“It is life-changing…”

“It is life-changing…”

“NL continues to be the gold standard for training in EAP and continues to show that their principles and the fundamentals align within all aspects of life and relationship.”

-Renee Bouffard, LCSW/Executive Director, Healing Hoofbeats of CT, Inc.


The reviews are in and we are over the moon!


When COVID hit, we at Natural Lifemanship were in a scramble to create a new plan for staying connected with our community.  Staying connected, and continuing to grow in ongoing learning has been possible…virtually!  


As the pandemic has continued, we’ve worked to bring our second level training, the Natural Lifemanship Intensive, to an online platform as well. We launched our first cohort in March of 2021 and, having just wrapped up, I am simply delighted to say how powerful it was for me, the rest of the NL team, and for our students – some would even call it life-changing!


“The NL Intensive training is a life-changer. Diving so deep into concepts, receiving helpful feedback about videos, and having a dyad partner helped me deepen my practice and my relationships with individuals I serve, my horses, and all my other relationship partners. I would recommend this training to anyone who works in a helping profession. Honestly, I would recommend this training to anyone who has any relationship at all. I have learned so much about myself and the world around me.”

-Terri Schanen, Equine-Assisted Skill Developer, Lessons In Harmony, LLC



“Y’all. And I don’t say y’all bc I’m from Iowa. But y’all, this is life changing.”

– Ashley Stavig


Before, the Intensive was an in-person training lasting 3 days that allowed for a group of paired up students to work with horses to deepen their learning from the Fundamentals.  Taking turns practicing the principles of NL, the pair would receive feedback and participate in discussion throughout the 3 days.  It was a fun and meaningful training, without a doubt.  


And yet, at the end of the 3 days we were always met with the same conundrum…people wanted more time to think together, learn together, and practice…but it was just SO hard for everyone to make more time to do this in person.  Putting together a virtual learning experience is tricky, especially as we work to hold true to our values of relationship and connection first.  But the NL team outdid themselves again and produced a 15 week virtual training that has been, I am thrilled to say, a HUGE success. 



As one of the instructors in this course, I have relished being able to connect with students over a whole 15 weeks through a group forum, routine office hours, and a total of 8 class meetings – while each student has been able to learn in their own time and practice, right at home. The learning has been deeper, richer, and more transformative, because students have time to step into the principles, and even apply their learning to their personal lives and relationships.




The material that is covered in the NL Intensive takes students deeper into the neuroscience, the attachment, and the ethics of this field of equine assisted services – and it does so through powerful experiences in learning and practicing with horses. 


“This course was informative, practical, and easily transferred to my work with people in my private practice, with or without horses. I highly recommend it!”

– Lydia Radke, Ancora Wellness.


Each of the 8 class meetings is an opportunity to connect, regulate, and learn new skills – as well as an opportunity to watch, pause, review, and discuss the active work that the students are doing at home. NL Intensive students come away with a toolbox of regulation skills, a depth and breadth of knowledge, and an embodied experience of how to build healthy relationships no matter where they go.  



Whether you are a therapist, equine professional, or someone in between, you will find this training can improve not only your professional development, but your personal development as well.


“Phenomenal training that helps expand therapeutic knowledge, horsemanship knowledge, and self awareness. Applies to every part of life and really gets the wheels turning!”

-Brooke Bodar, LPC


NL students remark on the changes they witness in themselves, in their horses, their families, and of course, in their clients – the NL Intensive is a transformative experience.



In our last class together, each student had the opportunity to summarize their experience with the course and I was truly brought to tears by the reflections they shared.  We wanted to stay connected with our community, even at a distance, and I really think we did it.  What an incredible group of people willing to dive in to grow as individuals and professionals…and what an exciting training to be a part of!


I cannot wait for our new cohort to begin – so we can connect with a whole new group of incredible helpers and healers in the world.  I hope to see you there!


“If you are considering taking the intensive… DO IT!!! This course was not only profoundly helpful for my sessions with clients and horses but also deeply impactful for me personally.”  


Are you ready to join us? Our new cohort is now enrolling and will begin August 23rd! 

Register here!


Still wanting that in-person experience? 

Join us at an intensive practicum as well!  

