A small group of HSPs join a small herd of highly sensitive horses & heal.
Join Elaine Aron and Alane Freund for their trademarked and favorite all time retreat: HSPs & Horses™ in Northern California at Heart and Mind Equine.
We start on Friday at 4pm, spend the day together on Saturday, and gather again on Sunday for a half day, finishing up between 1 and 2pm. (Try to be here and/or off from work for an extra day or two on both ends for self care and rest if you possibly can.)
Are you sick and tired of the stress and worry that is just part of modern life? Part of you loved the fact that people had to give you space during the pandemic. Part of you became too isolated. And, many HSPs are still very thoughtful about how to engage with the world.
All in all, it amounts to needing a RE-set. Our herd of highly sensitive rescue horses are gifted at helping HSPs find their authentic path. Come and heal your heart, embrace your sensitivity, and join an intimate community of your people.
Some HSPs are feeling ambivalent about moving into the world again and need a gentle path. If you were going to choose a retreat, this is as good as it gets. Small group, all outdoors, and you get to find your own Airbnb in the small village community.
We are an easy drive to Samuel P. Taylor State Park and Roy’s Redwoods Preserve, and a half an hour from Pt. Reyes National Seashore, so you might want to add a few days. Of course, for the high sensation seekers, we have San Francisco just 40 minutes away. If you aren’t HSS, ignore the SF part.
HSPs and HORSES™ WORKSHOPS OVERVIEW
You will join four to seven horses, only on the ground (not riding), who are specially trained for this work, plus three facilitators and support staff.
Alane Freund is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Equine Specialist; Elaine Aron is your HSP consultant, and a licensed clinical psychologist; and introducing Marilee Donovan, RN, certified Grief Educator, and certified Equine Specialist.
What is Equine Assisted Learning?
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. 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.
This 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 an HSP.
Will I be riding horses? Do I have to have some experience with horses?
The HSPs & Horses™ 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 a 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.
How do I register?
Click the green Register Here button at the top of this page. After registration, you will receive an additional link to complete a questionnaire and sign some paperwork.
Based on our experience, we recommend you register sooner than later, as the spots generally fill up quickly.
What about refunds?
If, for some reason, we have to cancel the course, you will receive a full refund.
This is important to know: If you have to cancel at the last minute, you will receive a refund (less $150 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, with such a small course we obviously cannot refund any of your payment.
Where are the workshops held?
Our HSPs & Horses workshops are held at Heart and Mind Equine in a beautiful forest in a small rural community called the San Geronimo Valley in Northern California.
Woodacre, the town in Marin County where the workshops are hosted, is about 40 minutes northwest of San Francisco, and approximately an hour drive from either the San Francisco or Oakland airports.
There are local accommodations in the form of a small inn and Airbnb/VRBO rentals, as well as larger inns and hotels in neighboring communities of Fairfax, San Anselmo, and San Rafael. There is even a campground in Samuel P. Taylor State Park, about 15 minutes from the barn.
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.
We think 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.
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.
You will in effect become part of a herd of horses and humans for a weekend, where each of our unique sensitivities and histories will be better appreciated in relation to the others.
Another reason for horses: They are powerful, beautiful animals. They carry archetypal meanings, from conquest, brute strength, and even terror, to gentle, loving companionship, and trustworthy partnership. We meet many HSPs who 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, you will also be in an HSP focused environment for a day, which is always empowering. Inevitably you will find that you are working on issues common to other HSPs, such as confidence, leadership, teamwork with other HSPs, clear communication, and anxiety about whether you could be hurt or are “doing it right.”
What will the days involve?
The group will start with an observation activity, beginning to get to know the horses and each other. Next, and at other times throughout the weekend, 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 plenty of breaks. During part of meal breaks you are free to eat with others or wander off to eat alone and reflect. At a couple points, there will be an optional Q&A with the facilitators. The weekend will offer many opportunities to interact with the horses, usually focused on what has come up within this particular group.
By the way, your contact with facilitators will be a quiet one. You can ask us questions at lunch if you like, but none of the three of us will “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 Alane’s website that she also practices equine assisted psychotherapy. Is this workshop a kind of psychotherapy?
Emphatically no! Heart and Mind Equine’s work places an equal emphasis on education and leadership, often doing workshops for corporate teams. Although personal issues will inevitably come up, this workshop is about exploration, learning, and growth. 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.
How should I dress?
As if for a gentle hike–hiking shoes (closed toes a must), clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, and a hat.
What should I bring?
A water bottle and 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. Heart and Mind Equine has lots of comfy chairs and cushions, but you are welcome to bring your own if you like.
What about food?
Snacks (lots of them) and Saturday lunch will be catered, with gluten-free and vegetarian options. At registration you will have a chance to choose sandwiches or salads from a local deli for lunch, and they will be delivered. Many people have found the lunch to be big enough to serve as dinner, too.
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 hold the workshop on a rain date or use an indoor arena part of the time.
Elaine Aron writes about her experience of one of our early
HSPs & Horses™ retreats:
Here’s my memory of one of our early HSPs and Horses™ weekends. At 9:15 or so, when the participants arrive, the morning is cool. The corrals are sunny and quiet with six waiting horses. Inside the circle of Douglas Fir and Bay trees, where we will talk and have lunch, it is still chilly. But hot tea and sweet treats (including something gluten free) are waiting……..read more here.