Wounded Healers – Finding Our Sacred Paths Together

Wounded Healers – Finding Our Sacred Paths Together

By Carol Marriott (reprinted from WHOLifE Journal)

“The Wounded Healer is initiated into the art of healing through some form of personal hardship–anything from an actual physical injury or illness to the loss of all one’s earthly possessions. If you have successfully completed the initiation, you inevitably experience an exceptional healing, and a path of service seems to be divinely provided shortly after the initiation is complete. ”

~ Carolyn Myss, Sacred Contracts

While attending a women’s circle in Calgary, Alberta, I met Jane, a woman who shared my passion for horses. She invited me to come out to her farm to meet her beloved old mare and the new additions to her herd.

After meeting her mare and new horse Arthur, my friend introduced me to Arthur’s younger brother Sammy, a seven-year-old Welsh Pony of Cob type. She told me that this horse needed someone to gain back his trust of people. He needed to be gently cared for, brushed, walked, and nurtured, and thought I would be the right person to bring him along.

Sammy responded to my quiet approach and gentle handling. I spent hours sitting on the grass as he grazed beside me. We walked all over the small town close to the farm, getting him used to cars, people, and the various sights and sounds. We played in the round pen and practiced the Parelli method of training where the focus is on love, language, and leadership.

Although I had been horse crazy all my life and had taken many years of riding lessons, I had never cared for my own horse. Through my friend I learned a new way of being with horses. A gentler, kinder way. I watched as she rode her sweet old mare without saddle or bridle, as she jumped over poles and galloped in the fields. I learned to hold the lead rope as if I was leading butterflies. I learned about asking, respect, and release. I had been reading about horses all my life and I had learned many good and important things, but I hadn’t learned that there was a way to work with horses that wasn’t driven by control, submission, and pain.

"Sammy" becoming Raven

“Sammy” becoming Raven

She began suggesting that maybe I would like to buy Sammy. She mentioned this each time I came to the farm and I always said I couldn’t afford a horse. One evening she invited me for dinner and made a list of the costs required to keep a horse. Then she said, “I’ll sell him to you for a dollar!”

Although it was a life-long dream to have a horse of my own, I still couldn’t see how it could happen at this time in my life. I lived in the city. It wasn’t even part of my consciousness that I could afford the care for a horse. I had all kinds of reasons that made it seem impossible. Then one Saturday morning as I was driving to work, I had an awakening. I was listening to the late mystic John O’Donohue reading from his book Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom. His gentle, wise, and comforting voice was my companion on this gorgeous Alberta morning and I felt a deep sense of well-being and joy as I drove through the beautiful countryside.

It was in that moment of blissful reverie that his words went right to my heart. I cannot remember his exact words, but it had to do with living our passions, following our heart, and not ignoring the messages from our souls, but embracing them. I felt a “swoosh” through my body.

Raven in the Light

Raven in the Light

I arrived at the book store where I worked part-time and went straight to the phone and called my friend. The deal was made. I paid her a dollar and she wrote up a receipt. Mine to care for now, it seemed to me that this sensitive little horse needed a stronger name. He was a survivor. He was a teacher. And he was intelligent and wise. I named him Raven.

Well-meaning people did try to convince me to sell him and buy a horse I could ride. The truth is, they couldn’t understand why I would want to keep a horse that was aloof, untrusting, and seemingly unfriendly. Occasionally I would get frustrated and wonder why I would choose this experience. I would feel sorry for myself and wonder why all these people had horses they could ride who were friendly and easy-going. And I doubted my abilities as a horse woman, and worried that I was keeping Raven from reaching his full potential.

When Raven was about 14 years old, I met a horse woman who profoundly changed my approach and understanding of horses. Her name is Barbra-Ann King, author of Opening Consciousness with Relationship Riding.

Barbra-Ann allowed me to see that Raven was not a victim to be pitied and coddled. Instead he was a horse to be admired and respected for his depth of heart, courage, sensitivity, and wisdom. She taught me how to “listen” to him, and to give him his “space”. As I stood with her beside Raven, tears streaming down my face, she gently explained with compassion and gentleness, that the saddle I was using didn’t fit him properly. She also explained said that like some people, he wasn’t comfortable with a lot of touching. As I stood there crying, Raven started to lick, chew, yawn, blink rapidly, and his head dropped low. He sighed, groaned, and released as Barbra-Ann continued to speak for him. On that day I changed how I viewed Raven. I promised to touch him only when necessary, for grooming, foot care, emergencies, etc. I saw him in a new light.

Now Raven is the herd boss at Ravenheart, my little farm in Saskatchewan. He protects his herd of mares in a loving, firm, but gentle way. He exhibits all the qualities of a great leader, and if he was a wild stallion, I know his wisdom, sensitivity, and courage would keep his herd safe.

Raven and I have found our path together. Through Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) we work with people to guide them in awakening to their greatness… whole, equal, and wise beings who, like Raven and I, are seeking wise, understanding, and gentle guides to help us access our own wisdom on the road to awakening.

The Peace of Ravenheart

By Lynne Palmer

 If you are looking for a five-star resort with room service, viagra a hot tub and entertainment in a late-night cocktail lounge…then don’t go to Ravenheart Farms.  If you are looking for something else, prostate something you perhaps can’t quite put your finger on, then keep reading.

