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Harnessing Hope on World Cancer Day: Transformative Equine Facilitated Learning Sessions

Medicine Horse offers six-week Equine Facilitated Learning groups for women impacted by breast cancer at no cost. We also have a new group specifically for individuals living in Weld County who are impacted by any type of cancer.

Keep reading to learn more!

Michael Mahoney, Therapy Intern at Medicine Horse

Michael Mahoney

As a therapist intern, I have helped facilitate groups for women impacted by breast cancer a number of times. Our participants' unique stories and personalities have made each group singular. Women come to us at different stages of their lives and of their breast cancer stories. Some connect with us because of a lifelong love of horses; others meet horses for the first time on our ranch. Some are plugged into rich--and sometimes complicated--support systems; others are navigating their journey alone. Yet, certain truths seem to endure across the seasons from one group to the next.

We can trust our animal co-facilitators.

At Medicine Horse, we consider our animals--goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, and our two barn cats--to be part of our therapy team. This approach does not require magical thinking or specialized training. Our animals are given lots of choices, and they're naturally sensitive to our energy and intent. They respond to us nonjudgmentally and in ways that gently teach us about ourselves. When we accept and outwardly express our inner states- something we call "congruence"- they tend to draw nearer. When we get lost in our thoughts and stories, they shift too, inviting us back to the present moment. Over and over, I have seen women in our groups become more centered through contact with animals and learn from them about patterns that they want to shift in their own lives, often in the direction of greater self-love.  

A spontaneous and powerful community arises when we create space for it.

The power of our groups is that clients often gain more from relationships with each other than they do from our therapists. We merely offer people the chance to slow down, notice themselves, and make their own choices in the present moment. In that space, we see women share aspects of their struggle that only fellow survivors can understand. They ask for and offer wisdom, affirmation, and acknowledgment. Many return to future groups or remain in touch long after the group ends.

Participants intuitively take what they each need from the group.  

Agency is a foundational value to all of our groups; it is particularly important for women who often feel disempowered and robbed of big and small choices as they cope with breast cancer. We recognize that each participant comes to us for her own reasons, and we trust her to have her own experience in the group. To slow down. To tend to herself. To reflect on her relationships. To love herself through the changes she experiences. To feel heard. To see herself as a leader and guide to others who navigate a sometimes terrifying and disempowering situation. To be ok with not being ok.

At the end of each six-week group, there is that confounding feeling that the members have always known each other and that their time together has only just begun. These precious moments don't solve the hard parts of life, but they do leave an imprint in our nervous systems; they remain as doors leading us back to ourselves. Because of those memories, most of us move just a little differently through the world. This is why we tell our participants that once they've been in our groups, they're now part of the Medicine Horse family.  


Based on the positive outcomes and feedback we have received from our community, Medicine Horse is excited to announce that we are now offering Equine Facilitated Learning groups for individuals living in Weld County who are impacted by any type of cancer. We are thrilled to expand our services and provide support to a wider range of individuals in need. Our therapy approach has proven to be effective in helping people cope with their emotional and psychological challenges, and we look forward to welcoming new members to the Medicine Horse family. These groups will be held in the same format as our breast cancer groups, with six-week sessions offered continuously throughout the year!

We believe that everyone deserves access to quality mental health care, and we are committed to providing that care to those who need it most.


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