Moving Documentary Explores the Future of the Horse-Human Relationship
In The Path of the Horse, horse trainer/filmmaker Stormy May gives up her equestrian career to travel the world, searching for people who might unlock the secret of how to move to the next level of understanding with horses. What she finds is simple, but is she willing to pay the price to take the path less traveled?
This inspirational documentary explores the future of horse-human relationships and ultimately all human relationships. As our culture evolves from domination over nature into a partnership, we see this change being reflected in the work that people are doing with horses. “This is a story of visionaries,” Stormy says, “of men and women who have made it their life’s work to develop and reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings through achievement of a synergistic balance with the horse’s own elegant naturalness. Horses have a gift to share; teaching us how to develop community, leadership, trust, and love within our own families through a connection that goes beyond words.”
The Path of the Horse takes an honest look at what we’re doing with horses today and asks, “Is this the world we want to create?” The 60 minute film, now available as a pre-release DVD, profiles six internationally-recognized innovators known for taking the horse’s physical, emotional and even spiritual well-being into consideration. Epona founder/author Linda Kohanov was included in this adventurous, sensitively produced film, along with equine artist Kim McElroy, Danish trainer/author Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, Russian trainer Alexander Nevzorov, California-based trainer/author Carolyn Resnik, and Colorado-based trainer/author Mark Rashid. Much of the music was created by Linda’s husband, composer/recording artist Steve Roach.
Stormy will be showing the documentary at film festivals, but she is also selling the pre-release DVD at her website www.stormymay.com. (The DVD is also available at the Epona Center gift shop for those of you who will be traveling to Sonoita soon.)
“I was deeply moved by this film,” says Linda Kohanov, “and honored to be in it. Stormy has really stepped out on the edge to create The Path of the Horse, and I hope that people will support her efforts by purchasing the film and getting the word out about it. The more people who see it, the more the horses themselves will benefit as we begin to explore news ways of co-creating with these amazing beings. The tide is turning in the 21st century as we question the dominance techniques used for millennia. The challenge is to imagine a new way of being together, while forgiving the past mistakes we’ve all made in how we’ve treated horses—and members of our own species. This film is an important step in the right direction, but it’s only the beginning. It asks more questions than it answers. Some scenes are tough to take, but there are many beautiful scenes depicting the amazing meditative state that horses can induce when we let go of our egotistical agendas and look to them as guides and teachers. Really, this aspect alone is a remarkable achievement on film.”
Early letters from viewers are glowing. For quotes and more information from the film-maker, see “Impressions: The Path of the Horse” at the end of this newsletter. Linda is planning to write a more extended review of the film’s content and importance in an upcoming edition of Epona News, but she wanted to make sure we got the word out first.
“Epona Life” on YouTube
Emmy-award winning NBC producer and photographer Kim Mancuso was so inspired by a recent visit to the Epona Center that she created an 18-minute photo essay Epona Life. Posted in two parts on YouTube, the program features photos of the horses, the center, and the scenery, interspersed with quotes from Linda Kohanov’s guidebook to Way of the Horse, her recent horse wisdom card project with artist Kim McElroy.
Educated at the International Center for Photography in New York City, Kim Mancuso has always had an intense love for animals. “Regina Hausler, an Epona Approved Instructor, first introduced me to equine facilitated psychotherapy four years ago,” Kim remembers. “I was so intrigued after hearing her speak about the horse-human connection, that I read Linda’s first book and soon after attended her workshop at Omega (a highly regarded retreat center in upstate New York). I am a very sensitive, intuitive person, and finally felt that things made sense to me, where before I felt confused, unfulfilled, and misunderstood. I always felt a special kinship with my cat, but this was even stronger and more profound. I’ve since read Linda’s other books and have attended two workshops at the Epona Center in Arizona.”
“Kim’s enthusiasm and deep understanding of what the horses have to offer really comes through in her photo essay,” Linda says. “She did a beautiful job of weaving in her photographs, and those of some other photographers, with quotes, and collection of Steve’s music. It’s a powerful feeling to see the horses we’ve come to know and love so sensitively portrayed!”
The following links offer a direct line to “Epona Life.” Thank you Kim Mancuso!