Kitty and Mystic

What I find at Ravenheart is – in a word – peace.  Not just the peace of a quiet – almost silent – setting miles away from the chaos of the city (although that is what Ravenheart offers); not just the peace of prairie farmland, rich black soil, soft crops rippling in the breeze like an ocean and a sky as vast as your imagination; not just the peace of exquisite hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower, or thousands of snow geese rising in unison from the golden stubble of an autumn field; not just the peace of an old owl calling eerily from the protective shelter belt of native trees and shrubs that has embraced this land for generations.

What I find at Ravenheart is all that …and more. What I find is peace of spirit, a deep, transformational peace that comes only from feeling connected to source.  I felt it the first time I visited, that winter night walking along the access road, the crisp crunch of dry snow breaking an almost unbearable silence and air so sharp it pierced my lungs with every breath. I felt it as I marvelled at the intensity of stars in the immense black winter night sky.  And I feel it during each subsequent visit as I listen to the meditative rhythm of horses munching sweet hay, as I “work”, cleaning paddocks, digging vegetables, preparing food. I feel it as I sit next to my friend Carol Marriott (who created this amazing retreat) sharing tea from thick pottery mugs, laughing and crying and knowing.

Life at Ravenheart is full of simplicity, but it is not simple. It is harmonious and harsh all at once.  It is, after all, a farm. The blizzard winds blow and the horses still need to be fed.  Another barn cat dies from trauma … from the coyote, the hawk, the owl?  The water trough freezes, the insects bite, the weeds grow, the mud in the paddock turns horse hooves into suction cups.  And yet…there is peace… uncommon and indescribable.

Ravenheart Prayer Flags

Is it the old farmhouse, cosy, creaky, comforting? Does it flow from the meditation altar in my friend’s living room… the small stones lovingly collected and placed gently around bundles of sweetgrass, Buddhist bells, crystals? Is it the prayer flags, the books by spiritual teachers, the aromatic oils, the deck after deck of inspirational healing cards that we pull to receive simple wisdom?  Or is it the vibration of place, an energy we can’t begin to understand rippling from this land, this perfect space….in the middle of …nowhere… Saskatchewan.

I don’t know exactly why or how Ravenheart brings me to this deep place of connection and serenity.  I don’t need to know.  Ravenheart simply is, for me, a place of healing… a place of reflection, discovery, laughter, tears, letting go, absorbing, breaking through and “being” at peace…

If you visit Ravenheart Farms, I suspect you will have your own unique experience of healing and epiphany. I wish that for you and for all seekers who happen upon this very special place.

Primal Fire

Primal Fire

Primal Fire Circle with Sugar

During my participation at Primal Fire and Horses, Spirit and Play I witnessed Carol being a careful facilitator of the exercises in which they use the horses and all other equipment and workshop space.

With Carol’s leadership and guidance, full instructions are given so every being is safe during the drills. Carol has many years of experience with horses and I feel that she knows her herd well enough that if there was a chance of danger, she could sense that.Carol allows the people to learn from their experiences at the farm and she has grace and tact when it comes time to have the participants identify their own information from what the exercises just showed them. She can use her intuitiveness to her advantage while the exercises are being performed and she is always willing to allow spirit to guide her which provides flexibility in the day.

Carol with the Ravenheart Banner

My experience with Carol is always inspiring as she leads with her heart to teach the ones who stand in her presence. She is an exceptional listener which is needed in order to help others learn their own language.Carol has always been the grounding presence for spirit and with her open heart and acceptance of all beings she has created a sanctuary for the healing.  EAL Co-Facilitator Susan´s love for all beings is deeply felt and she is very giving of herself to help others. Susan often speaks of a desire to help children and have that be a part of her life experience.This Duo is extremely powerful and I fully support and endorse their goals and objectives of Ravenheart Farms of helping all people who desire change in their lives while using the horses and farm to do so. Ravenheart offers an opportunity to Saskatchewan and beyond to search for the souls that have gone missing from within us. Love and Light to all!

Ravenheart – Song

Ravenheart – Song

By Andy & Cathy McAnally

Friends gather here and pause
Take in the sacred country charm
Cast your doubts away at Ravenheart Farms
Feel safe, feel wanted, at Ravenheart

And when you go to Ravenheart

Equine delights unfold

Let the horses heal your troubled soul
Feel safe, feel wanted, at Ravenheart

ChorusWhere Mystics go when the full moon shines
With the healing horses we’ll spend our time
at Ravenheart
We’ll gather there with likewise minds
And open our awareness to the Divine
at Ravenheart

She has a vision she wants to share
Feel the love and feel the care
While gathering in the moonlights glare
Feel safe, feel wanted at Ravenheart

Ravenheart is calling me, it’s calling me
Horses don’t judge or presume
So we’ll gather there at the next full moon
Feel Safe, Feel Wanted at Ravenheart

Experiencing Ravenheart & the Horses

Experiencing Ravenheart & the Horses

 Wwoofer feedback from Wwoofer Norman (Scotland)

by Norman McIntyre

Norman by the Prayer Flags

Before arriving at Ravenheart, where I would be volunteering, I had read on the website that EAL (Equine Assisted Learning) courses are offered there. I had worked with horses many years ago, albeit in a very simple way, and was intrigued to be volunteering at a location which offered EAL.

