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debbie and bunny

Debbie Loucks with the family's horse, Bunny, which is short for "Steel Buns." 

We are just beginning to discover, understand and apply the endless possibilities of a horse's ability to help humans. Being present with a horse is not something you have to teach a 12-year-old child -- they just are.

Summers spent outdoors with a horse can help to build relationships and memories that last a lifetime. However, these days, because horses aren’t essential to our lives so much anymore -- we have different means of transportation, farming techniques, and are mainly kept for recreational purposes by a fraction of the population-- it requires a more conscious effort to be with them.

Today, horses are competing for people’s attention, time, loyalty and advocacy. Our mindset quickly defaults to ‘what’s in it for me?’ when considering whether to choose a horse over other activities. Consider the human condition these days: People feel stressed, disconnected by too much technology and overwhelmed with the ever-growing demands of today’s world. Because of this, horses are at risk of becoming too much of an investment for many to bother.

We horse lovers know that there is a lot more to horses than exercise and time commitment.

Instead, it is time that we all look for ways to give our minds rest, be in the moment, heal, connect with ourselves and others, and bring some magic back into our lives. 

Horses have no agenda and no ability to contrive. They live in the moment and react spontaneously to their environment. This is the nature of the flight animal. And horses mirror our emotions and state of mind. It's in their DNA to sync with those around them for reasons of safety. What better way to find mindfulness yourself by being present with a horse?

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They are also a lot of fun to be around, on the ground, and in the saddle. One of the fastest growing groups of recreational horse lovers are women over 40. They may have dreamed of getting onto a horse since childhood, or yearned to get back in the saddle as an adult, but almost all desire a peaceful relationship with their horse to better understand what motivates them.

A great place to start is Join-Up®.

It's a ground work exercise that builds trust between you and your horse. It's one of those things that can be easily learned but spend a lifetime mastering. Join-Up is all about creating a safe and cooperative environment for the horse; offering him the choice to move away or "join-up" through the use of non-violent body language and communication. This develops a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

My mission is to help people recognize the qualities in horses that helps them to cope with a stressful world; raise awareness about how underutilized horses are today, and how -- while we continue to find better ways to start, raise and keep them -- they are actually helping us more than we are helping them. I encourage those interested in non-violent forms of communication and leadership to seek out horses first. You will be helping humans and horses live better lives.

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Debbie Roberts Loucks grew up on Flag Is Up Farms in Solvang. She is the daughter of Monty and Pat Roberts. You can follow her on her popular podcast Horsemanship Radio. She is founder of The Movement, a recently held international symposium and festival about the transformative nature of horses.