Equine partners: mind body and soul

Last May, I was in France co-facilitating a retreat.  One of our truly amazing daily adventures was a trail ride.   I hesitated joining in.  I had been so allergic yet equally in love with horses when I was in my teens.  When I would visit my great aunt and uncle in the Okanagan, I would come into contact with horses on the farm next door and go for annual trail rides.   If I spent too much time in contact with horses, I would be knocked out for the day in bed hardly breathing with terrible hay fever.  Since my teens, I’ve kept my distance.

But how could I pass up on a once in a lifetime opportunity to ride in the French countryside?  Allergy meds have improved in over 20 years, right?

When I met my horse for the day, Desperado, we bonded immediately.  And I didn’t sneeze.  Yay.  It was really one of the most beautiful moments of the retreat and the most life affirming moments of my year.  While walking the gorgeous trails, I just closed my eyes and trusted him, breathed into my belly and felt some of the intense and historic stress and trauma in my body melt off my bones.  I knew as soon as I got back to Toronto, I’d have to start taking lessons.

I searched around at different stables and most of the lesson times didn’t work for my schedule or the lessons in the city were extremely expensive.  I couldn’t afford private lessons either.  Well lucky me.  I ran into a very generous woman I know who boards her retired police horse, Lincoln, just north of Oshawa and was willing to let me ride him.  On weekend mornings, it takes just an hour to get there.   The owner of the property, Karen Goranson, was willing to coach me.  As it worked out, Lincoln has had to take it easier in his ‘older’ age but Karen has graciously let me ride her very well trained and loved horses.  When I’m there, I’m the only one riding.  It’s quiet, focused and so personalized to me.  I lucked out.  It’s a much different experience than being at a busy stable with horses who are ridden all day.

I’m quite happy to share that Karen is taking more students.

Her contact is: karengoranson11@gmail.com or (905)925-9834

Here are some pictures of Karen’s property.   It’s even prettier in person!

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Here’s some words from Karen about what she does:

“Ever since I can remember, I have had a deep connection with animals. I spent many of my younger years fostering injured or orphaned wildlife believing that I was the one healing them. It wasn’t until I made the transition to working with horses that I realized that they, in fact, were the ones healing me! Horses have an integrity of spirit that I have had yet, to experience with any other living creature. Each relationship is based on mutual, earned respect. Horses truly mirror us and because of their purity we let go of negativity and destructive behavior. We learn to become the best version of ourselves!! Not only is my relationship to horses one of love and kinship, we are also partners in different disciplines of equestrian riding. I train and compete in the art of classical dressage, which in essence, is a form of equine gymnastics. Every subtle movement of my body, every shift of balance effects my horse. I move with him in harmony and balance while creating positive energy. This fluidity creates unity – whereby I can ultimately “dance” with my horse! I also train and compete in Hunters which, in essence, is jumping over a series of obstacles while maintaining an equal rhythm and balance. Aside from the gratification of learning to harness the power and grace of these beautiful creatures, I do not know of another sport in which one’s “equipment” captures our hearts like those of our equine partners! Riding truly pushes us past our self-imposed boundaries and challenges us, mind, body and soul. The magic is that this transformation occurs without any sense of awareness because, aside from everything else ….. riding is just so much fun!!”

Here’s Cirrus, an Arabian.  He’s so sensitive and gentle.  I feel privileged when he grooms me back and softly nibbles at my clothing.  The best.


Here’s me with Rocky, feeding him treats for the camera.   He is truly a gem.  So patient with me.  I feel so safe on him.


Karen speaks my language.  For example today she asked me, “How does his energy feel”.  I could sense Rocky was frustrated and it was in direct response to how I was holding my own body and tensing it up in trying to get him to move faster.  The tuning in happens repeatedly in a lesson.  She lets me feel my way into figuring how to post on the right lead.  Just the right amount of instruction, not too much, which is the hallmark of any good coach.  She has immense respect for horses and all animals.  She’s teaching me it’s not about controlling them and dominating them, it’s about leading them and partnering with them.
There’s a term in trauma focused healing called, co-regulation.  When we are chronically stressed or traumatized, our bodies get out of their natural physiological rhythm and it’s hard to attune with other people and move into healthy social engagement.   Learning how to be with and ride a horse is all that and much more.  It’s about feeling moments of pure flow, mind body and spirit completely integrated but also in relation to another sentient being.
I didn’t plan on this being about learning for work, but in what I do, learning about myself and through my own body and experience always ends up filtering into what I do.

Here’s a little video of me after just two months of lessons with Karen. Relaxed, focused, joyful.  Isn’t that what we all want to be more often?

Contact Karen Goranson for more information about lessons:

karengoranson11@gmail.com or (905)925-9834

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