When I arrived, I was here for a few days, observing the horses, but not yet formally making their acquaintance – Carol had instructed me that this is a good experience, to observe the horses first, let them see me, see how I feel with each of them. The ‘getting to know each other’ would come later.

When I was introduced to the horses a few days later, it was an interesting experience. From my previous work with horses, I had learned that every horse (and also all other animals) has its own personality, just like a person. They have their own characteristics, likes and dislikes and, just like humans, may also have preconceptions and prejudices on account of negative experiences from their past.

Here are my impressions of the wonderful equine ladies at Ravenheart – Please note: Flicka & Freya belong to Saskia and Horses In Rhythm, but are very much part of our herd.

 Sarah – is the herd leader. She is shy at times, although always aware of her status as matriarch. The other horses move away when they notice she wants them to. I have observed this kind of behaviour in humans over the years. However, Sarah also has a soft side – she loves back scratches and adores being groomed. As with people, you do not need to be afraid. You just need to show respect to the boss and know how to handle him/her, without compromising your own status in life. Sarah approaches me now regularly, which she was cautious about doing before, and we meet on equal terms – I respect her and she respects me and we get along really well with that.

An important thing I learned from Sarah – no sudden hand movements, i.e. don’t stress. Take it easy. You can be a leader without getting stressed.

Mystic

Mystic – Mystic is much smaller than the others. She lost her mother at a month old and the other horses took her under their wings, or rather manes, so to speak. Mystic has learned how to use her cuteness to get what she wants in life. That may sounds negative, but it is not meant that way. What she lacks in physical stature in comparison to the others, she more than makes up for it with her worldly attitude – Mystic is one street wise gal. She knows how to survive, despite her being the smallest in the herd. You can’t help falling in love with Mystic, getting mad at her persistence soon afterwards, then loving her to bits all over again for her just being who she is and the fact that she just sticks to that – being who she is. She is not intimidated by the other larger horses – she moves in her own space and does not let herself be pushed around. She is sometimes cheeky enough to push the others around. Mystic does not feel small and does not act small. A very important lesson for us humans! Especially for those of us who feel small or feel that we have nothing to offer in life.

Norman and Willow

Willow – She is a quiet, deep healer horse, who you may overlook at first because she does not draw attention to herself, but she is different in a very positive way. I came out of my cabin one morning to find Willow standing there, waiting for me and staring – I could feel that she knew I was not feeling too good that day and I knew she was supporting me and sending me healing. She keeps herself apart from the herd a lot, but usually near the others, but does not draw attention to herself. I took a bit longer to get to know Willow, and there is a lot which I will never know about her, but she is a peaceful rock of support. If you are ever feeling low, Willow will be more than willing to let you hug her and heal again. She is a true giver.

Flicka

Flicka – She is everybody’s friend. She needs to come and check people out, she loves the company and is often first at hand when someone comes or the hay is being distributed. She is a loving horse, has a very loving nature and is always willing to please, but in a nice, comfortable way. Like Willow, she is a giver, she is always there for you if you need a hug. She has a pleasantly curious nature and is always upbeat. Being a very peaceful and calming character is another of her trademarks.

Note – pictured here are Freya and Flicka – owned by Saskia Dockrill. Flicka and Freya are excited to be spending their first winter with Saskia at their lovely acreage L Pine Meadow. Check out Saskia’s wonderful blog here:  http://lpinemeadow.weebly.com/lpine-meadows-blog

Freya

Freya – is a beautiful animal. The way she gently walks, almost majestically. She has an attractively beautiful face  and head. Surprisingly, she is close to the bottom of the pecking order among the horses – I have never seen Freya bully or nip another horse, ever. She takes time to warm to men, which I was told about at the beginning. It is tempting to want to go over to Freya and just shower her in hugs. But, as with humans, we have to respect the feelings and also fears of our fellow Earth inhabitants, be they two- or four-legged, so it is important to give Freya her space, especially as a man, so that she can get accustomed to you, feel your energy and notice that you mean her no harm. She may have had negative experience with a previous owner so it is important to respect her boundaries. Just because we want to hug her, it does not mean that it is reciprocal.

So here again the lesson is not to take it personally, respect other people’s boundaries and when Freya breaks the ice with you, you will be amazed what a loving and beautiful soul she is. After a few days of patience and leaving her to check me out, she started to approach me of her own accord. All I did was consciously send out my intent to connect with her, without any body language pressure for her to be intimidated by, and she accepted my invitation. She regularly approaches me, does not stay very long if I start to stroke her, but she still keeps on coming back. “Slowly, slowly, one step at a time” seems to be the message for us here.

Lacey

Lacey (♥please note: colour is photo enhanced, not dye ♥) – Lacey is a Princess. She does things in her own time, when she wants to. And she does not come up to just anybody. She is a good teacher of the philosophy that even if someone does not always greet you, it does not mean they intend to harm you or that they do not like you. She just happens to be a princess and that is how princesses act. Princess-like. She does not look down on humans or treat them with contempt. She is just a princess and acts accordingly. You can take it personally, or you can just accept her the way she is. Here again, another valuable lesson for us humans. I’m ok, you’re ok.

