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It’s Not About the Horse
by Wyatt Webb • Tucson, AZ

The following is excerpted with permission from the new book, It's Not About the Horse, published by Hay House, Inc., available at all bookstores, by phone: 800-654-5126, or via the Internet at www.hayhouse.com

If you want to deal with your demons, it’s appropriate to make a pit stop at a place as hot as hell—Tucson, Arizona in the summertime. It’s 100-plus degrees, with dark, ominous clouds erasing the Santa Catalina mountaintops in the distance. It’s the monsoon season, which means big storms. But for the five women and two men sitting on hay bales in front of Wyatt Webb, it appears that there are bigger storms brewing.

"My name is Wyatt," he says to the seven people in front of him. "Welcome to the Equine Experience."

A sweet, musty smell of horse lingers in the air, and for no reason at all, a 1,300 pound chestnut gelding named Monsoon rears and tears off in a farting, sweating gallop. This is his way of welcoming people. Monsoon’s massive body, thick mane and tail fly through the air and he releases a high-pitched scream that rips into your eardrums and rattles your insides.

Wyatt is just as much in awe of this beautiful animal as everybody else is. He tells the group, "That’s sheer joy–an emotion that’s somewhat foreign to most of us humans on a daily basis."

By the looks on their faces, these people are ready for an experience of joy. They don’t appear to have felt it for some time. They miss the feeling and that’s why they’re here.

Wyatt starts the session by telling these folks that he’s not here to change anybody’s life. "I don’t have the power to do so," he says. "I don’t have your answers. I’m not here to argue with or discredit traditional therapeutic modalities. I’m not accusing anybody of doing a shitty job or saying that traditional psychotherapy isn’t helpful. But I certainly hope that we can add to whatever already exists in the therapy world as you know it."

Wyatt then shares what Logan, the counselor who helped save his life, his mind and his very soul 22 years ago told him: If you’re to achieve the peace, joy, and spiritual fulfillment that you want so badly, it depends upon one thing and one thing only–your willingness to simply do something different.

Wyatt has been a practicing therapist for a number of years, but his tools don’t involve a leather couch and his helpers don’t arrive in suits or high heels. "You’re going to clean some hooves," he tells the group, "and you’re going to groom the horse.

"How you relate to this animal will tell us what you’ve learned over the course of your lifetime concerning how you relate to all living things. Your basic training has come from learning how to treat people." He pauses and adds, "Remember one thing: It’s not about the horse. I can teach you a few basic skills that will keep you safe in any barn in the world, but what we’re here to look at is what you’ve learned over the course of your lifetime that either works for or against you in your relationships."

He stops for a second and then continues. "Keep in mind that you’ve been conditioned to be externally focused in all of your relationships. This is one of the true impediments to our being able to learn anything about ourselves. Let me ask you this: How much time do you spend during the day wondering what others are thinking and feeling, and concocting stories about why they’re behaving as they do? See, as long as I’m focused on you in such a manner, it will be impossible for me to connect with you because I’m not present with myself.

"So, what I suggest you do is pay attention to what you’re thinking and pay attention to what you’re feeling. Know that these two things dictate the way you live your life. By focusing your attention internally as opposed to externally, you’ll be able to be present enough to connect with any other living thing, which will also cause you to take responsibility for your life and how you live it.

"I won’t judge you, but I will observe. I pledge to tell you the truth, to be kind, but sometimes to be blunt. Together, let’s examine the stories you’re making up to see how many of them are based in reality. Personally, prior to the age of 36, almost every story I had was based in a lie."

He makes it clear that the person dealing with the horse is the one who tells the story. And
most of the stories he sees have one thing in common: Pain. Most of this pain is rooted in self-doubt and fear. For instance, one man in the group says, "I can’t remember when I didn’t hurt. I think it’s the world that messes us up."

Wyatt turns to the group and says, "We’ve been imprinted. We’re born being called ‘bundles of joy.’ Well, that’s true. Babies generally are full of joy—they’re born happy and remain so unless they’re hungry or experiencing some discomfort. Once that’s alleviated, they’re right back in the joy state. They’re at one with everything when they arrive on the planet. They run on pure emotion.

"They don’t know what it means to doubt themselves or to be afraid until about five days into the trip, when they begin to soak up the energy of the adults," Wyatt says. "Then they feel the inconsistency. At this point in time, welcome to a world full of scary people.