The Intensive Practicum is a 3-day in-person experience for those who have a desire for hands-on practice with our trainers to truly understand the NL approach from the inside out. Following 15 weeks of comprehensive, in-depth online learning, you’ll have the opportunity to dive deep into your practice with horses, and receive in-the-moment feedback from experienced NL professionals, so you can progress with confidence and competence. It takes practice to become a therapeutic presence and skilled guide.  Here’s what our students are saying about the Intensive Practicum….



“The practicum really brought the online learning information together in the most meaningful way. This was a very powerful training and one of the best trainings I have ever attended.”

-Dr. Sarah Cairns, psychologist, Cairns Therapy and Nutrition


“One of my biggest takeaways [from the practicum] was getting to practice finding the space between my own “old tapes” of either trying to control or simply walking away when I’m feeling ignored; and then practicing what to do with my internal energy and getting clear about my needs in that space. Very healing and helpful to my personal and professional life moving forward.”


Haven’t taken the Fundamentals of NL (the pre-req for this course) yet?  Registration opens soon for the Fundamentals as well!  Check it out!


Still undecided? See ALL our amazing video testimonials, here!

What Are People Saying About Our Newest Training?

What Are People Saying About Our Newest Training?

WOW!  That is all I can say as we wrap our second cohort of the fully online Virtual Fundamentals of Natural Lifemanship. We started this training in May and have already had over 150 participants!  Our participants have been amazing, the learning has been monumental, and the feedback has been incredible!  As a trainer, I have so enjoyed connecting with students in so many new places  – Costa Rica, Hawaii, even Australia!  

You know, at first I was nervous about this course.  Natural Lifemanship, and our model of Trauma Informed Equine Assisted Psychotherapy/Learning is just so experiential – it must be felt to really be understood.  Could a fully online course really help people learn what it means to be trauma-informed??? 

To be honest, I had my doubts.  But now I know differently – our participants are truly feeling their way into the principles, guided by the rich learning over the duration of the Virtual Fundamentals.  Because this course takes place over 10 weeks, our participants are able to really engage and digest the information, while also practicing applying the principles in their everyday lives.  Whether you have access to horses or not, the science and principles presented in our training seeps into your very way of being, especially when you intentionally spend the time.  

I also love that we can engage with students in an online forum and in live office hours – as well as offer real feedback on practice videos. The videos have been such a joy to watch – Core and Jumpstart Fundamentals participants set out to practice what they are learning with their own horses, just the two of them – I love seeing the learning unfold in each partnership (and I know the other instructors, Bettina, Tim, and Tanner agree wholeheartedly!!).  All students (including those who take the Foundations option) get to learn from each other’s feedback – the learning is rich!

Now I am just so thrilled we are finally offering this online course – and I can’t wait for the next cohort that starts September 14th!  I hope you can join us!


But don’t take my word for it….

“I feel like I have learned more about connected relationships and the importance of them in the last eight weeks than I have in my entire life! I will absolutely be back for more trainings and can’t wait to learn more.”

– Victoria Pello, Equine Coordinator, The Last Resort


“The NL staff (founders, trainers, and related personnel) did a phenomenal job of compiling content into a series of weekly modules where participants could engage with materials (e.g., videos, blog articles, manual, webinars) virtually. There was a lot of valuable information to review and soak in but with permanent access to the online course, I am conveniently able to go back and review content as I see fit! I am still new to the Natural Lifemanship model but because of this training, my new job and the wonderful horses and humans I get to work with daily, I am confident that I will start to witness the powerful impact this unique work has on the lives of many!”

– Shayla Anderson, Intake Coordinator, Barnabas Horse Foundation


Participants love the flexibility!

“I have taken the online Natural Lifemanship course and was blown away by the thorough and detailed, enriching learning experience. The ability to connect with an instructor was at my fingertips. It was so well done. Thank you for your effort, I am truly enjoying this class and in many ways, I find that the online class has made it easier to retain information with the ability to replay lessons a few times to grasp all of the information and have the video feedback in such a thorough analysis in real time to the actions. I have been able to balance the course between work and farm responsibilities very well because of the flexible nature of the course. The course itself is phenomenal and I am enjoying the new lens that I have to operate within and I see things so differently: relationships, horse rescue work, people’s responses to relationships and each other, and my own self and life choices. Not to mention an amazing “framework/process” to apply to helping horses. I am thankful for this opportunity to learn from your team who is so dedicated and knowledgeable.”