Sugar

Sugar – Last but by no means least, Sugar. One of the most loving, caring horses I have ever met, with such a beautiful energy around her. She is inquisitive in a healthy way, she will come up and check out what is going on (usually after Flicka has done some reconnaissance work!) and will gently nudge you or even, when she knows you, rub her head on your back or front. She has a big, strong, heavy head so you have to always be present and aware and focus when she is around you (and not only with her, with all the horses) because she means well, she likes people and she is always there for you to give her a hug, especially if you are having a down day – she will give you as much healing energy of hers as you need. If she moves away during that time, again, don’t take it personally. It is very easy to feel a special bond with Sugar.

One important lesson which I have learned from the horses is that they express their feelings as they come up. No sulking in the corner for hours, then coming out with the wrath of a twister to vent their feelings. If they are annoyed at another horse, they will show it. I have seen Sarah put Sugar down and nip her, only to be walking harmoniously along the field with her ten minutes later. No more aggression. They “say” what is on their minds, show it, then get over it. No sulking, no cunningly planning the next act of sabotage like us humans often do. They vent their feelings, don’t take it personally, they know there is always room to be buddies again.

The one incredibly moving factor about a day or a course at Ravenheart is that the animals surround you with so much unconditional love. This is great at the best of times, but especially if you are going through a crisis – small, medium or large – in your life. If that is the case, come to Ravenheart for healing – if one of the horses does not resonate with you, your feelings and your present state of mind, then sure as anything one of the others will. There is something truly moving and spiritual about sharing your sorrows with a horse, even if it is a teary encounter, and just letting the horse stand there and offer you its love and support.

And then there are also the two dogs and two cats, all four brimming over with their own unconditional love which they are more than happy to share with you. They never run out of it and are always near at hand to give you a real strong dose of TLC. All they ask in return is a tummy rub or a lap to sit on. Or even just a good gentle pat, if you would prefer that.

If you come to Ravenheart, I can assure you that you will leave happier and healthier than when you arrived. Some things in life are gradual and need time, so even if you do not leave Ravenheart again singing your heart out (which is also possible), the seed for your healing will have been planted in your subconscious. The animals, especially the horses, will have left their visiting card in your emotional makeup for you to discover, feel, enjoy and profit from in the near future. Believe me. I have experienced this. And it is wonderful.

Ravenheart is a truly wonderful experience which will help you heal, become whole again and grow spiritually and emotionally.

Norman with Sugar, Willow and Freya

Ravenheart Farms

By Karry Ann Nunn

What do you do when you own a wonderfully natured horse named Raven, who is close to unrideable due to the harsh training he had received before he came to live with you?

If you are Carol Marriott, and you have a kind heart and a love for horses and people, you start you very own Ravenheart Farms Equine Assisted Learning Centre & Retreat.

Carol knew that horses have more uses than just riding. She could see that horses have a lot to offer and have a unique way of understanding what people need, sometimes before the people themselves can. Horses live in the moment They don’t bother with the past hurts or worry about what the future might bring. When people spend time with the gentle animals in their own environment and slow ourselves down to the pace of a horse, they are able to dig a little deeper into their hidden parts and see things in a different manner. Horses seem to have an intuition to know just what a person needs and one can come away with a different perspective on life. All by spending a little therapy time with a horse.

Carol saw an opportunity to inspire people to realize their greatness, open their hearts, guide them in the discovery of their highest potential, and provide a place of healing, growth, and spiritual awakening through Equine Assisted Learning/Experiential workshops.
Kamsack is lucky to have Carol bring her wonderful EAL business to the area. She is excited to be able to share her experiences and her horses in workshops. People of all ages and experience are welcome. Since these workshops don’t involve riding the horse, there is no need to have any riding experience to enjoy the wise, quiet wisdom of the horses.

Women and Horses – Exploring the Magical Bond

Horse Love

Women and horses…an intoxicating combination. Why is it that women are so seductively and powerfully attracted to horses? Horses capture our hearts and imagination at an early age. Many women confess to being horse crazy growing up, a desire some of us never outgrow. We may take a leave from horses during university, raising our children or building careers, but as our wisdom years approach, we magically find our way back to horses.

Horses offer us intimacy, deep friendship and partnership, often more so than in our human interactions. In the horse community, strong bonds are often developed between women, as they receive validation from the horses and each other. Women’s affinity for horses can possibly be explained by their many similarities such as a strong intuitive nature, a deep desire for community, harmony, nurturing and feminine characteristics.

Girls and women who have the chance to spend time interacting with horses gain important life skills such as confidence, assertiveness, focus and heightened intuition, all crucial when caring for and riding or handling a 1000+ pound animal prone to fight or flight at any moment. Horses can show us where our strengths lie and where we need to learn more by asking us to set clear boundaries, to be specific and to trust ourselves.

As a young girl I lived and breathed horses. I read every single book on horses I could get my hands on. Walking home from school I was sure I could see hoof prints in the gravel along side of our suburban Montreal neighbourhood, even though in reality there wasn’t a horse for miles. I would spend hours in my backyard setting up jumps and convincing my dog to jump

Attentive Listener

them, pretending of course that he was a horse! Any money I earned from my paper route, babysitting and bottle collecting went towards the $2.00 fee it cost to “rent” a horse for an hour at the riding stable, a two-hour bike ride from home. I rode horses every time I had the chance, which for me, was never often enough. While other children played games on the beach and swam during our yearly summer picnic, I lined up over and over again for the pony rides, begging and harassing the owner to let me lead, pet and feed the horses as just the riding was never enough.

