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Learning to Take the Lead
Mercy stood quietly as the woman next to her burst into tears. She stayed centered and calm as the words tumbled out of Susan’s mouth. The unspoken fears about parenting that Susan had been struggling with made their way to the surface. It was a profound moment for her. A moment when those nagging feelings of dread, hurt, and fear expressed themselves in words for the first time. Through the tears, Mercy was her rock as she held this sacred space for Susan, who finally said out loud what her body and emotions already knew.
Mercy isn’t a therapist, but people still tell her about their fears, struggles, and wounds. She doesn’t speak English, but has no problem communicating clearly. Although she doesn’t hold any licenses or certifications, she’s highly qualified to help the people who come and see her.
Mercy is a horse.
For thousands of years, horses have been used to get from point A to point B. It’s only recently in human history that we’ve acknowledged they have so much more to offer. Horses have very acute senses and are keen observers. Although they do not speak any human language, they are experts at reading body language, including ours. As a prey animal, they have one of the fastest reaction times of any land animal. This translates into honest feedback, as a horse does not have the ability to lie. Their survival depends on the strength of the group and their number one need is to feel safe.
For the horse, whether wild or domestic, a specific law is followed. That law says there must always be a leader. Horses establish a natural hierarchy among themselves and use the strength of the herd to look out for predators, support each other, and raise their young. A lone horse out in the wild is called lunch, and it knows.
With all its senses tuned for survival, the horse can only live in the present moment. Unlike humans, it won’t reminisce about the past or worry about the future. Instead, it listens to every sound around it, even the sound of a human heartbeat near it. It is watchful of its surroundings and the mood and energy of those around it.
At Take the Lead, we bring all of this together in an immersive experience between horses and humans, specifically, Moms who are raising children with special needs. These Mothers are usually the main support, advocate, and caretaker of their children. However, they are often burning the candle at both ends while trying to take care of everyone else. Our horses are here to offer some support and encouragement by just being themselves.
As Susan discovered, interacting with Mercy allowed her to verbalize what she was struggling with. All the energy her mind and body had been using to suppress this struggle had been diverted into staying aware of the huge animal beside her. That was all it needed for the real issue to make itself known. This then gave Susan a choice: she could acknowledge it, or she could deny it.
In the end, that’s what this relationship comes down to. A horse will always be their honest selves, and if we want to earn their trust so they feel safe enough to let us lead, we must be honest with ourselves too.
In this program, there is no riding. There is no therapist. There’s just horses and humans working together through obstacle challenges and puzzles. We talk about life issues, we talk about struggles, and through our experiences we learn about ourselves and our relationships.
My intuitive mare, Mercy, is retired now, but the impact she made on the lives she touched will go on. The work she started will continue here at the Warm Beach Camp stables. This haven has not only become a place for growing and learning, but for healing as well.
I truly hope this program will be a blessing to the community and look forward to bringing this experience to some amazing Moms.
-Sarah Rivera, Take The Lead Owner and Operator