– Mary Elena Moran


95% of participants said this training met their expectations, and in fact many said it exceeded their expectations!

“The Virtual Fundamentals training was a transforming experience for both my personal and professional self. It allowed me to learn invaluable material at my own pace while still providing interaction and feedback from the NL trainers.”

– Kelly Kennedy, Wild Acres Counseling


“This 8 Week Jumpstart Program with NL opened me up to a brand new way of being! I had absolutely no idea what I was in for when I signed up. I feel like I was able to get to know each of the NL team members and felt an exceptional connection to both Bettina and Tim. Their realness, honesty and often playful interactions were so refreshing. The vast knowledge of the team members across the board was amazing and everyone has their place in this program. I will be forever grateful to have taken this course at this time in my life. And I thank everyone at NL for putting me on the path to be a better me! I look forward to meeting you all in person when travel restrictions allow me to come to the US!”

– Beth Sylver–Team Member at Rancho La Merced, Uvita, Costa Rica


96% of participants said they would be able to apply their learning to their work, right away

“Natural Lifemanship training allowed me to expand my knowledge as a practitioner, trust my intuition, and deepen my feelings of connection in my own body. It was like fitting an integral puzzle piece to my practice.”

– Jenna Vissell, MA Mental Health Practitioner, Stable Living, LLC


“It does not matter if you have horse, dog or goat, the principles of NL apply across all mental health services and life situations, from the simple to the complex. It is a comprehensive program, fascinating and effective. It challenges you to be a more balanced individual which in turn touches everything around you.”

– Melanie Stolfus LPC Rockhill Counseling Aubry Texas


“When working with individuals who have experienced trauma, the concepts and principles of NL target the key concerns of these individuals. The blending of attachment theory, neuroscience, and relationship principles are logically based and applicable within a therapy room, classroom, or home setting. It is a comprehensive program which incorporates the use of equines, creativity, music, movement, and sensory integration. Great program! I thoroughly enjoyed this training and can’t wait to utilize it! Thank you!”

– Cheryl Galligan


And some parting thoughts…

“The best equine assisted therapy training that I’ve ever had, and I’ve had many! I can finally answer the question of ‘Why Horses’ with more confidence and scientific understanding than ever before.”

– Juliet Wahlenmayer, NCC, LPC


“This is by far the most important course I’ve ever taken. A connected relationship with my horse will drive all of our interactions and take precedence over task based interaction. I always yearned for a deeper connection with my horse. Now I have the knowledge and ability to attain it. It’s not often I can come away with the ability to easily put course information into practice right away. The course had just the right amount of detail to explain the principles without being difficult to understand. If everyone, horse related or not, understood the principal’s of NL we would all live happier, more enriched and peaceful lives. “

– Ro Wellmaker/horse owner


What else can we say?!?!  Except a big THANK YOU to our NL Community!

Registration closes and the course starts September 14th!  Click here for more information and join us for the last offering of the year! 


A few more testimonials for your reading pleasure  🙂

“I came into this training with zero knowledge about horses. I had never even been on one (still haven’t)! As a therapist, this training was so helpful in building a strong foundation for any work I do in the arena!”

– Lauren Ball LCADC LCSW 


“The Virtual Fundamentals training was a transforming experience for both my personal and professional self. It allowed me to learn invaluable material at my own pace while still providing interaction and feedback from the NL trainers.”

– Kelly Kennedy, Wild Acres Counseling


“I have thoroughly enjoyed the training from NL. The education on brain development and how it affects human and horse behaviors; the use of rhythm to assist with cross-brain connections to allow higher level cognitive processing; the horse and human being capable and responsible for their own control, thereby avoiding domination and control to support and encourage this… These are some of the main ideas I have taken away from this training. Thank-you! I also want to mention that your humble, loving, genuine and intelligent characters have provided a beautiful and fun way to learn. MAHALO!”

– Fronda Harris – Heart Ranch Co-founder


“Natural Lifemanship made their core fundamentals training accessible to all who wanted to join by making it virtual with a practical experience component and feedback. The course merged the biology of horses and humans perfectly with a trauma informed care lens. The trainers, Bettina and Tim, are extremely knowledgeable and made the concepts easy to understand for all learners through various readings, visuals, demos, and oral presentations. I am extremely grateful for this experience and can’t wait to apply all I have learned!!”

