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One Horse’s Journey Through Loss and Grief Offers Gifts for The Holidays


Small steps. Little glimpses. Watching two-month old Willow playing with our mini, Sawyer tells a tale of healing. Willow’s mom, Aspen is our newest horse at Rise Canyon Ranch’s Arizona location. She came to us soon after escaping imminent peril and was in the late stages of carrying Willow. The consequence of the trauma she endured remains apparent in her fear and mistrust of others. Willow follows her lead as she knows nothing different.

Aspen is quiet and shy and unsure of being part of the herd. We walk this journey with her and meet her where she is. There are days when she engages with us and others when she shows no interest. We respect her history in our approach to fostering her adaptation to her experiences. Humans do the same in their struggle to become part of life again after traumatic events.

Horses have a gift for recognizing the need for self-care. Aspen shows us the impact of a traumatizing time in her life when she lost her sense of safety, her herd, her surroundings, and trust in humans. The weight of her grief is heavy for her and for Willow.

Loss and resulting grief are shared by humans and animals alike.

The holiday season can be racked with current upheaval or distant memories of strife. Many of us don’t fit the stereotype of the, “Happy Holiday Person.” And some of us realize the us of this year may not match-up to previous years, and that’s okay. It is important to remember who we are and what we really need during this time of year.

Take wisdom from Aspen’s journey of healing and adjusting:

  • She evaluates how she’s feeling each day, multiple times a day.

  • She eases into situations and opens herself to positive interactions when she’s comfortable.

  • When she’s had enough, we find her rolling around in the sun without a care while Willow witnesses her joy.

As long as she’s willing, no matter how long it takes we’re committed to helping her reestablish her life here at Rise Canyon Ranch.

To those who may be in the midst of grieving be mindful of your needs during the holiday season and throughout the coming year. Take time to evaluate expectations of yourself and determine if they still fit the you of today. Like Aspen, at some point may you find yourself rolling in the sun experiencing joy and peace on your own terms.

Her tip from a previous blog post deserves repeating,

“The season may be a time of grief and loss for you. Try not to compare yourself to others if you’re struggling. Take time to evaluate what you’re feeling and be respectful of your needs. Be realistic about how much time and effort you can offer to a situation.”

Happy holidays from the staff and horses at Rise Canyon Ranch. If you or anyone you know is struggling this holiday season and would like more information about Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, please contact Rise Canyon Ranch at 714-477-1630 (Orange County, CA) and 928-288-0780 (Yavapai County, AZ). Come for the horses. Stay for the self-discovery.

As discussed with: Dr. Theresa Dubois, PsyD, LMFT and Tory Seagraves, LMFT

Written by: Anne Kruse

Photo credit: Rise Canyon Ranch


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