, from conquest, brute strength, and even terror, to gentle, loving companionship and trustworthy partnership. Many HSPs especially appreciate horses at this level. At the same time, horses are social, love to play, and are always completely honest in their reactions and behavior, things HSPs can always learn more about.
On another note, at least in the introductory course you will also be in an only-HSPs environment for a day, which is always empowering. (We will tell you if a workshop will include a non-HSP—for example, a spouse at a couples’ workshop.) Inevitably, you will find that you are working on issues common to other HSPs, such as confidence, leadership, teamwork with other HSPs, clear communication, self care, and anxiety about whether you could be hurt or are “doing it right.”
What will the day involve?
The group will start with an observation activity, beginning to get to know the horses and each other. Next, and at later times throughout the day, we will check in with a group discussion of the personal experiences and observations, focusing on the here and now of the Equine Assisted Learning experience.
We will proceed to various activities with the horses, and then an hour lunch break. During the first part of lunch you are free to eat with others or wander off to eat alone and reflect. There will opportunities for Q&A with the facilitators at different times during the workshop. The afternoons will offer more opportunities to interact with the horses, probably focused on what has come up within this particular group.
By the way, your contact with the human facilitators will be a quiet one. You can ask questions if you like, but mostly we will not “lecture,” only comment or ask questions at times when it seems helpful.
Do I have to be physically fit?
Only as fit as you would be for a gentle hike in nature, although we will not hike. That is, you have to be able to walk over uneven and possibly slippery ground.
I see on their website that EAGALA is also about equine assisted psychotherapy. Is this workshop a kind of psychotherapy?
Emphatically no! EAGALA places an equal emphasis on learning and leadership, often doing workshops for corporate teams. Although personal issues will inevitably come up, this workshop is about exploration, learning and growth. You will have time to reflect and journal about any personal issues that have been stimulated, but your journaling will be for yourself. Please, if you are currently in a crisis, deep into your process in your personal therapy, wanting to withdraw from others right now, or just feeling a little unstable, you should not come. There will be other workshops like this in the future that you might be more ready to attend, or if you are close enough to Heart and Mind Equine, you might opt to try the HSP Empowerment Series (private or group) or individual equine-assisted therapy with the Heart and Mind Equine team.
How should I dress and what should I bring?
Dress as if for a hike–hiking shoes (closed toes a must), clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, and a hat. Bring or wear layers of clothing for variations in temperature during the day. If the forecast is for rain, you’ll need rain jacket and pants, plus waterproof footwear. It is a good idea to bring a water bottle, and we will give you a “What to Bring” list when you register.
What about food?
Snacks and lunch will be catered, with gluten-free and vegetarian options. At registration you will have a chance to choose sandwiches from a local deli for lunch and they will be delivered.
What if it rains?
If a light rain is predicted without cold temperatures we will proceed. Just wear rain gear, but leave umbrellas in the car. If the weather is too inclement, we will have to hold the workshop on another weekend.
What if I have other questions?
Email Monica at email@example.com. She will be happy to answer your questions or find the answer for you.
Questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org