A Reluctant Equine Participant – Guest Post by Lindsay Williams

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For quite some months, Tiffany Ashenfelter invited, encouraged and nearly insisted I come to the ranch and learn more about her work doing equine therapy. Though I love animals, and have two cats and a dog at home, I had never been around horses and my eagerness to take her up on this offer was minimal. I kept finding excuses, primarily that I was in my mid-30s and since I hadn’t been near a horse yet, I thought I was past my prime. Simply put, I wasn’t too interested. Even amid hearing the amazing work our shared clients were achieving in equine therapy, I was just fine supporting without first hand experience.

After delaying the inevitable and turning down my talented colleague in the past, my husband and I finally agreed to help Tiffany and her husband Michael with some equine therapy promo material. We arrived on a lovely Saturday evening. I was fully intending on being the helpful coworker who would lend a hand for some photos, but not really engaging in any sort of “real” equine therapy. As we greeted others and began to discuss the evening plans, the idea of having the Ashenfelter’s and their equine team walk us through the typical therapeutic activities was brought up. Everyone agreed this was a grand idea.

I wasn’t so sure because I didn’t really want to do equine therapy.

I didn’t need to build a relationship with my horse. All I was aiming for was keeping my boots clean, my arms looking slender, and my hair photo-worthy amid the Texas humidity. But, approach and bridle a horse. Walk with him or her. Get the horse to trust you. This all sounded a little intimidating and not quite what I had agreed to.

After acknowledging I was a bit anxious and discussing with the other attendees my lack of any sort of history with horses, I was attended to by the team. I was reassured and immediately felt at ease that they were for me and my success and ready to help empower me in the equine therapy work. Soon, we were assigned a horse to approach and connect with. I was given the smallest little guy, Jessie, and I was perfectly happy with it. “It’s just a big dog,” I repeatedly told myself.

I entered Jessie’s space and he allowed me to bridle him before I led him as directed by the therapy team. I spent time petting his mane and back, learning about how his response to me was reflective of my own experience. Jessie and I worked together, alongside my husband and his horse in an easy and comfortable manner. We bonded more than I ever imagined I could with an animal in such a short time. I was surprised at how I felt connected to and protective of “my” horse when we were asked to change horses and work with a new therapeutic equine partner.

As I reflected on why equine therapy went from something I was uninterested in to something I found calming, connecting and insightful, I thought of the relationship with the horse. I went into the experience somewhat anxious and hesitant, and yet while acknowledging those feelings, I acted on my value for relationship. I recognized that amid my uncomfortable feelings, I calmly welcomed the relationship, because it was just that, a relationship.

And relationships are where we learn about ourselves.

My equine therapy experience reminded me I could connect based on the way that I chose to show up, not how my fears enticed me to avoid. The horses were open to me if I was willing to approach them in a safe and unassuming manner. The work provided insights into my personal agency in interactions, awareness of how my feelings sometimes lie to me, and personal satisfaction from acting on my values. And the best is that I was with my husband and all this could easily translate into our marriage relationship.

I would have never guessed all this could come from a few hours with a horse and team of wonderful folks guiding our work together. Equine therapy and working with the Ashenfelter’s was a gift to me as both a colleague and clinician. If you are at all interested in how this work might help you or a client you have, especially if you work with couples, I can’t recommend it enough.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

Lindsay Williams is an individual therapist for adolescents and adults at Restoration Counseling in Dallas. By encouraging value driven actions within a safe and confidential relationship, her clients gain self worth and personal empowerment.

Lindsay uses DBT skills and practices alongside professional experience with complex family systems, substance use, depression, anxiety, and divorce.

So What is Equine Therapy and Unbridled Way?

“So what exactly is this equine therapy, Unbridled Way thing you’re doing?  I don’t really like horses, I don’t know how to ride horses, I don’t know anything about them, that’s not really my thing…”

As we’ve unveiled our latest ventures, equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) and our one day marriage intensive, Unbridled Way, these are the types of questions and statements we’ve frequently gotten.  It let us know we had our work cut out for us to show people just what we’re doing out at Jake E’s Riding Round Up that has become my passion.  As some of you may know, I (Tiffany) have spent the last year training and becoming certified as an Equine Specialist. I spend most Mondays out at the ranch seeing clients there doing EAP and it fills my soul!

So, because I believe in it so much and we’re building a whole new intensive on it we needed to showcase what it looks it for people who may have questions or concerns.

Here is a glimpse from our shoot done by the amazing Ren Morrison to give you an idea of what EAP and a day at Unbridled Way looks like with your partner! Our next event is June 24th, spots are still available.

 

 

 

 

 

No horse experience is necessary, we are there every step of the way to help you and keep you safe.

 

Simple exercises can have a huge impact on self-awareness for both those that have spent their lives around horses and those that have never met a horse in their life.  The connection that you can make with your horse that day can be life changing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unbridled Way’s innovative approach to couples therapy is designed to help develop awareness of the cycles of disconnection that occur within committed love relationships and is based out of Sue Johnson’s ground breaking Hold Me Tight workshop.

 

 

One of the many benefits of the small group setting is learning you are not alone in these patterns and struggles.

Our next event is Saturday June 24th and we’ve only got 3 spots left so if you want to grab yours don’t wait!  Email us at marriage@ashenfeltercounseling.com

Is It Love or a Red Flag? Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

One of the most terrifying things we can ever experience is abuse at the hands of someone who is suppose to love and protect us.  According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women & 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.  I’ve had the unfortunate experience of working with too many women who have found themselves in dangerous relationships.  Many of those women have said they didn’t know how they ended up here.

national-domestic-violence-hotline-big

A great online resource for more info

It’s important to know an abusive relationship doesn’t begin right away nor does it happen in glaringly obvious ways. Continue reading

WHAT Did You Just Say? Communication Differences of Men and Women

off-the-mark-on-men-vs_-women“He should just KNOW what I want if he loves me,” she exclaims.

