The Medicine Journey
The Medicine Journey, Horse Dance and the Equine-assisted Soul Experience are a unique part of Dawn's work, offering a deep and spiritual experience.
The Medicine Journey is an evolving modality that has been part of Heartshore’s methodology for some 8 years. This powerful process has been adapted from an experience that Rupert Isaacson (The Horseboy) witnessed and facilitated with his autistic son, Rowan. Rupert dearly wished to share his love of horses with Rowan but, as any parent of an autistic child knows, coercion in any form is not going to work. Rowan had to be allowed to find his own way to horses, and Rupert had to cultivate patience.
One day they happened to be in the company of their neighbours’ big mare, Betsy when Rowan went into an autistic meltdown. The only thing Rupert could think of to do in that moment was to lift Rowan, kicking and screaming, onto the back of Betsy. Thus the magic began. Rowan remained on Betsy’s back for some 45 minutes, sometimes sitting, sometimes lying on his front, sometimes on his back, even turning around and lying face-down on Betsy’s rump.
Rupert witnessed how this interaction with this big powerful animal lowered Rowan’s stress levels and agitation and brought him into a state of calmness from which he was able to regulate himself. Rupert began to work with other children and their autistic families, and this sensory experience forms a significant part of the therapy he offers. Dawn has been with Rupert on several occasions where huge breakthroughs have occurred when a horse is allowing this level of engagement with a child.
Whilst working at an equine therapy establishment in Warwickshire Rupert and Dawn were working with Edward, a six-year-old autistic boy who had never communicated with his parents. Whilst lying on the back of the big black Cob, Bertie, engaging in the sensory experience, Edward turned to his mother, clearly signed, ‘Sleep’, and smiled.
This was the first time Edward had in any way communicated with his mum. For him, for her, for his whole family, and for us, this was a life-changing moment. Bertie was able to engage in this process so absolutely because of the way he was kept, nurtured by the herd without pain and fear, allowed to move his feet at will, earth against the soles of his feet.
In time, we adapted the sensory experience to other scenarios in the work. It has become an important integrative tool at the end of an intensive, or as a part of a Horse Dance or Soul Journey, or inside the prisons, to help regulate young offenders.
Dawn feels that the fact that the horses are choosing to come into a therapeutic or healing relationship with us at this time is deeply significant. It seems that with their large hearts and limbic systems, they are aware of our search for healing - for the planet, for ourselves and for our relationship with them. As Dawn explains in an excerpt from her book,
“To hold space for the horse during this process (of the medicine journey) is to witness the depths and expanses and distances a horse can take us to. Head low, ears relaxed, breathing deep, eyes lidded, the horse enters the zone, that place deep inside, where everything matters and nothing matters. Where we can rest. No horse can feel safe enough to surrender into this process unless he or she feels absolutely secure within the herd and within themselves”.
A large part of the development of the sensory experience into the medicine journey occurred in July and October 2019, whilst Dawn was consulting and facilitating at Indian Springs Farm in Pennsylvania, a place very close to Dawn’s heart.
Questions are sometimes raised about how ethical it is to ask horses to participate in this work. Dawn’s answer at present, is that what makes it okay is perhaps what makes any ask of anyone okay - freedom of choice. At no time are Dawn’s horses coerced into a Medicine Journey, or any other work.