Friday, August 23, 2013



Originally published in Horse Directory,                                                September 2103

by Tom Gumbrecht

Bella checks her appointment calendar...
L.D., as in La Dorada. La Dorada Norsk. That's what the name on the paper says, although we know her around the barn as "Bella." A horse of letters, ESW in Bella's case stands for "Equine Social Worker."

You need not know if Bella participates in your insurance plan, because she dispenses her brand of psychology free of charge. You will however be subject to a pre-session screening by the studied mare herself:

First, you must demonstrate that you can put aside any preconceived notions of therapy you may
The doctor will see you now...
foster, including any reservations about working with a therapist who appears to want to bite you. She doesn't really want to bite you, but may appear to if you fail to respect her space, respect her qualifications or attempt to move the relationship forward at a pace not of her own choosing.

It is well-reported that the latest musings in Psychology Today reinforce the belief that the best psychologists offer no advice at all; they merely listen and empower you to find your own solution. You will find in your session with Bella (she prefers to be called Bella) that she will indeed offer no advice at all. You may talk for as long as you need to, and she will listen, riveted to your every word. Or you can not talk at all and she will understand anyway. Your choice.

Second, you must attain a degree of humility before being accepted into a session. You must understand the value of being chosen by a horse who does not choose everyone. Being chosen by Bella is in itself an empowering phenomenon; whatever you are going through, this horse has gone through more and come out the other side intact. To be trusted enough to be accepted into her world is a thrill, a privilege and an honor.

So much for doctor- patient confidentiality...
We recently observed the session of a friend who returned to see Dr. Bella after life hurled a series of challenges his way. He had experienced several of life's more injurious setbacks concurrently and his first informal session (he had stopped by as I was mucking stalls) was understandably focused almost entirely outward, which is what we do in an attempt to seek comfort in blaming others for the predicaments we find ourselves in. Our friend was experiencing feelings of low self-worth and Bella went to work to rebuild that shattered image. As he was not yet able to look inwardly, he missed a lot of what was being proffered at the time. But at the core he knew that being in the presence of the mare eased the pain; he just hadn't as yet acknowledged it.

He sensed there was medicine in that barn though, and asked to return with a new awareness of the power a horse can have to heal simply by demonstrating their acceptance. This time, his reflections included seeing his part in the losses he had recently suffered, which is an important step and a necessary one before healing can begin. There was a calmness displayed where despair and hopelessness had once resided. Bella rewarded and reinforced his new insight by keeping her nose pressed into his chest for extended periods of time during his soul-bearing dissertation. She made it safe for him to take ownership of his problems.

Her silent counsel seemed to convey, "I am a creature many times more powerful than you. I am neither politically correct nor a people pleaser. Some might say I am blunt. But I am honest. I choose when and who to lend my time and my support to. And I have chosen you."   

The only thing better than being chosen by a horse, is perhaps bearing witness to the power a horse has to transform the life of another.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

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