Rancher learns that horses have more to offer than just a ride.
Off the 101 Freeway lies a horse ranch nestled in Agoura Hills. On a weekend morning in the spring, cool temperatures and light breezes pervade The Healing Equine Ranch while gentle sunrays pierce the sky.
Musician and lifelong equestrian Kiki Ebsen grew up on this ranch, where she began riding horses at the age of 5. Though a skilled rider, she stopped riding to pursue studies in music.
Fifteen years ago she returned, searching for something new to do with horses. She came across natural horsemanship, which she said is learning the language of horses in the way they interact in a herd.
Ebsen, along with her friend Terry Carroll, created Horse Mornings for Women, a program that seeks “to empower, enlighten and educate humans through natural interaction with horses,” according to its website.
“Horses’ senses are so attuned to their surroundings,” Ebsen said. “They have a sixth sense about energy, so when you come around them with a certain type of energy – which means your personality, your emotions, your body language – they’re going to react appropriately.”
If a person comes on too strong, for example, the horses will run away.
“If you’re too passive, they’ll step all over you,” she said.
Ebsen maintains rescue horses, and on average they’re noticeably bigger than she is. Still, with confidence and without the slightest hint of fear, she manages to get them to do as she says. If she doesn’t want a horse to cross a boundary, she simply places her hand on its head and pushes it back. Not too forcefully, but just enough to let the horse know she won’t allow it to cross the line.
Once the horse retreats, she lets go.
“The principle here is that pressure motivates, and the release teaches the horse that it’s doing the right thing,” Ebsen said. “In other words, you make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult.”
She takes this approach in getting the horse to follow her instead of threatening it with a consequence if it does not obey.
Women who have participated in the program say they’ve learned valuable life skills.
“(Horse Mornings) was deeply profound with many life lessons that applied to many areas,” said Kimberly Loiacono, a craniosacral therapist at SoulCare BodyWork. “I learned things on a visceral level that I have always known but could never quite overcome.”
In addition to life learning, a perk for Sherman Oaks resident Jacqui Brown was the route to the ranch.
“You can feel your shoulders relax, your neck loosen, and the breath you draw is filled with the scents of lavender and oak. It’s just the beginning of the peace you will feel by the end of your session,” she said.
Brown has had trouble with setting boundaries in her life, and the way she communicated with horses in the program was something she found could be applied to relationships with children, friends and coworkers.
“Because of the exercises you go through during your session, your confidence begins to build slowly, but as the horse trainers guide you through exercises to help you tear down emotional barriers, to help you see clearly that you must be in control, you feel any fear you came with start to slowly fade away,” she said.
Horse Mornings for Women is offered in two ways: four-week sessions and a one-day session. In the four-week session, participants visit the ranch once a week for two hours. In the one-day session, women visit the ranch one time for six to eight hours.
An upcoming four-week session will take place Mondays on May 7, 14, 21 and 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. A full-day format will also take place May 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
More information about Horses for Women is available at www.thehealingequineranch.com and by calling (818) 889-5397.