– Madison Lee, PsyD Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue


“The NL Virtual Fundamentals course was packed with learning. The videos and recordings of calls and webinars provided several days worth of content that one would have received at a multi-day in-person training. The practice and video with feedback component was a great alternative to an in-person opportunity to practice and receive instructions on fine tuning the methods. The forums allowed for discussion and interaction with the other students in the course. Office hours and additional support were also available – complete with a manual, all bases were thoroughly covered for a potent experience that will benefit anyone looking to enhance their work as a coach, therapist or an equine professional.”

– Christina Stinchcomb, Airy Hill Stables (Equine Gestalt Coach)


“Natural Lifemanship has changed the way I interact with horses and people. The principles that are taught are immediately and infinitely applicable.”

– Kurt Webb


“This Virtual Fundamentals course was terrific. Grounded in science, offering the benefit of decades of professional experience with horses and people, there was a rich depth to all the presentations. During this COVID time, this training was a treat for myself and something I did just for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it and already have another online NL course in mind to start next. Highly recommended as a gift to yourself!! “

– Martha McNiel, LMFT, TRI, TDI, ESMHL, CEIP-MH, Director, DreamPower Horsemanship


“I admit, I was optimistic but skeptical at first, if the virtual training option would be a good fit, and would provide me with a clear understanding of the Natural Lifemanship principles, and how to apply them. However, after just the first week, I knew I made the right choice. The easy to follow platform, semi-structured learning and the different modalities used to deliver the content (blog articles, pages in the manual and video) made it interesting. The opportunity to engage in office hour discussions with the professionals and others in the cohort group, was invaluable and made it feel more “real”-as we can all learn from each other and our unique situations. Also, the screencast feedback was easy to understand and I liked the thoroughness each instructor took, to ensure I understand the “why” behind a comment. I appreciated that the trauma informed lens and neurodevelopment information are things that can be implemented in both of my work settings, schools (K-12) and in equine therapy sessions. I feel that this training has given me a more concrete understanding of Natural Lifemanship and I look forward to the continued learning it will provide.”

– Sarah Machold, LMSW, Supervisee in Social Work


“As a PATH Certified TRI and ESMHL working at a PATH center providing both therapeutic riding sessions as well as EAL sessions this was extremely beneficial. We are serving more and more individuals who have experienced trauma in our program. I now have a deeper understanding of how trauma impacts the brain and why the relationship with the horses are so important. The principles of this course are applicable to all areas of the program because it is about the relationship and the connection with the horse. Well worth the time. You will not be disappointed!”

– Emily Padgett, Program Director, Agape Therapeutic Riding Center


“The best equine assisted therapy training that I’ve ever had, and I’ve had many! I can finally answer the question of ‘Why Horses’ with more confidence and scientific understanding than ever before.”

– Juliet Wahlenmayer, NCC, LPC


“When working with individuals who have experienced trauma, the concepts and principles of NL target the key concerns of these individuals. The blending of attachment theory, neuroscience, and relationship principles are logically based and applicable within a therapy room, classroom, or home setting. It is a comprehensive program that incorporates the use of equines, creativity, music, movement, and sensory integration. Great program! I thoroughly enjoyed this training and can’t wait to utilize it! Thank you!”

– Cheryl Galligan


“I’d had a nagging curiosity about NL for years yet I just hadn’t found the time to attend a training. The Virtual Fundamentals of Natural Lifemanship Training Program was the perfect introduction to NL for me. The content was absolutely top notch, going into great depth on all topics covered via video lectures from Tim and Bettina as well as actual video footage from previous clinics. I got to enjoy it all and learn…right at home! They have developed something very important with TF-NL. Bettina is very skilled at bringing scientific concepts of brain and trauma right down to ground level and turning them into almost easy conversation. Tim and Bettina are both incredibly engaging as well as experts in their fields. They share their work with joy, enthusiasm and equal amounts of wisdom and humility.”

– Mari Rubens RN, BSN, EFLC


“I was able to immediately start incorporating the principles of Natural Lifemanship into my office work and my work with horses. NL provides the focus on relationship in the work with horses that was missing in my previous experiences with EAP/L.”

– Sara Rietsch LPC, CAADC


“This foundations course is truly the intellectual equivalent to having a sturdy and well built foundation for a nice house.”

