September 2020 - Book Review
Written by Reviewed by Lori Barron • by Michelle Holling-Brooks with photographs by AJ Morey
Wednesday, 26 August 2020 20:28


The Horse Cure: True Stories

Reviewed by Lori Barron • by Michelle Holling-Brooks with photographs by AJ Morey

In hard times, we often turn to stories, both fictional and real, for inspiration. The tales in The Horse Cure: True Stories inspire readers in several ways, showing us humans’ capacity for change and horses’ power to heal.


Author Michelle Holling-Brooks, a certified equine therapy professional and founder of the non-profit Unbridled Change, shares individual stories of clients, both adults and children, who have come to UC to work on healing from trauma. She shows her personal connection to the work by including a chapter describing how horses helped her recover from the aftereffects of severe childhood illness.


The book also explains the kind of equine therapy in practice at UC, Equine-Partnered Psychotherapy and Coaching. The horses are not directed by those overseeing the sessions; rather, they choose on their own whether and how to interact with clients (along with a mental health professional, an equine professional is present to watch out for safety and note how the horse is reacting to the client). By interacting with horses, rarely riding them but sometimes working with them to complete a task, clients gain insights into both their own behaviors and feelings and those of others and learn to start altering old, counterproductive behavior patterns induced by trauma.

Both the clients and the horses in The Horse Cure are inspiring. The book clearly demonstrates how survivors of physical and sexual abuse and other painful experiences, dealing with aftereffects such as trust issues, anger management issues, or emotional shutdown, grow as a result of their work with the horses, who are attuned and sensitive healers. In one memorable session, Wiscy, a big piebald, sniffs the arms of adult client Brenda (names are changed for privacy), then repeatedly blocks her from returning to the therapists. Eventually, he allows her to do so, and she explains to them that she recently tried to slit her wrists and that Wiscy wouldn’t let her come back to them until she became willing to tell them what she’d done. The book gives many such examples of horses’ deep intuition.

The Horse Cure is a moving, informative read. It is clearly written and takes readers step by step through the therapy sessions so we can see how the clients’ transformations occur. Having some chapters describe how a client progresses over time, while others focus on a single session, is very helpful because it shows us how equine therapy changes people’s lives gradually but also provides breakthrough moments that, all by themselves, give clients important new insights. If you want to learn more about this therapy, or if you’d like to be uplifted by seeing the power of horses’ healing work, this is the book for you.

Reviewer Lori Barron is a lifelong horse lover from Sonoma whose greatest horseback adventure was riding a half-Arab stallion on a camping trip in Morocco many years ago.

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