My Horses, My Healers Sanctuary

Shelley Rosenberg, author

Book Review in Dressage Today Magazine

Accessing Your Intuition, by Shelley R. Rosenberg, Authorhouse, 57 pages, paperback, and “My Horses, My Healers,” by the same author, written with Beck Andros, Foreword by Linda Kohanov, Authorhouse, 203 pages, paperback.

I believe the outside of horses are good for the inside of man as much as anyone else… OK, probably more so than anyone else thanks to my own experiences. During very stressful times in my life, riding a horse was like a meditation in which I could forget my troubles. I felt so much better during and afterward, it was in a way therapy.

So I read both these books with an already open mind regarding “horse wisdom” books in which horses teach us valuable lessons about what it is to be human, as well as actual equine-assisted psychotherapy which is becoming more available to both rider and non-rider.

The book on “Accessing Your Intuition,” which is new, is along those lines of learning lessons through riding and on-the-ground experiences with horses. It is based on the author’s experiences as an advanced instructor for the well-known Epona Center at Apache Springs Ranch in Arizona, headed by Linda Kohanov, author of “The Tao of Horses.”

At Epona, Rosenberg has offered individual equine experiential learning sessions to American and international clients. These have included passive and active round pen sessions, “reflective riding” and “journey rides.” In these sessions she uses both her background in extensive human therapy and her many years of equine expertise in developing open communication and improved relationship skills between participant and horse which can subsequently be applied to all of life.

Rosenberg was also the herd manager at Epona, maintaining the well-being of the Epona therapy horses which guarantees a very close understanding of the equine psyche as well as body. There are some compelling stories about these therapy horses in this book, which give insights as to how this method works, as well as their histories and how they got to do their work.

At the same time, this is a workbook with ten blank pages in which the reader can write answers and thoughts under the questions asked; “How In Your Life Have You Accessed Your Intuition,” and “Give Examples of How Listening to Your Intuition Has Been In Your Best Interest,” and perhaps most evocative, “When Have You Overlooked Your Intuition.” I filled these out and it was curious how much I learned about myself from these simple exercises and how it inspired me to change.

On the back of the book jacket is a blurb stating: “Accessing Your Intuition will evoke a question we ask our self daily, is this in my best interest? Is this for my highest good? Will this experience help me move in the direction I am wanting my life to go?” Frankly I don’t think too many of us ask ourselves these questions daily, not at all, and perhaps something like this book can help it to be more frequent.

The “Forward” of this book, and I take the alternative spelling to the conventional “Foreword” to be a positive Freudian slip, is written by Teresa Bennett Pasquale, a trauma therapist, registered yoga teacher and integrative mental health professional. She writes that “those of us who have gone to dark places know best how to find the way out, ” referring to Rosenberg as “someone who has experienced some of the most acute pain a human can feel, the pain of trauma in childhood, and has found the resilience in herself and her bond with horses to come back ten times stronger and twenty times wiser. “ She adds that she grew back into herself, with her horses, by cultivated the knowledge and insight that comes from the intuitive place within the self.

Which brings us to the second book, “My Horses, My Healers,” which was published about five years ago. I opened it and read it through the night, to the very last page.

I first met Rosenberg some 30 years ago, when she was a 21-year old Grand Prix dressage rider. I was so impressed by her accomplishment that I wrote an article about her.

I figured great things were going to be in her future, and sure enough, she became a USDF “L” graduate, continues to provide lessons and training for horses up to the Grand Prix level, actively judging, training and competing in dressage in Arizona. She has under her belt those 30 years of experience training horses and teaching riders in western, jumping, dressage, hunter and driving. She successfully has competed for the long list on the U.S. Olympic team, and even while doing all this, she co-led and implemented the adolescent care and therapeutic riding program at Sierra Tucson in the 1980s, a forerunner of her Epona Center work.

But it never occurred to me she had this kind of story to tell and a very courageous telling it is. It begins heartbreaking story of sexual abuse at the tender age of two by a family member. No one spoke up for her, and she was forbidden on pain of death not to tell… until at the age of 12 she discovered the healing power of interacting with horses and she was able to remove herself- sometimes through self-destructive means, hurting herself through accidents to “protect” herself, not an uncommon defense by the abused.

She graduated from high school early and at the age of 16 became a working student in the horse industry. Because of the background of her childhood, she fell, time and time again, into abusive situations. These ranged from being cheated out of the daily lesson she was supposed to get as payment for her chore to sexual exploitation by the boss’s husband. She was too young, unconsciously programmed to just do what she was told. As she rose to the top of the game, she still had to endure injustices that included physical abuse, and despite her talents, constant setbacks and losses.

While what she went through would likely destroy many of us, and send us back to the secretarial pool, Rosenberg transformed her experiences into a protocol for self- healing through her interactions with horses, as she calls them, her healers. It is a dramatic and triumphant story- one which many young women in the industry have read and consequently contacted Rosenberg to tell of similar situations.

Here is what the jacket blurb on this book says and I can put it no better: “For riders of all ages, for anyone who has experienced alienation from their own human kind in their days, for anyone who loves horses- this book resonates with the good that can come from watching horses and humans interact and teach one another about the language of direct communication, feelings, and healing through truthful speaking of our emotions.”

This is so powerful a book I am frankly surprised it has not gotten more exposure and publicity. But I believe it is one of those brave books that constitutes a breakthrough in telling the truth about a dark secret in the horse world.

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