– Abby Martin


“This course has provided me with a strong base for which I can move on to certification with confidence.”

– Susan Mitchell

Navigating the New Normal – Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

Navigating the New Normal – Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

This is a letter Michael Remole, NL trainer, recently sent to his clients.  We were touched.  We related, and we felt more connected to our community.  We hope you feel the same way.  Thank you Michael for your thoughts, your kindness, and your dedication to genuine connection.


As an empath, a business owner, and a mental health professional, there are so many pieces of this COVID-19 plan that are quite difficult to fully address and properly articulate.  In short, my heart is broken.  


My heart breaks as I put on my mask and head out to greet your child.  I try hard to smile under this mask and show the excitement with my eyes, yet it is not the same.  I can feel the glances of “are you going to make my child wear a mask?” and “you believe this stuff?” and “it’s about time you meet in person again.”  My heart breaks as our young clients try to make sense of why a “safe place”—a place where we promote authenticity and a metaphorical mask free zone now requires a mask to keep us safe.  I cringe as I watch myself and our client fight our masks as they slide down our face, get into our eyes, and muffle our words.  It’s not the same, and I battle wondering whether telehealth was better than this awkward clumsy in-person session.  But I have to remind myself that connection is on a continuum and this IS connection, even if it feels awkward.  


My heart breaks as I watch your child touch doorknobs and grab buckets or latches.  I ask myself a million questions…did we wipe that down properly since the last client touched it?  Did the client touch their face after?  I pray that my clients don’t feel me holding my breath, but I know they do.  My biggest fear is not me catching the virus, but what if a decision I made to open up to in-person sessions causes your family to be directly impacted by this virus.  I ask myself a million times, “did I make the right decision?”  We want to help people and I pray that this is somehow helping.  


My heart is also very heavy for everyone given the way this virus is wreaking havoc on all areas of our lives—most importantly our mental health.  I hear the hurt in your voices and I feel the fear about the current state of things, as well as the fear of the future when we talk.  I know how desperately we all want answers and we want to fix this.  As an empath, one of my greatest gifts is to feel what you are feeling.  Right now, it is as if the volume to my empathy is blasting to a deafening volume.  Daily I am faced with the question, do I shut it off, do I figure out some way to turn down the volume, or do I learn to live with the volume blaring?  As I think about that, I know the pros and cons of each decision.  I often find myself paralyzed by all of the various ways for me to move forward.


Over the last two months, I have shared with clients about ambiguous loss and how it impacts people.  We’ve talked (I’ve even taught) on the idea that we are all grieving various losses and that each one of us has experienced loss on various levels.  What I did not realize was that coming back to in-person sessions would be what made me see more of the ambiguous losses.  


Lately, I’ve been working on the things I can do for myself personally that help me move toward a healthier version of myself.  I returned to running during this time after one of Dr. Perry’s office hours with Dr. Brandt.  She talked about rest, refuel & reflect.  Something struck me that day and I have logged over 100 miles in just a few weeks. I have been running the same road every day, but varying the distances.  This past Monday I decided to do one of my shortest runs and go a different route.   Interestingly, it was insane how difficult it was. It felt as if I were running a marathon.  My body did not have any problem with the mileage.  My brain did because it was new; it wasn’t what I was used to and I did not have those normal benchmarks of how far I had run.  This is similar to what’s been happening with COVID-19 for me.  I’ve been on the same route (telehealth) for a while now. Even though it’s had its own challenges, it’s what I know.  This week, we embarked on a new route by adding some in-person sessions.  Mentally, it has thrown me for a loop.  


 During my runs, I’ve been listening to music and an older song from FUN came on my playlist, “put one foot in front of the other.”  That has been on repeat in my head.  So today, I am taking one foot and I am placing it in front of the other.  I do not have the answers and I cannot fix this situation.  As an agency, we will continue to strive to provide exceptional services, despite having to wear masks and concerns over germs.  As an individual, I will work hard to identify those areas that are out of my control and what areas I can control.  And together with my clients, we will navigate this new normal and work hard to ensure that the physical masks do not hinder what we both need—genuine connection.

