A Different Path

Initially intending to operate a private Hanoverian breeding farm, with the goal of producing Olympic quality horses, we quickly expanded our herd to include Holsteiner horses, and had soon built up beautiful herd of 12 exceptional mares, and had delivered 25 foals in a short amount of time.


The birth of each foal was a joy, the essence of life was before us with each birth, but after a few years, we had a growing concern, not only for the market conditions, but for what kind of life these animals would have when they left the farm.  Who would the owners be? Would they care about and try to do the right things for the horses? Or were they just wanting the horse for their own ego? It seemed like there was something more that needed to be done, but at first I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.


It was at a point where many breeding businesses were in financial trouble, due to the down turn in the economy, that I was drawn to investigate other options for the herd to generate income. What work could we do, if breeding was not a good idea?  So in the process of searching – and through the “Law of Attraction”- I discovered the field of EFL (Equine Facilitated Learning), and began to read about how horses help humans in many different ways. In the process, I discovered Epona Equestrian Services and the work of Linda Kohanov, Carol Roush and others  - and soon began a year long quest to become an Epona Instructor.


My drive to learn more was also inspired because of a special mare named Kappuccino, and further reinforced this summer by another mare named Nele, who lost her dear foal at term.


Kappuccino was purchased from a breeder in California, and had never trailered long distances before. When she arrived, she was stressed from the trip, and was very shy at first. She seemed not to trust me, but in time we built a relationship based on love and mutual respect, and the connection ran deep. But Kappuccino had a gentle, sad eye that seemed to carry a message. Every time I walked by her stall, I wondered, “What is that message behind the beautiful dark horse’s eye – what is she trying to tell me?”


After quite a while – in fact a few years time in contemplating this, and not having what I felt was the advantage of being an animal communicator, I came to realize it seemed that Kapp was trying to say something like this, “You are forcing us to have foals, and we are sad, because they will only be taken away.  We can offer you so much more than our foals…”


From Nele, I learned not to run from uncomfortable emotion. I learned that horses grieve loss, just as we do, as I stood with her in silence as she stood in her stall in the vet hospital, after enduring an emergency Cesarean delivery performed to save her life. I later learned this was the same day that Linda’s horse, Tabula Rasa transitioned into the spiritual realm which some call “Otherworld”.  I had never realized to what extent I could physically feel emotion resonating from another being until that day.


So now, several years since we began, we have chosen to take a break from breeding. Yes, we will breed a few – but not as before. We raise our horses in families now, and the foals, once weaned are turned back in with their dams, and horses of various ages are together, in large pastures. As long as there is peace, we let the young horses live within the herd. Additionally, we do not allow a young horse to leave the herd until the confidence it needs to move on has been well established. This usually happens somewhere between age 2.5 and 3.5. 


We train thoughtfully, and sensitive to the horse’s emotions using a balanced approach – to build a healthy mind, body, and spirit. We engage the mind of the horse through relationship, and variety in the work. In this way, we a foundation for future success from the ground up. Later training is less stressful on both horse and human, and the horse is confident in its job.


With the training offered through our Epona Workshop series, and our other services, we now are in a much better place to offer tools to help clients deepen their relationship with their horses – and that work translates quite nicely to improved relationships with other humans!


One of my favorite quotes that I found in Linda’s book, Riding Between the Worlds, expresses to me what a horse might “say” to us when we approach the horse with the expectation that we will help, train, ride, or otherwise interact with it.


"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come, because your Liberation is bound with mine, let us work together"

- The quote is from an unknown Aboriginal Woman, when the European settlers came to Australia to “help/civilize” the indigenous population


So, “training” or “riding” or just being with a horse is a dance – it’s a dialog of connection and boundaries. “Working together” in this dance is inspiring on the deepest level, and for those who are wise enough to seek the connection….it is truly liberating to the heart and soul!


Toni Petersen