The World of Living with Horses

Interview with Alex Limkin of Listening Horse Therapeutic Riding

Listening Horse Therapeutic Riding is located in Santa Fe and serves northern and central New Mexico. They are a member center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.). We offer recreational therapy with horses for people facing physical & emotional challenges. To learn more go to http://www.listeninghorse.org/.

How did you learn about Listening Horse?

I read a flyer posted in the window where I had been getting treatment. The brochure lay around for a few months in a pile of papers before I called.

Is there one particular horse you’ve bonded with?

Promise, but only because I spent the most time with her. I think I was just lucky with her.

Alex & Promise helping on a trail ride

Did you have concerns or worries about joining a program incorporating large animals?

I was a little concerned because I had some injuries that were still healing. When I was in the old guard I had been thrown off a horse at a gallop. I knew there were risks involved with working with horses but the program turned out to be about more than just riding a horse.

Name one lesson you took away from the program that benefited you the most.

Animals and nature can help manage my condition, and life is worth living. Before I got in touch with Listening Horse, I had already been spending a lot of time in the wilderness by myself. I was indifferent to life and aggravated by people and the wilderness was the only place I knew that made sense to me. But even though the wilderness was where I was going, I felt that I was just on the outside looking in, that the sacredness of the outdoors was just something for me to look at but not experience. Gus and Promise helped change that for me. I spent a lot of time with Promise. I learned that I could reestablish my connection to nature with her. When I was with her, I felt like I was a part of nature, that I still had a place in the world and that I was reconnecting myself to life instead of just fleeing. I felt like I was restoring myself and finding meaning. I wanted to get a horse that I could be with all the time, but it wasn’t practical living in the city. Awareness of the power of animals and nature as calming agents also led me to Abigail. I would tell you she is a dog but that doesn’t feel right, just like I don’t think of Promise as a “horse.” Promise is Promise. Abigail is Abigail. They are beings.

How would you like to see this program made available to more veterans in need of its benefits?

I think that the doctors and therapists involved with our troops should be educated in the power of animals and nature to salvage us. I think we have a tendency to try to solve our problems with new drugs and new machines. When we are injured, when we have been shattered by the “human” world, it makes sense that we treat ourselves not with more human technology, but with our most ancient connections, animals. Sometimes our ability to even perceive this connection is severed or severely impaired. Sometimes we don’t even realize that this connection has been challenged until something catastrophic happens. Sometimes it is too late to come back. Listening Horse helps veterans connect to this latent care for life that exists in all of us, even those that have been irreversibly brutalized or shocked. I spend 3 or 4 days a week in the WDS with Abigail. That immersion helps me to manage the functions of life: shopping, driving, cooking, cleaning, etc. I don’t think I would have fully learned and then implemented these coping mechanisms without this program and the people and animals in it. I think many more veterans could benefit from Listening Horse, but I don’t think veterans are aware of the program and how it can help them because the information isn’t getting distributed outside of the VA. I hope this changes.

Alex & Sugar riding by Rio Grande

Alex & Sugar riding by the Rio Grande

Mikey

Michaelanne (Mikey) Dehner grew up in Bucks County, PA and took up horseback-riding at an early age. She showed competitively before going to college to pursue a degree in Vocal Performance, focusing on opera and musical theater. Her passion for the outdoors led her to Colorado where she has lived for the past 13 years with her husband and her Siberian husky, Logan. She recently left her job in the outdoor industry to spend more time with her 2-year-old daughter. In addition to riding horses and writing, Mikey is an avid hiker, marathon runner, certified running coach and personal trainer.

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