Defining Relationship Logic®

Defining Relationship Logic®

Sara Sherman is the founder of and a coach at Discovery Horse

Our business, Discovery Horse, has been doing a large volume of work in our community in MN. As our circle of influence grew it became essential that I have a succinct definition of Relationship Logic (the ground component of Natural Lifemanship) that I could share in our conversations with the community. I grabbed some language from the NL website and wrote a few words of my own. The following is the result of that endeavor. I hope it can be as helpful to you and your communities as it has been to mine. There are 2 versions. The first is a little wordier and clinical.  I use this one for conversations with other mental health professionals and their agencies. The 2nd version is shorter and more easily digestible.

More in-depth version:

Relationship Logic® (RL) was developed by Natural Lifemanship and offers us a way to bring sound, consistent principles to the relationships in our lives. RL teaches that building attuned, connected relationships is always the primary goal from which other desirable outcomes follow. RL offers the neuroscience that empowers us to identify relationship patterns while maintaining the belief that our brains can change through new and healthy experiences. The ability to identify those patterns in a way that informs both compassionate understanding and a clear path to healthy change is an essential step toward healing, growth, and transformation. The principles we teach are the principles we practice and model in all of our relationships. We allow simple relationship principles to guide us as we work to transform these patterns. Behavioral patterns, especially those acquired in the early stages of development, are largely subconscious. They exist in the body and manifest as automatic reactions to situations we encounter each day. They become habitual. The way to change old patterns that no longer serve us is to practice something new. RL principles may be practiced in relationships with other people, and even within our relationships with ourselves, our families, animals, and communities. As these are practiced both during sessions and in daily life, new healthy patterns for relationships begin to replace old patterns that no longer serve us well. Connected and attuned relationships lead to healthy development; they contribute to healing at any age and enhance well-being.

Shorter Version:

Relationship Logic® (RL) was developed by Natural Lifemanship and offers us a way to bring sound, consistent principles to the relationships in our lives. RL teaches that building attuned, connected relationships is always the primary goal from which other desirable outcomes follow. RL offers the neuroscience that empowers us to identify relationship patterns while maintaining the belief that our brains can change through new and healthy experiences. The ability to identify these patterns in a way that informs both compassionate understanding and a clear path to healthy change is an essential step toward healing, growth, and transformation. The principles we teach are the principles we practice and model in all of our relationships. The way to change old patterns that no longer serve us is to practice something new. RL principles may be practiced in relationships everywhere; with ourselves, our families, our work teams, animals and communities. Connected and attuned relationships lead to healthy development; they contribute to healing at any age and enhance well-being.


Get started on your path with the Natural Lifemanship Institute.

Getting to the “Root” of the Problem

Getting to the “Root” of the Problem

One of our greatest joys at The Natural Lifemanship Institute is hearing how our trainings have opened people’s eyes and transformed their lives. We are occasionally fortunate enough to receive unsolicited blog articles written by folks who have participated in our trainings and who left feeling inspired to reflect and write about their experiences and their realizations. Below is one such article. In it, Fundamentals of NL participant, Debbie Frey, discusses her realizations about trauma, resilience, and the ultimate healing that comes with connection.

Would you like to experience a Fundamentals of NL training? If you’ve already been to a Fundamentals training, would you like to go deeper and sign up for one of our advanced or specialty trainings? Click HERE to view and register for our upcoming trainings.



Getting to the “Root” of the Problem

By Debbie Frey

Picture a seed that’s been planted in soil and is ready to sprout. A seed that gets well-cared for with plenty of water, sunlight and protection grows a strong trunk, plentiful branches, and hardy leaves. But that’s not the case for all seeds – some might not get watered enough, some might get stepped on as a sapling, and some might even be attacked by a disease or swarm of insects later in their life.

These type of traumatic events are going to have an impact on the rest of the tree’s life whether the tree knows it or not. But here’s the thing – something that is traumatic to one tree, might not be as traumatic to the other. For example, maybe two trees get hit by the same disease. The first tree is super healthy and is able to fight off the disease quickly. Or maybe this tree is being carefully watched by an arborist who cares about the tree and has the resources to support it and help it get back to good health. Either way – the disease is more or less a bump in the tree’s road and it moves on. Now the second tree gets the same disease. It has a harder time fighting off the disease due to health issues it has had in the past. It’s just simply not as strong as the first tree and doesn’t know how to deal with this new disease. It’s also not under the watchful eye of someone who appreciates it and wants to see it get better. So it takes a deeper toll on the tree’s overall health.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet – we’re the tree.