Energy Healing Research and Training at Epona
The Epona International Study Center, in fact, has been attracting more interest from noteworthy artists, authors and researchers. Linda was especially excited by the recent opportunity to collaborate with one of her longstanding influences, Gary E. Schwartz, PhD, author of The Living Energy Universe, a book outlining theories she has referred to in all three of her own titles.
“Kathleen Ingram, who partnered with me in starting the Epona Apprenticeship Program, recognized Gary in the airport a few years ago,” Linda remembers. “She actually had the nerve to not only go up and introduce herself, she told him about our work and convinced him to come out to an early version of the Epona Center. I had to fight the urge to engage in hero worship during our first meeting, but he’s such a warm and intensely enthusiastic person about his life and his work that he put me immediately at ease. Interestingly, he’s also deeply connected to animals, something that you don’t pick up on as overtly in his books. In any case, our paths crossed again this summer courtesy of a mutual friend and colleague, Ann Baldwin, PhD.”
Ann, a University of Arizona physiologist and noted researcher in the fields of energy healing and alternative medicine, boarded her horse at the place Linda called The Oasis in The Tao of Equus. “We kept in touch sporadically over the years,” Linda says. “Then she called me one day after reading one of my books, and we talked in depth about all the changes we’d been through. Ann has become a major researcher in cutting edge fields that I’m very interested in. She’s doing some studies now with the Institute of Heartmath on how the hearts’ electromagnetic field affects horse-human relationships. If that’s not enough, she’s also become a Reiki master who teaches the ancient art of energy healing around the world—and at the Epona Center several times a year. Her ground breaking research is featured in Gary Schwartz’s new book The Energy Healing Experiments, which I highly recommend.”
Ann’s next workshop at the Epona Center is a three-day seminar covering practical uses for biofeedback and energy healing, and some brand new research on how heart’s electromagnetic field affects horse-human interactions. Participants will also receive Reiki I and II attunements. Exploring Reiki and Your Heart Field will take place Friday, October 10 through Sunday, October 12.
“At the end of September,” Ann reveals, “I am going to make some heart rate variability measurements on horses and humans to see whether when the human reaches a coherent heart state, the horse becomes coherent also, and to see whether or not it matters if the person is familiar with the horse. Dr Ellen Gehrke from California is doing the measurements with me. I will present some of the results at the workshop.”
Ann will also join Gary Schwartz as a guest lecturer at the upcoming workshop Rasa Dance: The Energy of Connection. Linda will be teaching participants how to connect with and finally dance with horses through the unique properties of the equine energy field. “The energetic dimension of the horse-human relationship actually allows you to engage with horses in ways that move far beyond training,” she emphasizes. “I’m very excited that Gary and Ann will be learning some of the Epona techniques for connecting with horses. Each will be lecturing on a different night of the workshop about what they’ve seen and experienced with the horses and how it coincides or differs with what the latest research on energy healing and the heart’s electro-magnetic field suggest. This is a unique opportunity for participants interested the potential of nonverbal, energetic communication to meet real experts in the field.”
This very special edition of the Rasa Dance workshop will take place November 19 through 24 and is open to introductory and as well as advanced students.
Kohanov to Speak at Organization Development Conference
In addition to exploring the more adventurous aspects of the equine connection, the Epona Center has increasingly excelled at teaching leadership development through working with horses. Linda Kohanov was recently chosen to speak about her innovative Pioneering Spirit: Leadership for the 21st Century program at the upcoming Organization Development Conference. Her talk takes place Tuesday, October 21 from 3 to 4:15 pm in Austin, Texas at the Renaissance Austin Hotel where she’ll discuss the basic elements of the Epona Approach to leadership training, which has been used successfully with entrepreneurs, aerospace engineers, HR professionals, film producers, teachers, attorneys, and executive coaches. For more information on the conference: www.odnetwork.org/conf2008.
Those who would like to experience this work have one more chance this year to get the full dose of the Epona leadership training program when Linda offersPioneering Spirit: Leadership for the 21st Century at the Epona Center November 13 to 16.