My heart has always been completely lost to horses. I was 18 and working at my first full-time job before I could afford to take formal riding lessons. Even at that young age, I experienced a stillness and focus around the horses that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I could leave everything behind for the few hours of bliss I found at the stable. My riding instructor, Len Weigh, was my hero. After an exhilarating riding lesson through field, forest and stream, I reach up on my tiptoes to remove the bridle from Teddy, a coal black draft/thoroughbred cross, as he gently lowers his head for me. Leading him to the pasture, he waits patiently as I open the gate and release him, rewarding him with an apple or carrot. I watch him shake his lovely head, tousling the mane I had just lovingly combed, and slowly saunter off to join his pasture buddies.

“In any suburban library today, the children’s and young adult’s sections are literally stuffed with horse stories, most of them written for girls. … Women and horses emerge in life and literature as a huge tribe of spiritual sisters.”

As quoted by Mary D. Midkiff in She Flies Without Wings.

Women who share their lives with horses acknowledge that arriving at the barn after a busy and stressful day at work cleanses and restores their soul. Horses accept us as we are, and help us focus in the moment, releasing everything else for the time we are with them.

Horses as Healer

Horses as Healer

“Once I knew only darkness and stillness… my life was without past or future… but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living.”

~ Helen Keller

Based on a recent research study conducted by the University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina, the Youth Solvent Addiction Committee, the White Buffalo Youth Inhalant Treatment Centre, and the Cartier Equine Learning Centre, Canada is an international leader in providing residential treatment to First Nations youth who abuse solvents.

The White Buffalo Youth Inhalant Treatment Centre expanded its programming in September 2005 to include Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), partnered with the Cartier Equine Learning Centre. Located north of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the Cartier Equine Learning Centre is noted as a leader in establishing industry standards in the area of EAL certification and program development.

The study explains that for some First Nations, the horse has historically been viewed with a profound sacredness, just as there is sacredness believed to be in all living things. The horse specifically is identified as having a strong spiritual power. The horse is seen to be a “teller of truth” and desires to do the “right thing.” Hence, it is believed that the Horse as Healer will lead individuals in the “right direction.” A horse’s spirit is believed to be able to assist others in understanding their place in the circle of life”.

While compiling this research, an Elder at White Buffalo shared a story that speaks to the important ceremonial role of the horse to First Nations. As he tells it, when he was a child during World War II, his home community organized a giveaway and powwow for the men and women who were serving in the military. Community members gathered to perform a traditional welcoming ceremony, and the ceremonial animals were guided in. A typically slow and lethargic mare was one of the ceremonial horses, and as she entered the arena, on her own volition she stood on her hind quarters and circled it sideways in a ceremonial horse dance. She became animated, it was said, in response to the intent and spirit of the ceremony. This is one story that illustrates not only the horse’s sacredness and connection to ceremonial activities for First Nations, but also its intuitive nature.

Although the following story is fiction, as an Equine-Assisted Learning Facilitator at Ravenheart Farms near Humboldt, SK, I bear witness to similar stories with clients, and the many stories that are played out daily in treatment centre’s, therapy programs, and in the countless and growing number of practices around the world, where horses are transforming lives and opening hearts.

Sara sits in the circle during a group therapy session at a recovery centre. This is Day 4. Her arms are tightly crossed against her chest, her head is down, she isn’t interested in participating and her anger is palpable. Broken and scarred from battling her short lifetime of substance abuse, addiction and a life on the streets since the age of 9, Sara has somehow found her way to this circle, this centre, this way into the light.

The facilitator encourages Sara to share. She responds with an angry outburst, swearing, shouting and calling insults to the group. Glancing around the circle, Sara watches for the reaction. It comes and is familiar to her. The majority of the group ignores her, some smile politely, or shuffle their feet and pull inwards, and an older tough-looking girl shouts back aggressively, but most skillfully mask their reaction. This is nothing new to Sara. She has been here, done that, many times in her life, with tougher gals than she, and if she had such a thing as her own closet…the t-shirts would be hung there.

Day 5 arrives, and Sara is desperate now. Hurt, angry, lost and alone, and without the numbing effects of chemical substances, her emotional pain is unbearable. As if this discomfort wasn’t enough, the group is standing out in the biting wind of a Saskatchewan fall morning with a bunch of horses! With the group standing inside the round enclosure, a black horse is lead into the circle. Snorting and anxious, with its head held high, it prances nervously around the middle of the circle. The facilitator asks everyone to be still and breathe. Abruptly the horse stops and stands in front of the tough girl from yesterday’s session. The facilitator explains that as prey animals, horses quickly recognize aggressors. The horse stares intently at the girl, nostrils flaring, ears flicking back and forth, and tail swishing vigorously. “Breathe”, says the facilitator. “Step back and breathe deep into your belly”. As the girl complies, the black horse drops his head, blows gently and moves on.

For Sara, a distant memory has been triggered. At home, prior to her parents divorce when she was 9 years old, they had horses on their family farm. Big, gentle work horses. Escaping the tension and anger at home, Sara would spend hours in the pasture with these gentle giants. They would come close and nuzzle her, carefully moving around her as she sat in the grass. Their gentle eyes and quiet munching were soothing and comforting. In the circle now, Sara’s stomach clenches at the memory of her Dad, who was always angry and impatient, and his rough treatment of these gentle beasts. Sara and her mother also knew the weight of his hand.

