RANCHO SANTA FE — Tucked away in the greenery of Rancho Santa Fe, a small group of people focused on centering themselves on Aug. 13 with the help of some unlikely four-legged attendants.
Participants in a mindfulness and movement workshop engaged in guided yoga and meditation in a corral alongside a group of rescue horses, all under the watchful eye of equine specialist Laura Spielman and other volunteers at Laughing Pony Rescue.
Some horses simply stood nearby, while others weaved throughout the participants and allowed themselves to be pet. Attendees smiled as the impressive animals joined them in their quiet, contemplative moment.
“Whatever we have going on, horses amplify that energy in our hearts,” Spielman said. “If I can give someone ten minutes of peace they didn’t have before, the morning was a success.”
Spielman, a PATH International Certified Equine Specialist for Mental Health and Learning and Mindfulness teacher with the Equine Academy for Learning, has been overseeing these workshops at Laughing Pony for about a year.
She has witnessed them to be hugely beneficial for participants. Horses, she said, are deeply sensitive to human emotions and offer a non-judgemental space where people feel more present and calm.
“In our eyes, our horses are partners. Some of our horses really enjoy the work,” Spielman said.
Laughing Pony is a nonprofit that rescues horses and donkeys from cruel situations and helps nurse them back to health. Founder Celia Sciacca and her team will buy horses from feedlots that are set for slaughter and come in severely injured, malnourished or with distrust in people.
While not all horses at the rescue interact with people, some have found themselves well-suited to the mindfulness workshops. Many appear mesmerized and calmed by Native American flutist Maria Kostelas, who shares her music during the events.
Rose Anzarouth of Del Mar, one of the Aug. 13 participants, said the horses are wonderful teachers in opening the heart.
“It’s a very healing experience, because they’re incredibly intuitive beings. When you come here, the vulnerability is healing, and they help us access that in ourselves,” Anzarouth said.
Mindfulness and Movement classes take place around every other month, with a suggested donation of $50 that goes toward the rescue. The next event is scheduled for Oct. 1. More information will be available online at laughingponyrescue.org.
Those interested in scheduling a session for a private group can contact Spielman at [email protected].