Tribute to a Friend and Colleague
Epona’s entire interspecies community mourned the passing of their colleague and friend Mocha, a dark-bay, 15-year-old thoroughbred who joined the staff in 2005. The following tribute was written by Linda Kohanov:
Mocha taught us so much about what can happen to horses whose emotional needs and social development are not attended to in the conventional showing/training/racing world. He came to us after a long career as a racehorse and accomplished dressage horse as a possible riding instructor for amateur students, and he proved to be very knowledgeable, compassionate and safe. But we soon realized that he suffered from several debilitating challenges he acquired along the way. Not only was his back quite sore, requiring extensive rehab and ultimately a very light training schedule after well over a year off, he was addicted to cribbing, a stable vice horses most often develop when they’re confined to small stalls, usually with significant performance stress. The general consensus is that by sucking air into his system, a mildly euphoric response is created in the horse, yet cribbing is very dangerous because it often results in colic.
I don’t think Mocha was ever overtly beaten, but as a highly sensitive horse, commonly accepted training methods and stabling proved tremendously destructive over time. He was such a kind soul; it was heartbreaking to see what he had to go through to receive a bit of enjoyment from life. It actually took us months to help him become comfortable on pasture. At first, these wide open spaces were simply too much for him, and he was afraid of the other horses. He would stand as still as possible, even refusing to drink or eat until we returned him to a smaller, more private corral. Then we came up with the idea of getting him a mini-horse as a companion, and our veterinarian Barbara Page, who raises minis, loaned us a handsome little three-year-old named M&M, whom Mocha promptly fell in love with. The two geldings actually appeared to be mother and son from a distance, they were so connected.
Mocha’s confidence grew daily after he bonded with his little buddy. Soon we were able to put our yearling colt Indigo Moon out on pasture with Mocha, M&M, and our shy, former ranch horse El Dia. They seemed to teach each other about the healing potential of herd relationships, and I know Indigo Moon benefitted significantly from the gentle socialization process of spending days with Mocha’s herd and nights back with his mother Rasa. Indigo Moon turned two years old on September 6, but his emotional and social maturity are striking as he now moves easily between multiple herds, sometimes joining his mother, his new brother Orion and Orion’s mother Comet on one pasture, other times wandering about with older brother Spirit who is currently pastured with the massive black Percheron Kairos, and most recently, cavorting with a two-year-old appaloosa named Mountain. Indigo’s experiences with Mocha, M&M, and El Dia as his first non-family herd no doubt contributed to his confidence and adaptability with horses of all sizes and ages.
Even at the height of the monsoon season when pastures at Epona are covered with rich, green grass, however, Mocha spent several hours a day cribbing, even with a cribbing strap on. When he colicked last month, and medical interventions were unsuccessful, I knew it was kinder to let him go than force him to endure a risky surgery that would ultimately force him back into a stall alone for a good two months, where his cribbing would no doubt become even more frantic. It took so much for Mocha to expand his horizons and find his place in a herd, I couldn’t bear the thought of sending him back to an isolated life.
While he was never able to fill the role of riding instructor, Mocha was in fact a great teacher in an unexpected way. He exemplified a particular challenge associated with “stepping outside the box.” Sometimes people—and horses—are fearful of new situations when there is no physical danger present. I noticed this early on with repressed or abused clients who had very positive experiences at Epona—rather than feel empowered, as you’d expect, they would go into a kind of flight, fight or freeze mode that I found quite perplexing at first. I eventually realized that when our habits and belief systems are challenged in any way, even positively, our conditioned personalities are prone to freak out, preferring the familiar at the expense of true freedom and fulfillment. This prompted me to create a designation on the emotional message chart for this particular kind of fear. I called it “vulnerability” to differentiate an internal conflict, which is essentially fear of change, from an external threat in the environment, which is the kind of fear that we should in fact listen to as nature’s warning system. (See card 15, “Vigilance,” in the Way of the Horse handbook, for an in-depth discussion of fear versus vulnerability.)
The prospect of running free on pasture with other horses, a taste of horse heaven for a gelding who’d been kept in a stall all his life, sent Mocha into a tailspin at first. It took a long time for him to develop the courage to form relationships and enjoy living on wider, greener pastures. Yet the pain of his past, and the addiction that arose from it, created a deeper and more dangerous challenge in the long run. Mocha was such a frantic cribber that it was actually a bit of a miracle he didn’t colic sooner.
We arranged to have Mocha brought back to Epona after he was euthanized, burying him next to our foal Mystique, whose passing taught me a valuable lesson about loss as a path to open the heart. (See card 21, “Moonlight’s Embrace” in the Way of the Horse guidebook.) Mocha, as it turns out, helped many people come to an even deeper understanding of vulnerability.