Trauma happens to all of us. Problem is some people are wired to deal with trauma better than others. If they were raised in a loving and nurturing home, they might be mentally stronger to deal with it because their brain is well-developed and they can effectively deal with and process the pain. Or maybe they have close family members or friends to reach out to for support, or have the means to get help from qualified doctors, therapists, etc. who can help ensure they stay mentally healthy after the traumatic event. But not everyone is so lucky. Maybe they went through something traumatic as a baby or child (or even in utero). At the time, they didn’t have the means to get help (or even know that they needed it), and the wiring in their brain starts to gets all twisted. It has a cascading effect because it’s never addressed and pretty soon the parts of the brain that should be talking to each other aren’t. As a result it’s harder for them to rationalize, reason and deal with their emotions. And now, when this new traumatic event happens, they simply aren’t wired to deal with it. They might shut down, they might develop addictions and obsessions to deal with what they’re feeling, or they might lash out via anger and even try to hurt someone. These people need someone to teach them the right ways to deal with their feelings and the trauma they’ve experienced. The brain can be rewired, it just takes time, effort and a better understanding of what we as human beings need to get better.

And that’s a huge problem to tackle, especially in a society with a “just fix it” mentality. So we make efforts to prevent and protect – we try to ban guns, we make drugs illegal, we medicate with the ones that aren’t, and we try to raise awareness about mental health issues like PTSD, depression and anxiety. These are all valiant and honorable efforts but as the past has proven, mentally ill people will still find guns, they’ll still commit suicide, they’ll still develop eating disorders and they’ll still do drugs.

So what do we do? How do we fix all the trees?

We need to get to the root of the problem that is the mental health crisis in this country or it’s just going to keep happening. My hypothesis? It’s a side effect of the modern, increasingly disconnected world we live in. Families and social groups are getting smaller and more distanced from each other as we all strive for our (or our nuclear family’s) success. We’re becoming less of a “we” society and more of a “me” one. We’re forgetting how to develop the healthy and connected relationships that’s part of our DNA. Yes, technology has made it really easy to stay “connected” to important people in our lives, but not in the way our body craves. So, if it’s not getting that connection through a human relationship, there’s a good chance it’s going to try to find it elsewhere through other addictions – drugs, food, gambling, etc.

Just because we’ve essentially created our own problem doesn’t mean we’re screwed as a society. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this to ourselves. We all just need to think a little differently. We can’t expect the government, school systems, and healthcare to fix all the problems. They can certainly help, but it’s not going to solve anything until we all realize the severity of the threat. At the turn of the century when automobiles were invented we created a more physically dangerous world. Sure, the government stepped in and created roads and rules but WE had to do something too. We had to be more observant everywhere we went, we had to take our cars into the shop when they needed fixed, we needed to educate our children on safety around cars and the dangers of playing in traffic. We had to change. And change is hard. But we did it anyway. We did it because we knew cars were here to stay and we wanted to create a safe world for us and our children.

So now it’s time to do that again. But this time it’s not a physical danger, it’s a mental one. Time to own up. Time to change. Time to CONNECT.


About the Author:

Debbie rediscovered her love for horses, and also her passion for equine-assisted psychotherapy about five years ago. She was beginning her last (and eventually successful) attempt to recover from the eating disorder she had been fighting for almost ten years. While reading a recovery book one day, the author started talking about a certain mental state that could be called the “essence of passion.” According to the book, when you’re in this state, you’re so fully engaged and focused in an activity that you love — one that’s well matched to your personal skills and gives you a sense of control – that you to lose awareness of time and yourself and it feels like a reward, regardless of the end result of your efforts. Debbie knew right away that for her, this was horses. In the few times she rode while she was sick, she recalled how present she was…which is a challenging feat for someone in the midst of an eating disorder whose mind in constantly racing about food, calories and control. So she decided to get back into riding and soon found it wasn’t the actual riding that was the most healing for her, but rather the relationship she was building with one particular horse, Finn. The mutual trust and connection they were developing was like nothing Debbie ever felt. Not only did she end up buying Finn to continue working on her relationship with him, but it also sparked her desire to learn more about the field of equine-assisted therapy and how/why being around horses has such healing power, especially for those recovering from eating disorders. During her research, she stumbled across Natural Lifemanship and knew immediately this was the methodology for her given the focus on trauma and building a connected relationship with a horse, much like she did with Finn. Since then, Debbie has taken both the Fundamentals and Intensive training in her pursuit of certification. She is currently a PR director at a Fortune 50 company and has intentions to complete her certification and slowly but purposely build her own Natural Lifemanship practice outside of Philadelphia once all the pieces fall into place and her life is at the right stage. Much like her recovery and also her relationship with Finn, she knows this pursuit won’t happen overnight, and that there will be setbacks along the way. But with time and patience, Debbie is confident the Lord will answer her prayers and put her in the right place to pursue her new-found passion.

