German Hosted Military Equine Therapy Retreat 2022

You might have read “Saying Yes to Life Anyway” a testimonial from one of our veterans and his wife about the event I would like to share.

Being in Gunnison, Colorado, I had a very meditative hike sitting at a beautiful waterfall and  finally being able to put some words together to describe an absolutely amazing perspective changing experience. If you know the lyrics of Garth Brooks famous country song “The River”, you will know where I am coming from, and why I was inspired by the rushing water heading over a steep cliff showing beauty but also presenting the danger it can cause. Garth Brooks uses the analogy of a river to describe life. (If you do not know the song lyrics, I will place them at the end).

Just a few weeks ago, I was in Germany. I had flown back from Colorado for our very rewarding and unique event with the German “Bundeswehr” (military services). Like last year, we worked with individuals and their families suffering from the consequences of deployment. For events like this you want your best team on board, and I feel blessed and honored to say, I work with the best! The leadership team is the most flexible I have worked with, the support team is the most hard working and creative I have seen. That and the horses and families made it so incredible.

We arrived at a lovely horse hotel 2 hours away from Prague in the German high hills. Alex and Eli’s horses already peacefully grassing in the fields- all horses get turned out every day. It was a staff planning evening without participants yet. For the second time, we were going to foster our German US relationship by inviting a US family stationed in Germany like last year. Unfortunately, we had not heard anything back from the US organizational side and expected that this year maybe it was not happening- after phone calls and much arrangement from all involved, we were surprised to find out we would actually have two families and both would bring their dogs as well. Thank goodness the team and hotel were flexible, really organized and made things work. Schedules had to be reworked, hotel rooms had to be begged for, extra horses had to be planned- late night planning as you might imagine suddenly adding an extra 7 people to the program- but because of an extraordinary team- it all worked out!

And what a week it was! Two days full playdates and teambuilding with everybody, individual, couple, and family interventions, Movement Method activities for kids and teens and families, and on top, observers from the military leadership, foundations, and German government trying to understand our work and value for the participants. During lunch breaks and evenings, we would present the background knowledge to them, while during the day we serviced the needs of participants.

Magical work happened. To have families and couples for 7 days, you build relationship, get to know them, they become friends and partners to fight the battle against suffering and trauma. What makes me go back every year is the changes we can see through the work.

One little girl was very shy. She was there just with her dad because mom had to work. She would not even come into the arena, seemingly scared of crowds but also scared of the animals. Long story short, through a lot of baby steps, second to last day we could get her on a horse for two steps- when she wanted off- we took her off right away- never any pressure. When her special person came by- the chaplain’s wife who build a connection with her during meal time, she wanted to show what she could do (very proud) and hopped on for about 20 more steps…the last day she rode for 90 minutes and still did not want to get off. Dad had the biggest smile- body language was more relaxed and tensions almost seemed to have disappeared- he was filming and had tears in his eyes.

We had families reconnect and couples reunite working through issues through communication with the horses. Of course, the horses and nature were the real support. The team were facilitators and planners. We learned so much from each other and it was a week of working through issues but mainly about healing and connection, a true blessing for everybody involved. Many more stories could be told which are heartwarming and mind blowing, but it would exceed the frame of a blog- just chat with one of the team when you next see them. One thing, we all realized how essential it is to have a toolbox available with all kinds of different approaches, be it O.K Corral, Movement Method, Horse Boy, ATHENA, Heart Math or whatever else might help- it is important to have the background to pick people up where they are at.

 

The River by Garth Brooks

You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin’ as it flows
And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what’s behind you
And never knowing what’s in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores


And I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry


Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away
‘Til what we put off ’til tomorrow
It has now become today
So don’t you sit upon the shoreline
And say you’re satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance that tide


And I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry


There’s bound to be rough waters
And I know I’ll take soome falls
With the good Lord as my captain
I can make it through them all


And I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Lord, I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Yeah (Garth Brooks- The River)

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