QUESTIONS FOR ALEX:
- How did you learn about listening horse?
- Did you have concerns or worries about joining a program incorporating large animals?
- Name one lesson you took away from the program that benefited you the most. And I mean lesson not as in riding lesson, but rather, something you learned from the program.
- Is there one particular horse you’ve bonded with?
- How would you like to see this program made available to more veterans in need of its benefits?
1. I learned about listening horse by seeing a small flyer near the window where you go to check in at the va where i had been getting treatment. the brochure kicked around in a pile of papers for a couple months before i called.
2. i was a little concerned because i had some injuries that were still healing. when i was in the old guard i had been thrown off a horse at a gallop. i knew there were risks involved with working with horses. but the program turned out to be a lot more than just “riding” a horse.
3. what i learned from listening horse is that animals and wild nature can help manage my condition, and that life is worth living. before i got in touch with listening horse i had already been spending a lot of time in the wilderness by myself. i was indifferent to life, aggrieved by people, and the wilderness was the only place i knew that made any sense to me. but even though the wilderness was where i was going, i felt that i was just on the outside looking in, that the sacredness of the wilderness was just something for me to look at but not experience. but gus and promise helped change that for me. i spent a lot of time with promise. i learned that i could reestablish my connection to nature with her. that i could come back to nature with her. when i was with her, i felt like i was a part of nature, that i still had a place in the world, that i was reconnecting myself to life. instead of just fleeing into the wilderness like before, i felt like i was restoring myself and finding meaning. i wanted to get a horse that i could be with all the time, but it wasn’t practical living in the city. but this awareness of the power of animals and nature to calm me led me to abigail. i would tell you she is a dog but that doesn’t feel right in my mouth, just like i don’t think of promise as a “horse.” promise is promise. abigail is abigail. they are beings.
4. promise, but only because i spent the most time with her. i think i was just lucky with her.
5. i think that the doctors and therapists involved with our troops should be educated in the power of animals and nature to salvage us. i think we have a tendency to try and solve all our problems with new drugs and new machines (hook this up to your brain and press the button whenever you feel depressed or skittish etc). when we are injured, when we have been shattered by the “human” world, it makes sense that we treat ourselves not with more human technology, but with our most ancient connections to and appreciation for life. sometimes our ability to even perceive this connection is severed or severely impaired is gone. sometimes we don’t even realize that this connection has been severed or impaired, not until something catastrophic happens. sometimes it is too late to come back. listening horse helps veterans connect to this latent care for life that exists in all of us, even those that have been irreversibly brutalized or shocked..i spend 3 or 4 days a week in the woods with abigail. abigail is my promise. that immersion helps me to manage the functions of life: shopping, driving, cooking, cleaning, “dealing with the world”, etc. i dont think i would have fully learned and then implemented these coping mechanisms without gus and promise. i think many more veterans could benefit from listening horse, but i don’t think the information is getting pushed out by the va. i don’t think veterans are aware of the program and how it can help them because no one inside the va is having this conversation with them. i hope this changes.