More relaxed now, the black horse continues to trot around the circle. As he passes Sara, she reaches out to touch him. He moves away. She continues to try and touch him, but he is wary and aloof. Sara knows this feeling too. During the de-briefing session, she is quiet and withdrawn, but intrigued now by the stories she is hearing from the others in the group. The tough gal talks about how she can relate to the horse, always able to spot the “dangerous” ones, and move in on them in self preservation before they could harm her, always alert, defensive and wary.

Day 6. The day is sunny and warm. Sara’s session today is a private one. No audience, just the human and equine facilitators. The human facilitator asks Sara to enter the round pen, where four horses are quietly standing together. They lift their heads and watch as Sara enters the ring. A graceful, bright-eyed yellow mare approaches and softly nuzzles Sara’s face. The others slowly move towards her, and suddenly she is surrounded by soft noses and gentle eyes. Tears roll down her face as she feels her heart open with tenderness. Memories of twin baby girls, birthed by Sara in her early teens and taken from her during the chaos of addiction and life on the streets, now surface gently in her mind. “They’ve come back to me she say’s softly, I can feel my babies are here”.

Horses don’t mask their feelings, smile when they are frightened, or care if you are a drug addict living on the streets. They only recognize where you are in the moment. The presence of horses can bring deeper connection, recognition of inner spirit, and meaning to life’s significant spiritual journeys. For someone like Sara, profound transformation and healing can transpire in a single moment of heart opening connection.

***

Carol Marriott

Centre Recognizes Power Horses Have for Healing

Centre Recognizes Power Horses Have for Healing

Sugar, Willow and Mystic

Sugar, Willow and Mystic

By Jacquie Bergerman
Humboldt Journal staff writer

In November of 2006, Carol Marriott purchased a five-bedroom farm-house on 20 acres near Fulda, 15 minutes north of Humboldt. It was here she established Ravenheart Farms Equine-Assisted Learning Centre & Retreat. (Ravenheart moved location to the Kamsack, SK area in Oct. 2011).

The centre is focused on working with people and horses to “recognize the power horses have for healing,” Marriott stated. Ravenheart Farms is a place where “people can come and reconnect back to themselves, whatever that looks like.” The centre is a place of healing, of getting away from the busy pace of everyday life to re-focus and re-centre. “It is a place where people can find peace, insight, quiet, and healing” and it is dedicated to using a “natural horsemanship approach with respect for the animals,” said Marriott.

Lacey with Carol and Melva

Lacey with Carol and Melva

Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) is a process where horses are engaged in promoting personal growth and emotional healing. Horses are acutely turned in with their surroundings and are able to react to or mirror body language. This biofeedback can teach participants about their strengths and help identify challenges.

To become a certified EAL Specialist, Marriott trained at the Cartier Equine Learning Centre, located north of Prince Albert. All of the structured exercises Marriott does with horses and participants are conducted from the ground – no riding is involved. Each exercise is a practical experience. As a participant works through an exercise with a horse, Marriott decodes the feedback from the horse. After the exercise is over, Marriott debriefs the participant to discuss relevant emotions and behaviours.

Marriott’s EAL programs address anger, stress, self-confidence, communication skills, relationship issues, and emotional and behavioural challenges. “The connection to healing is so strong,” she said. Aside from EAL programs, Marriott also designs personalized retreats for individuals, couples, or groups of any age. She designs and instructs activities like expressive art, meditation, yoga, and personal growth exercises to promote healing and self-growth.

Carol and Lacey

Carol and Lacey

Marriott is not a counsellor and does not provide therapy in the traditional sense. However, she is a trained EAL Specialist and can offer insight based on equine bio-feedback.

Marriott’s first retreat at Ravenheart Farms took place last fall. Led by Marriott and Patrick Harbula, 12 people attended the “Primal Fire” workshop. Since then, Marriott has done a series of monthly one-day retreats with four to five people attending each session.

The retreats are “for people who are looking to learn more about themselves, who are on a journey of personal growth.”
Marriott loves working with at-risk youth, adults, and couples. “The kids are so engaged, so focused,” she stated. She also does corporate team building and leadership retreats.

Marriott grew up in Montreal and began riding horses at age 18. While riding for the first time in her life, Marriott said she felt “very focused. Being around horses, I could let everything go.”

Ravenheart Welcome Gate

Ravenheart Welcome Gate

Marriott later moved to Calgary and began working at Spruce Meadows. “This was my dream job,” she noted. Marriott became the Media and Public Relations Coordinator for Spruce Meadows and remained there for eight years.

Marriott also worked at the Calgary Humane Society. While there, she came into contact with trainers who treated horses in a new, gentler way. This natural horsemanship approach intrigued her. Marriott was 40 years old and living in Calgary when she bought her first horse, Raven. This special horse is the namesake of Ravenheart Farms and has been a “wise guide” said Marriott. Over the past 12 years, Marriott’s sister and parents moved to Saskatchewan, so she began travelling to the province to visit her family. She fell in love with this area and wanted to start a business here that incorporated her love of horses. When Marriott found the acreage near Fulda, she knew she was making the right move.

Marriott has found the Humboldt area to be very receptive. “This is a progressive community” she stated. “There is a deep-seated spirituality here.”

