By Kristi Kates
Boyne Spas are becoming known in Northern Michigan for offering spa experiences far beyond that which might be expected. While facials, hair treatments, mud baths, and the like are great pursuits for relaxation, Boyne Spas extra workshops have so far included, among others, trapeze, healing, art, and drum circle events, all of which seek to take participants well past the typical.
Boyne Spas are the complete destination for body, mind, and spirit, says Camryn Handler, spa director from the Spa at The Inn at Bay Harbor. We focus not only on great treatments in our spas but also on creating new experiences in our lives to learn and grow with our spa weekends and retreats.
The latest experience from Boyne Spas is called the Equine Journey, which uses interactive exercises to help people learn by connecting with animals, in this case, horses.
Experiential learning is learning by doing, says program instructor Maryellen Werstine. Horses are highly sensitive and intuitive animals. They are masters of the art of nonverbal communication and tend to mirror and reflect the emotions and body language of those around them. A person can gain so much insight for themselves by interacting with them. We help facilitate this experience for our participants and help interpret the information as useful tools in everyday life.
All of the horse activities are done in a safe manner, on the ground, at the Bay Harbor Equestrian Club, the perfect location to host the Equine Journey, Handler says.
Handler, who first heard about the program from Werstine, says she was initially invited to a workshop to see what it was all about - even though she had a few apprehensions, and wasnt sure what to expect.
I honestly was a little afraid of horses, Handler says, but the workshop was amazing. Not only was I standing side-by-side to an extremely beautiful and large animal, but I was beginning to realize and learn things about myself; how I approach things, how I can create barriers, how my intention can shape things, and how great it feels to move these and create success. I was hooked.
Another interesting element is that the horses themselves are actually the leaders of these special events through an approach that Equine Journey calls FEEL.
HELP FROM HORSES
Feel stands for Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning, Erin Halloran, another of Equine Journeys Program Instructors, says. First and foremost, it broadens nonverbal awareness. Facilitated Equine simply means that horses are our teachers and facilitators. Experiential learning refers to a type of learning that is a here and now experience.
Halloran says that each experience generally varies greatly for participants, but that in the end, most receive unbiased information about themselves while interacting with the horses.
Horses help people learn about their nonverbal cues, unconscious behavior patterns, and the emotional intent of their words and actions, she says.
Participants will learn more about the magic of horses, Werstine continues, and through their direct experience, they can discover the effectiveness of their body language, gain personal awareness, strengthen their intuition, change old behavioral patterns, learn to set boundaries, and begin to start using emotion as information.
Horses use their literal horse sense to help their human counterparts.
The most rewarding thing about working with the horses is honest and instant feedback from them, Halloran says. Horses teach us how to live in the present moment. The most challenging aspect is usually getting people to let go of previously learned behavior patterns that have prevented them from moving forward in the past. But here, each person can connect with the horse to receive information specifically for them.
Most people have an epiphany of things they did not realize about themselves, Werstine continues, and then have an opportunity to work on it at our workshops - everyone will learn something they can take into the real world. People may not even know what they need until they are in that moment.
We all want to live in harmony, but it does not happen overnight, she adds. Long-lasting change arrives one step at a time, and requires continuation and practice to incorporate the new thoughts and ideas into your life as second nature. Our goal is to help the horses help people to get there a little quicker.
Equine Journeys upcoming workshop dates at the Bay Harbor Equestrian Club will be May 14, June 25, September 3, and October 1. Each workshop is limited to a maximum of 8 participants, so early signup is recommended. See www.innatbayharbor.com/Spa/equineJourney.html, or phone 231-439-4046.