And he did something for me personally that I will always be grateful for: he initiated me into some very powerful insights on how horses relate differently at night, to each other, to people, and to the environment, something I am only now beginning to write about and introduce to students. I join the other horses in his pasture, particularly M&M, in grieving his passing.
Through his potent, bittersweet story, Mocha will continue to emphasize what happens to horses and people when their emotional and spiritual needs are not respected in our current paradigm of cold, detached logic, behaviorism, and competitiveness—unbalanced habits that perpetuate civilization’s longstanding habit of treating living beings as machines, ignoring the wisdom of the heart.
Mocha, my dear teacher, thank you for showing me mysteries I cannot yet describe. Thank you for being such a great friend to Indigo Moon. I hope you are truly at peace.
You will not be forgotten.
Impressions: The Path of the Horse
Mocha’s passing underlines the importance of Stormy May’s new film in questioning how we treat horses, compelling us to undertake a long journey to change patterns solidified centuries ago. Here, as promised, are some early reviews of the film and a statement from the filmmaker herself.
“I was speechless! I cried for the longest time. Sometimes it’s hard to look at what you’re doing with your horses and be totally honest. It’s a journey of a lifetime. It challenges us to be better people. Horses keep us honest when we listen. I’ve followed the work of several of the featured horse people in your video and it was wonderful to see them speak in this venue. I wanted to send a copy to every horse person I know. I long for them to see…..I can’t thank you enough for producing such a beautiful piece of work. Thank you for your sacrifice to make this wonderful film. I believe that your impact on the horse world will be monumental.” -Courtney
“Wow! Have to take time to digest what I saw. I really ‘got’ this last year, but I think I have wandered off my chosen path more recently. Your video has brought me back to where I want to be.” -Cheryl
“I smiled, laughed, cried and dreamed.” -Carol Powell
“I wish to thank you from the depths of my heart for this DVD! I cried with shame at the treatment we have given these and ALL non-humans. I laughed and felt deeply the joy of interaction, unimpeded, between non-human and human. I have the impulse to ask what I can do to help the education of people about all of this.” -Sonja
“It is brilliant and SUCH important work!! CONGRATULATIONS–You are a true trailblazer and incredibly brave….It touches me so deeply that I just bawled and smiled and cheered through the entire thing—it is so incredibly humbling and takes me to a new level of both understanding and not knowing and seeking and surrendering.” -Constance Funk, author of “Beauty from Brokenness”
“When it was over, I just sat in stunned silence for 5 minutes, then watched it through again. What you have shown, is (to me) the essence of how I want to be, not just with my horses, but in my life, in my relationships. I sometimes miss the mark, and I am learning to be grateful for these experiences, just as I am grateful for the ‘small and wonderful’ experiences…. Thank you so much for your work, the message these people are sending is life affirming, your work in bringing this message to us is priceless.” -Marion Snowdon, Australia
From Stormy May’s Flyer on the Film…
“This project has been no small undertaking for a person who has spent much more time training horses than operating a video camera. I think that the result is evidence that this timely message has many more forces behind it than just those people whose names are listed in the credits.
I will forewarn you that there are parts in the documentary that are difficult to watch, but ultimately I felt it was necessary to include them. We must take responsibility not only for ourselves but also for helping people around us when we see that they are hurting themselves and others. Until we realize that we as part of the human race continue to enact the things we condemned our forefathers for, we are not truly free to evolve in consciousness. Maybe you can help to spread this message by sharing this DVD with others who might be ready to find a new path.
I hope this documentary inspires you to try new things with your horse but keep in mind that the people interviewed are all professionals. Remember that this path has many steps, keep yourself and your horse safe first of all and just take the step that¹s right in front of you; sometimes the
smallest step is the most profound.
In order to help people who are interested in understanding this work on a deeper level, we are planning a free Teleseminar series on the Internet to be held over the course of 6 weeks beginning this fall. Each week will include an interview with myself and a different person featured in the documentary.
After you¹ve watched the documentary, I encourage you to email any questions you might have for myself or for any of the interviewees to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try to answer them in our discussion. To get updates about dates and how to participate in this Teleseminar please sign up for the Path of the Horse update list at www.stormymay.com .”