Outdoors, Marriott’s farm has trails where guests can go for peaceful walks. She’s working hard to create a park-like atmosphere and commented, “It’s about resting your mind from the hectic pace of life.”

 

Reprinted from the Humboldt Journal 2008

Far From the Madding Calgary Crowds …

Far From the Madding Calgary Crowds …

by Lynne Palmer

Ravenheart Farm, just northwest of Humboldt, Saskatchewan is owned by former Calgarian, Carol Marriott, who left her frenetic city life behind two years ago to pursue a lifelong dream of living in the country. Today, as an Equine Assisted Learning specialist, she conducts workshops and individual sessions offering participants a peaceful country encounter and the opportunity to experience personal insights by interacting with gentle equine companions.

* * *

Leaving the maze that is Calgary in the summer – road closures, detours, barriers, heavy equipment.  Leaving the energy of irritation – impatient drivers, line-weary shoppers, overworked retail staff. Leaving the constant prattle of electronic media – the price of oil, economic uncertainty, Obama this, McCain that, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran. Leaving the noise….

We are sailing across prairie waves, across green fields of young wheat and barley, across the patchwork of fluorescent yellow canola and soft cool inviting fields of periwinkle flax. The hawk, the red fox, the antelope watch without judgement as we pass; their grace eliciting an instant response of pleasure and gratitude. The immense sky of my Saskatchewan childhood still immense, still mesmerizes – a canvas huge with colour and texture and power. The kilometers pass and I feel the soft energetic shift as the city seeps from my body.

Carol with Sugar and Raven

Carol with Sugar and Raven

I was drawn by the title of the workshop, Horses, Spirit and Play, intrigued by this trinity. No horse experience necessary. No riding involved. I have read about the growing practice of using horses as a means of experiential learning and personal growth, teambuilding. I’d read the work of acclaimed author and instructor, Linda Kohonov (The Tao of Equus: A Woman’s Journey of Healing and Transformation through the Way of the Horse and Riding Between The Worlds: Expanding Our Potential through the Way of the Horse).

I was also intrigued by Ravenheart Farms and the story of a former Calgarian pursuing a lifelong dream in Saskatchewan’s farming heartland.

The Courage to Act

Two years ago, Montreal-born Carol Marriott, a long-time Calgarian known to many through her roles with Spruce Meadows, the Calgary Humane Society and Canadian Blood Services, simply decided she’d had enough of city life.

“It was July 6, 2006 – 666,” she says with a smile, recalling her decision.  “It was the perfect date to make a major life shift.”  Carol, then 49, sold her Airdrie condo, gave her notice at work, put everything in storage and jumped in her car with no particular agenda in mind.

After a few months of exploring – Canada’s west coast, and the Pacific Northwest and Midwest in the U.S. – she drove through Saskatchewan to visit family in the small town of Quill Lake.  “I was feeling so open to nature after just spending a week in Yellowstone National Park and as I drove through the grasslands and farmlands, the beauty of the prairie struck me at a very core place,” she said. “The thought began to percolate like a gentle epiphany – I could live my dream here.”

Ravenheart Farmhouse in Humbolt, Saskatchewan

1936 Farmhouse Cozy and Welcoming

Within a few months Carol was settling into her new home, a lovely old five-bedroom farmhouse on 20 acres, 15 minutes from Humboldt.  She had her long-time companion, a 16-year-old Welsh Cobb Pony, named “Raven”, transported from Alberta and she dubbed her acreage “Ravenheart”.  She soon added a quarter horse, Sugar, and two Welsh ponies, Brownie and Lacy, to create the small Ravenheart herd that is now at the core of the work she does as a certified Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) specialist.

From the beginning, Carol held a vision for her country home. It would be a place of peace, respite and healing to share with others, a place for seekers, artists, writers.  She continued to hold that vision through the most severe Saskatchewan blizzard in the past 50 years, through the endless farm chores – fencing, feeding, clearing, planting — through the harsh realities of country life. It was a lot for one city woman to take on by herself, but her vision included help!

Where There is a Will…

Recognizing the need for extra hands to help, Carol registered Ravenheart Farms with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, also known as Willing Workers on Organic Farms).

WWOOF, an international movement that began in England in 1971 and now has programs in some 35 countries spanning the globe, links people who want to volunteer on organic farms or smallholdings with people who are looking for volunteer help.  WWOOF hosts provide food, accommodation and opportunities for volunteers to learn in exchange for four to six hours of work each day. There is no payment involved.

Chris and Bianca

Chris and Bianca

Carol’s inviting description of Ravenheart drew two enthusiastic WOOFERS from Germany, Chris and Bianca, who have spent the past four months with her, experiencing life on the Saskatchewan prairie and helping her create the peaceful retreat she envisioned from the start. She now offers a variety of workshops and one-on-one sessions for individuals looking for a peaceful country setting with the opportunity to experience the intuitive spirit of the horse.

Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) involves a collaborative effort between the facilitator, client and horse. As an EAL specialist, Carol is trained to recognize the natural language and reactions of horses as people participate in gentle, reflective exercises with the herd or individual horses.

Learning from Equus

I am standing in the round pen facing Raven, his jet black coat shining in the brilliant Saskatchewan sun, his eyes soft and at the same time intent. Unfettered by even a halter, he is, in a word, exquisite. I am reminded of my own writing about my lifelong passion for horses:  “Sometime between birth and puberty, I fell in love with soft brown equine eyes…and still I am undone.” 

