Using horse sense for healing

    Riders make their way down the street in the medieval culture of Mustang in the Himalyas in the movie 'Talking To The Air,' one of two movies to be shown Sunday at a fundraising event for local nonprofit Riding Beyond. [Courtesy image]

    In the movie “Herd: We are All Here to Heal Together,” we see the story of how women recovering from the trauma and medical treatments of breast cancer are able to find comfort, healing and understanding to renew their lives.

    The film is being shown as part of the Equus International "On the Trail" film tour coming to Ashland from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28, at Mountain Avenue Theater at Ashland High School to benefit the local group Riding Beyond, which has the same goals of bringing wholeness of life to breast cancer survivors. The film won Best Director and was tied for Best Documentary in the festival.

    The film shows the uncanny ability of horses to gather round such a person, feel and touch her and “entrain” the woman to the animals’ big hearts and groundedness in nature, says Ashlander Trish Broersma, founder and director of the nonprofit Riding Beyond, which conducts retreats and workshops.

    “After breast cancer, women are ill-prepared for recovery,” Broersma notes. “They feel reclusive, don’t want to be touched or have much connection with other people. They’ve turned their self over to a medical team and lost touch with themselves and have lost a lot of awareness of their bodies. Eighty percent of them have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).”

    In “Herd,” as in Riding Beyond, we see horses’ ability to connect women with the “natural consciousness, which is easy to lose in this modern world. Horses have a lot to teach us about being sensitive to our environment. Over time, you become a trusted herd member.”

    In doing this, Broersma, a therapeutic riding instructor, practices “liberty training,” which is letting a horse have leadership instead of the animal responding to human leadership and training — and so it is in the film, she says.

    The survivors often have a new range of symptoms, including neuropathy, heart issues, inability to take a deep breath and impairment of vital functions, as well as the dread that cancer might return, she says.

    “Horses have an energy field that goes out 60 feet. You experience their heart rhythm as joy, calm, relaxation,” she says. “Even brushing a horse creates that pattern.”

    The film’s blurb says, “On 320 acres of sacred land in Canada … the animals live and teach truths that are just being discovered by human science: the field, wave theory, entrainment, telepathy, clairvoyance, spontaneous healing. All are the obvious expression of true connection to the one consciousness. The land itself, along with the herd that runs freely across this land, are helping humans to reach a new level of consciousness and well-being.”

    Also to be shown Sunday is “Talking to the Air: The Horses of the Last Forbidden Kingdom.” It shows the horse culture of Mustang, on a remote border with China, where riding is as elemental as breathing and, says the film’s blurb, “it tells the story of the ascent of civilization in the high Himalaya and turns a lens on issues of globalization, fragile border politics and the precarious future for the horse in this remarkable region.”

    Tickets are $20 at the door or at and include refreshments and a silent auction. For more information, email or call 541-482-6210.

    — John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at


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