“I dream my paintings and then I paint my dreams,” a quote by Vincent Van Gogh, a 19th century painter, was gently spoken by Allison Ingels. Allison works at Paws for Reflection, a ranch owned by Melode Seremet. The ranch uses horses and other animals to heal the mind, body and spirit of people who need help. Allison is a professional transformational coach and Equine Experiential Learning Facilitator and incorporates the unique assignment of painting designs on horses into her therapy sessions as people paint their dreams.
Allison stated, “When you put people together with horses, horses give them an opportunity to see themselves. Horses mirror people’s energy and they are so authentic.” In order to understand the healing bonus of painting on horses, it is necessary to grasp the concept of what gets someone to the point where the therapy works. Allison continued,
“We have a number of exercises of being with the horses. They [our patients] just stand and look in the eyes of [one of the horses]. They are given an assignment to tell me the personality of the horse, and they are always able to do it. People find a sense of confidence and peace in themselves.
In establishing communication with the animal, they will notice their own fear. I show them their own fear and give them the opportunity to move their fear out of the way and open their hearts to that love — instead of fear. Once people do that, then the horses want to be with them. When they send out fear, horses don’t want to be with them. It happens that way in life. So, people get to see that what they are doing with the horses they are also doing with people.”
When the people Allison is working with feel comfortable with the horses and the horses feel comfortable with them, she leads them through some exercises. During the therapy session, she explained, “They may want to look at an area of their business or their life that may not be working right now. We have them set up a replica of their life with toys I put out in a big area outside. Then, they take the horses and walk them through, around or over what they set up. They can’t halter the horses, so they get them to walk through what they have set up with their own energy. The last thing is a guided meditation. Then, they paint on their horses. It is a visioning thing where they visualize a new future and then paint it into reality.”
Allison explained, “That’s what we do here,” in referring to the quote by Van Gogh. “My experience has been that when people do this, whatever they paint generally comes true. A lot
of times I see people paint hearts, sunshine, flowers and something that describes peace. They may also paint a new future with people holding hands. They may paint someone they are in love with.
The horses like it and stand perfectly still. We use washable paint. I have never had an ending with someone where they didn’t feel good about it.” The colors they use are colors they are drawn too, or as Allison said, “whatever resonates with them, because this is an artistic creation.” After painting on the horses is completed, everyone shares what they painted and why. Allison added, “If the painting is really good, we might leave it there for two or three days.”
The hard work of emotional healing during therapy is already reaping benefits; but the added plus of standing in the sunshine with a living, agreeable, not-to-mention hairy, live canvas attributes to the atmosphere of the therapy. It is harder to hold onto your hurt and pain with a paintbrush in your hand and a horse in front of you, as you paint your way to freedom. Allison stated, “The experience people have when painting the horse can be a release. One lady, who was a minister, experienced becoming closer to God. She said it was the best experience of
her life. She painted all kinds of hieroglyphics and symbols she’d never seen before. It was inspirational for her.
For most people, it is a release of creativity, freedom and connecting to the horse.” Melode concurred. “When you think about it, most physical illnesses stem from emotional issues. With the targeted clientele Allison has, those people may be dealing with physical issues that can’t be resolved, whether it is a smaller illness or a major illness. When you are around animals, it is documented that you relax, your blood pressure goes down and your body reacts in a positive way. You won’t be so guarded. When you are standing out there leaning on a rail watching the horses graze, the setting makes it so much easier to talk and get to thoughts that you are struggling with. Partnering with animals for counseling helps you unearth the challenges quicker,” Melode said. After you unearth those challenges, you can then paint the dreams you dream.
— Written By Betty Tryon