Self-Sufficiency Has Met Her Match

Self-Sufficiency Has Met Her Match

In December 2017, I attended my first NL Intensive training in Brenham, TX. I’m pretty sure it was day two, which in my experience at these trainings, is when things really start getting stirred up internally. This life lesson came to me in my blind spot. Like a horse’s blind spot, it was right in front of my face (or maybe right behind my rear?). In fact, the only one who could see what was going on was my partner for the weekend.

I was in the round pen with the horse, Indigo (name has been changed for this article), trying to connect through attachment. When we had worked together the day before, we had a pretty quick connection, so I figured it would happen pretty easily again. This was not the case. Indigo was completely ignoring me. So I started to gradually increase my efforts, going from clucking and calling her name, to stomping my feet, to waving my hands in the air, to getting closer and jumping up and down and waving my hands all at the same time.

My partner stopped me (thank goodness!). I walked over to her and took a much needed break from all the jumping and flailing around. She said something simple like, “It seems to me like your energy on the outside does not match your energy on the inside”. At first I shot a quick answer back like, “Really? I feel like all of my energy is as high as it can go! I don’t know what else to do.” And then the thought settled somewhere deep within, and I took a deep breath and looked at her. She was right.

At some point, Tim Jobe had joined the conversation (he has a way of popping in at the just the right moment). He asked something to the effect of, “What might be keeping you from raising your internal energy?” I explained that it felt like there is a line that divides where I feel safe and comfortable to make an “ask” in a relationship and where it feels all together too risky and vulnerable. Tim asked, “What is the risk if you cross that line?” I started to process out loud about how if I gave more energy toward the relationship, what if it wasn’t reciprocated? What if she still kept ignoring me? The fear of losing what connection I did have seemed to outweigh the potential of gaining an even deeper connection. A wave of realization was rushing over me. This, of course, directly correlated to how I often felt in my human relationships.

Then something beautiful happened that I’ll never forget. By this point, I was back to standing in proximity to Indigo. As soon as I acknowledged my true inner feelings to Tim and my partner, Indigo turned and came toward me. She planted herself right there next to me as tears began to steadily stream down my face. I hadn’t even asked her to come over. She chose to all on her own. And all I could do was stand there next to her and let the tears fall freely. I savored that moment with her and all that she “said” to me through her actions.

In a way that only a horse can, she affirmed so many truths for me in this moment. She affirmed that all she wanted was the real me. She didn’t require that I had it all together. She only required that I was being real with myself and with her. It was as if she was saying, “Oh good, you’re truly present with me and now I want to come be with you”. She also affirmed that the experience of a connection like this was totally worth the risk and vulnerability it took to get it.

“Most people believe vulnerability is weakness. But really, vulnerability is courage. We must ask ourselves…are we willing to show up and be seen?”

–Brene Brown

Self-sufficiency has met her match, her name is Vulnerability. It’s only through vulnerability that true connection is experienced. Self-sufficiency may give a false sense of security, but it will forever leave me feeling disconnected from others. Indigo helped me realize that what I want more than independence and self-sufficiency is the sense of being known and accepted for who I am. In order to get this, I have to show up in relationships as my authentic, vulnerable, messy self.

Every day we have the choice. Today I choose vulnerability.


Jamie offers life coaching, both equine assisted and non-equine, to the Central Ohio area. She is dual certified through Natural Lifemanship as a Practitioner and an Equine Professional and is a certified Life Coach through the JRNI Catalyst Coaching Intensive. Her coaching business, Hope Anew, thrives on this motto: Healing Occurs through Purposeful Elements- Art, Nature, Environment, and Well-being. She loves taking creative approaches to helping people on their path to personal growth, as the path to transformation looks different for everyone!