"Every culture I’ve ever been subjected to appears to be frightened," he explains. "I’ve been working as a psychotherapist for 20 years. If I could boil down every problem that ever walked through any office that I’ve occupied– and this includes when I’ve been alone in the office– every human being suffers from two things in varying degrees of intensity, two things that are taught to us. They’re called self-doubt and fear.

"There’s the fear of physical harm and of emotional harm. There’s the fear of not being good enough. There’s the constant fear of being discovered. Anyone who really wants to grow, expand and know who they are has to travel uncharted territories all the time. So that kind of person has
to live in a world of I don’t know, which is scary, but it’s the only place where you learn anything. What you always find on the opposite side of fear and self-doubt is joy. Joy is our birthright– we’re born with it. But it gets taken away from us and we have to go back and reclaim it."

Wyatt shakes his head and tells a story about what he learned from Monsoon about a year
ago. "I was riding, and I was changing gaits– transitioning from the walk to the trot to the canter. The walk to the trot– no problem. But even after ten years of riding, the power of the canter still scares me. I tried to push Monsoon into a canter twice, and both times I miscued him. My fear had me off balance– literally and figuratively. I eased back to the trot and I got frustrated.

"I was about to move into a canter for the third time, and again I felt that I was off balance. This time, I was determined to win. I said, ‘The hell with it,’ and cued him anyway. Monsoon shifted his massive frame. I was so off that most of my weight shifted forward, which in the horse
world is called throwing the horse on the forehand. This was his cue to stop. And he did. I flew over his head about 20 feet onto the ground. If I hadn’t had a helmet on, it would have killed me. I hit the ground with a bang!

"In that humiliating, spirit-crushing, bone-aching, ah-ha! moment, a light bulb went off in my head. I thought to myself, I finally get it. Anytime I’m in a relationship with any living thing and I have the need to win, the possibility for connection and closeness is over. All I ever wanted was that closeness and connection. In fact, I think we’re all homesick for it."

He goes on to explain that he’s never had that same issue with Monsoon again. "I’ve had that problem with a few people," Wyatt laughs, "but I’ve been able to reign it in because when I find myself trying to win, it’s time to stop. Because somebody has to lose. This whole culture is set up this way. We’ve got to win, which means we’re going to lose. It means that we cannot even hope to connect with each other."

For Wyatt, it’s all about connection, and the first step to healing is connecting with a horse. The issues that show up when we move to connect include mental, physical and emotional abuse– not limited to marriages on the rocks, parent-child relationships gone bad, and much worse concerns including rape and abandonment.

The group is brought into a large arena and each person is told to choose one of the six large, inquisitive horses waiting for them. Next to each animal is a small bucket with tools to clean the horses’ hooves and various other grooming utensils associated with preparing a horse for saddling. Wyatt tells everyone to approach his or her horse and greet the animal at its shoulder.

He takes one young man aside and suggests that he stop rubbing the horse for dear life.

"Try to leave a little fur on the horse, because the sun is gonna come out and I don’t want him to get burned," he says quietly to the young man. "You also don’t need to sweet-talk him."

"I’m trying to get him to like me, so he’ll cooperate," says the man.

"So," Wyatt asks, "is this one of your learned behaviors? Is your motto: If I’m nice to you, then you must be nice to me back?"

"I guess I always try extra hard to get people to like me," says the young man. "I figure if I’m the nicest person in the whole room, people will have to be nice to me back."

"Let me suggest to you the fallacy behind that one," he explains. "You’re not really being nice to anyone. You’re being manipulative. You’re only acting nice in the hopes of preventing people from rejecting you. True kindness comes with no charge. Later on, the universe just pays you back."

The mini-dramas being played out on this sandy desert floor can easily become much more serious, though. For example, Katie, a young lawyer whose parents abandoned her and sent her to live in various foster homes is afraid of her horse because she’s scared to death of being rejected again.

"If you walk through your fear that something must be wrong with you, then what you always find on the other side is that there’s nothing wrong with you. And there’s nothing to be afraid of," he tells her.

"What happens then?" the woman asks, sobbing.

"When you get to that other side, there’s only one thing waiting– joy."

Wyatt Webb survived 15 years in the music industry as an entertainer. Realizing he was killing himself due to drug and alcohol addiction, Wyatt sought help. He began what is now a 20 year career as a therapist. He is the founder of the Equine Experience at Miraval Life in Balance™, one of the world’s top resorts, located in Tucson, AZ. Contact him through Hay House, www.hayhouse.com