“I TRY to solve her problems, but she gets mad when she’s upset and I give her advice,” he declares.

And both of them think they are right. And both of them have a right to see it that way.

And both of them would be wise to learn to see it from another point of view.

Individuality notwithstanding, the stereotypes are somewhat borne out by research: men are generally problem solvers and women generally want intuitive, compassionate responses. To put it another way, when we approach our partner with a problem, we Continue reading

Kill Switches of Happiness – Adjusting Expectations

Are your expectations hitting the kill switch to your happiness?

Throughout the years of working with couples and individuals struggling with interpersonal relationships, addictions, anxiety, depression, or simply adjusting to their ever changing lives I have witnessed the turmoil caused by unmet expectations placed upon themselves and others.  People tend to be strongly connected to their expectations, regardless if the expectation is positive or negative. In addition, many individuals will often times gravitate more consistently towards negative or positive expectations.

What is a negative expectation? Expecting the worst or expecting too little from an individual or situation.    The development of this thought process is often times constructed as a protective shield. For example some protective negative expectations are:

  • They will probably leave mepessimist.optimist.realist
  • This diet won’t work for me
  • I bet the cancer has gotten worse
  • My child will never be able to excel

These thoughts are often times justified with, “if I expect the worst I will be prepared and if the worst doesn’t happen I will be pleasantly surprised.” On the surface this appears to be a solid plan of attack. However, while expecting the worst to happen in the future we live in present despair of what may or may not happen, which may cause:

  1. Isolation and limited support – this negative outlook can often times push people away (aka Debbie Downer).
  2. Chronic irritability – moodiness is a natural emotional response of constant negative thinking.
  3. Limits potential and possibilities – people may not try or give up hope if they continually assume they cannot achieve or overcome an obstacle.

What is a positive expectation? Expecting perfection or too much from an individual or situation. This thought process is also often times developed as a measure of protection. Unfortunately behind this protective shield is a mountain of significant avoidance. For example some protective positive expectations are:

  • I have the perfect child that could never disappoint me
  • You are going to be great, with so many treatment options cancer is not a big deal these days.
  • Because my spouse truly loves me, they will understand and meet my needs (i.e. child rearing, frequency of intimacy, household chores, gifts, etc.)
  • Since I’m making such a big financial investment in this weight loss program I won’t cheat or struggle with staying on track.

In comparison to negative expectations, positive expectations also limit our ability to accurately experience the present moment. Expecting too much or perfection can lead us to avoid, or be ill-equipped to manage problems that may arise. While positive expectations are generally meant to be encouraging and supportive, they frequently cause the following reactions:

  1. Immense pressure on ourselves and others – The amount of pressure people can experience in response to positive expectations can be so intense that they are unable to enjoy their accomplishments due to residual amounts of pressure.
  2. Dismiss or overlook the realities in life, avoiding problems – Stunting healthy personal and interpersonal development that may come from addressing the realities of life.
  3. Frustration and unhappiness – Exaggerated expectations will eventually lead to disappointment, simply because not everything in life is going to be perfect or go as planned.

What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” Abraham Maslow

The next time your happiness has been killed, or you just notice you are in a constant rut, stop and ask yourself, “What expectation in this moment is causing this tension?” Fight to not immediately defend or judge your expectation. Once you are aware of your identified expectation put it up against the following test:

  1. Is the expectation true?
  2. Is the expectation helpful?
  3. Is the expectation realistic?

What are the positive and negative expectations that are killing your happiness in the moment? If you or someone you know needs help filtering through personal or relational expectations contact me at Michael@ashenfeltercounseling.com. Stay tuned for 4 Expectations that are Ruining My Marriage and Career Success & Marriage Failure.

Setting Goals, Sex & Living to 100-Interesting Articles from the Interwebs

For You – 

Most of us know that goal setting is essential to achievements and healthy living.  But goal setting is not always so easy or so black and white.  This article, 4 Ugly Facts About Setting Goals, is a great read on some of the challenges one will likely face when goal setting.  “Enter your goal-setting process with these evils in mind and you’ll knock ‘em dead.”

For Your Relationships – 

Can you be happily married and be in a sexless marriage? This is the question up for discussion in Psychology Today’s article, Can Couple’s Be Sexless & Happy?  One researcher  named in the article identifies 2 primary reasons for sex to disappear in marriage, childbirth and extra-marital affairs.  In our experience there are other reasons as well but that’s another post for another day.  This article also looks at options available to couples that find themselves in a sexless marriage.  If this is you and your spouse, you are not alone and we’d love to help you explore those areas that interfere with healthy living and a healthy sex life.  You can also find helpful tips on our series – Creating & Maintaining Intimacy

For Your Health – 

Eating a high fiber breakfast can help you live to 100

Want to live to 100?  A U.S. News Health article says if you incorporate these 11 healthy living tips, you just might live for a whole century.  “Researchers have discovered that centenarians tend to share certain traits in how they eat, move about, and deal with stress—the sorts of things we can emulate to improve our own aging process.”  As expected appropriate amounts of sleep and exercise as well as healthy diet recommendations are on the list.  But there are other more surprising factors too such as staying connected to friends and family, being conscientious, being less neurotic & never retiring.  Check it out to find out what you can do to live to 100!