HOOFS AND HEARTS: Local Horse Ranch Offers Equine Therapy
saddle up with gestalt coach Robert Goodland and explore a different kind of therapy
Robert Goodland nearly died in 2007. Floating peacefully under ice after an accident, he was ripped back to the surface to be faced with the realization that past traumas, big and small, continued to shape his life views. He felt his world become chaos; his body heavy. But then, he found horses.
“My horses, they were really a safe place for me to go when I didn’t feel safe anywhere else,” he said. In exploring new careers in horsemanship, he went to an equine gestalt coaching program which he finished in 2020. Getting his gestalt coaching certification in January, he’s able to practice helping people love themselves outside of their traumas, with or without horses. Unlike traditional therapy, gestalt coaching focuses on the wholeness of the client without a diagnosis necessary. “The client is whole and complete,” Goodland explained. “Something happened to them; there’s nothing wrong with them.”
Exploring this practice further, Goodland started The Heart of a Horse, a therapy ranch south of Eau Claire for people to go and discover a new way to break down traumas and experience acceptance. It’s a little bit more than traditional, talking therapy.
“When we involve the horses, it’s using the innate spiritual ability that horses have. … Horses are masters at being in the here and now,” Goodland said. It is this presence of the horses and the stillness of the ranch’s countryside that help to encourage clients to stay grounded, open, and honest – all parts of the healing process. “I know what these horses did for me, and I wanted to be able to give back."
“The only thing I can teach with the horses is proper manners,” he explained. “The horses show up in different ways that I can’t describe or predict.” Some horses may sit still while clients brush their mane, some may simply walk around the ranch on a lead, and some may gaze and lead the client to understand their own, complicated feelings. “I am partnering with my horses,” Goodland continued. “I am using their innate skills and abilities in conjunction with mine to help clients.”
When clients come to the ranch, met with a vast, open scene of peaceful, natural land, Goodland goes to the barn, asks which horse wants to help someone today, and whoever raises their hoof walks with Goodland towards the indoor arena. The horse reminds clients to stay grounded, even when it’s hard.
“Trauma is stored in the body,” Goodland said. “Traumas that are kept in the dark grow and they take on a life of their own. The cumulative effect of those traumas can be devastating.”
“What we do here is experiential because it is the experiences that you remember, your own realizations. I am not the expert in your life,” he explained. “You are not broken. You have the answers you seek. They are just simply outside of your awareness. My job is to bring those answers into your awareness through experience.”
Hosting an open house on May 13, 1-5pm, people can come to meet the horses, see some simple demonstrations, and visit the ranch near Mondovi.
The Heart of a Horse is at W4355 Hemlock Road, Mondovi. Learn more about Goodland’s journey, equine therapy, and how to book an appointment at theheartofahorse.com.