Raven

He is wary yet stands firmly, directly in front of me, fully engaged. There is no agenda here; we stand and look and feel suspended in an intuitive encounter, a dialogue without words. Time passes. I am not sure if I have taken a breath.  Then, without urging, he lifts his hoof and offers to step forward, and then again. He licks his lips and sighs. I feel a soft tingling in my body and inexplicable gratitude in my heart. I gently bow, and leave the round pen. Namaste Raven.

During a period of quiet reflection and discussion later, I understand that my experience in those moments with Raven was one of life’s elusive treasures.  I was “in the moment”.  In the moment, in my body and, somehow, in my own knowing.

As horses go, Raven could be termed “aloof”. .I learn that he was abused with unethical training methods as a youngster.  Carol purchased him years ago, knowing the emotional damage he had endured and she has provided a loving home ever since.

Do I relate to Raven, damaged by what I perceive as negative experiences and disappointments in life?  In the round pen in those quiet but intense moments, I am intuitively aware of feeling emotionally protected, and, at the same time, of a deep-rooted desire to feel connected.  In taking a tentative step forward, Raven reflects my own knowing:  “It is ok to trust.  There is no need to move quickly.  One small step is enough. There is such joy in even small moments of connection.”

Carol explains the theory.  “As prey animals, horses naturally live in a state of heightened awareness, keenly attuned to one another, their environment and their own instinctual needs. They are intensely intuitive and naturally resonate with humans when we are in touch with our inner feelings,” she explains

“A slight shift in a person’s attitude, feelings, or body posture is immediately reflected by the horse. Horses can bring out the “authentic” in us and provide us with more awareness of our vulnerabilities and our strengths.”

And ah…the Country Life

Others in the workshop have similar experiences to mine; each of us taking steps – large and small – towards a new self-awareness.  We spend the day sharing, laughing, reflecting, eating (delicious, organic country fare, lunch and dinner served around the kitchen table) and, quite simply, enjoy the serenity of the country.

Charlie and Polly - Country Dogs

Charlie and Polly – Country Dogs

Carol’s property encompasses a ducks unlimited preserve, home to a variety of marsh birds that serenade throughout the day.  We walk through the “woods” along a meandering path through the large shelterbelt of native trees and bushes.  The shelterbelt hides discarded historic treasures such as old metal tractor wheels.  Overhead we are treated to a cacophony of prairie bird songs.  Later that evening as we sit, laughing and reflecting on our day around a blazing fire we hear the haunting calls of the resident ??? owl.

Before bed we enjoy a final walk with farm dogs Polly and Charlie. I am aware of an overwhelming, soft silence and marvel at something I have not seen for a long time – stars.  Thousands of them, brilliant in the sky, perhaps millions, the moon lighting our path.  I am aware of a feeling that so often eludes me in the city…I am quite simply at peace, connected to the earth, connected to the others who walk with me, to the animals and to me.

Under Construction

The signs, literal and figurative loom large as we return to Calgary.  Heavy equipment, road closures, construction cranes. This is the landscape of my city, always bursting at the seams – a city continually under construction.  Crawling along the road, four red lights to get through the intersection, and tension rises in my body.  I close my eyes, see Raven before me, take a deep relaxing breath…and make room for the car beside me the driver anxiously attempting to change lanes.

It strikes me that my experience of the last few days, in the city and at Ravenheart Farms in the country, is a kind of metaphor for life.  We are always under construction. We encounter roadblocks, disappointments, detours and distractions. And, if we seek them, we experience delicious moments when the noise stops – moments of peace, rejuvenation, personal growth, and insight.  (Some might say these are delicious moments of deconstruction.)

The Horses, Spirit and Play workshop at Ravenheart Farms, the peace of the country and quiet encouraging compassion that Carol Marriott offers to her visitors have provided me with those delicious moments of life. And as for Raven…well, he simply took my breath away…and still, I am undone.

* * *

Lynne Palmer is a Freelance Writer living in Calgary, Alberta

What Ravenheart Means to My Heart

What Ravenheart Means to My Heart

Sugar and Polly

Sugar and Polly

Over two half years ago, I spoke with a very caring & compassionate woman over the phone. She listened to my grief and my desire to move beyond my grief. I also expressed my heart–felt dreams of working with horses and healing.

One beautiful, sunny morning, I began a new journey of self–discovery and inspiration to go on with life. I met Carol for the very first time and her extraordinary, troop of horses.

I was able to share my grief for the loss of my husband in a very safe haven.My first time in the round pen, was with Carol´s mare; “Sugar”. Such a sweet mare, that hovered around me and said to me in her horse-way. “you are safe here”. Many times, over the last couple of years I have gone to Sugar with all that I feel.

She has never let me down and has continued to listen to all that is within me.Over time, my desire to leave my career at the newspaper grew stronger and stronger. September of 2008, left my job as a newspaper manager and packed my bags, leaving my former life behind.

I moved to Prince Albert to obtain my first level in Equine Assisted Learning.I eventually moved to Humboldt, Sk, January 31 of 2009. My desire was and still is to work with Carol at Ravenheart farms and work with children and adults that also need that safe haven to flourish and grow.