All Creatures Big and Little

Quinn petting Penny.jpeg

Why Big Horse?

When I was considering what to call my business, I landed upon the name Big Horse Therapy and Learning Center. The name “Big Horse” ties into the idea that connecting with something greater than ourselves—a large, furry horse; an awe-inspiring mountain; a favorite tree; a community of supportive people—helps us find additional strength and resources.

One of my favorite client stories is that of a woman who—when faced with a challenging out-of-state visit with relatives—donned a cowboy hat and rented a white SUV to remind her of time spent with Goose, one of our enormous and exceptionally affectionate therapy horses. When she found herself getting frazzled, a glance towards her hat and the behemoth parked outside helped her ground and reconnect with what was most important to her. In the end, she reported that the visit was a success, that she was able to avoid falling into old patterns, and that she felt powerful enough to hold her own boundaries with grace.

The arrival of new life in the spring also shows us of the power of small things. Biologically-speaking, we mammals are wired to be attracted to babies. Their large features and curious sounds draw caregivers in—something I am reminded of when my newborn son’s darling gestures or fleeting smiles break through my haze of sleepiness during a nighttime feeding or diaper change.

The cuteness of baby humans and animals helps them get the life-preserving attention they need, even in the middle of the night. But babies don’t just look good. They feel good, too. Feeding, grooming, and other nurturing activities are enjoyable for caregiver and child alike. These activities increase production of oxytocin, the “cuddle” hormone that reduces anxiety and stress by slowing heart rate and blood pressure. This slowing down helps the caregiver drop out of the goal-driven left brain and into the more connection-oriented right brain.

Getting to know my newborn son during these first weeks, I am constantly reminded of what it means to slow down and be present for connection. When I sneak away to make a meal or send an email, my son Quinn of course notices. But what is shocking is that even when my mind wanders elsewhere as I hold him, he notices. When I bring my attention back to him, I often hear him take in a big breath of air and then sigh, the release shuddering softly through his body.

In similar ways, horses great and small draw in our attention. Through their cuteness and their size, their power and vulnerability, and the “unpredictable” way they respond to the environment, they insist that we remain with them in the here and now. In this way, they are wonderful meditation teachers, helping us to leave behind the fears of the future and the misdeeds of the past and to open up to the perfection of the present moment.

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