He looked down, she just gave him a little lick, and suddenly I couldn’t stop him from crying

Zereeseis Player, age 12: “They taught me how to be respectful, they taught me how to listen, they’ve taught me not to be disobedient to others, and treat people like they want to be treated.”
Farrah Akbar, age 8:  “I would say, if you’ve never seen a horse or touched a horse, just touch it. Because if you touch it, then you’ll feel the soul.”

At equine-therapy programs like Compton Jr. Posse in Los Angeles, inner-city adolescents find a refuge from drugs and street-gang culture by developing equestrian skills and learning to regard the knowing gazes of 1,000-plus-pound horses and guide their beguiling power. In return for striving in school, the program’s participants, ranging in age from 8 to 18, are taught to ride horses, groom them and clean their stables. These experiences keep them within the horse’s “personal circle.” Horses have a profound effect on humans. “Whether they have a physical handicap or an emotional handicap or a mental handicap, when you’re around a horse,” Akbar says, “the energy is so powerful that it tunes the body up…

Something extraordinary occurs when we’re in the presence of a fellow sentient being. When we let go of language’s tacit conceptual constraints and judgments, we allow ourselves a kind of time travel toward our own inner animal. Science is revealing the ways that the physiology of our psychology can be found across species: the common neuronal structures and attendant nerve wirings that we share in varying measures with a startling array of both vertebrates and invertebrates, including fellow primates, elephants, whales, parrots, bees and fruit flies. Animal therapy makes us aware of this cross-species interconnectivity on the purest, subconscious level…It has been established that the tactile element alone in animal therapy releases endorphins, so called feel-good hormones that counteract the trauma hormones of adrenaline and cortisol.

…therapists involved in such programs speculate that their benefits actually derive from shutting down for a time some of our brain’s higher and sometimes cacophonous cognitive functions…Rather than augmenting higher-level consciousness, a substance like psilocybin actually shuts down our brain’s ego center, which, under duress, can confer crippling fear, guilt and insecurity, and instead allows people access to their unfettered emotions and sense of childlike wonder. Allows them, in other words, a mind-altering walk in the wood with no names…

“He looked down,” Martin recalls, “and she just gave him a little lick, and suddenly I couldn’t stop him from crying. Just that connection set free all of this stuff inside of him. She was the catalyst. There’s that ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ thing that happens. That’s real.”

~ Charles Siebert, excerpts from Why Close Encounters With Animals Soothe Us (NY Times, May 18, 2017)



  1. “Something extraordinary occurs when we’re in the presence of a fellow sentient being. When we let go of language’s tacit conceptual constraints and judgments, we allow ourselves a kind of time travel toward our own inner animal.”

    I just love this….Compelling story. Brings to mind the stories about prisoners who train service dogs. I think it’s the same sort of bonding process. The animals don’t judge or have any preconceived notions of the way their keepers will behave, so the people get a chance for a ‘do-over’ that I think can be incredibly powerful. Animals, ya gotta love ’em….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful story. It is a special energy that allows this vulnerability.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this, David; extremely touching.
    I live in a semi-rural area where horses can be seen. I can’t help but gaze at them at leisure. There is something so majestic in their incredible bodies and their regal calmness. It is not surprising to read the above. Horses, and so many wonderful creatures have the ability to touch the soul, as Farrah Akbar is quoted as saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. this is so beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

  5. No doubt….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful! There is a equine therapy program near us. Its a real gift to children and adults!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Whether it be horses, dogs, lions and even cats, they are what they are and unlike humans, make no pretense about being anything else. Horses and dogs know they are there to serve us. Lions know that they are pretty much in charge and can eat whatever they want to and cats, because of their genetic link to lions, also think they are pretty much in charge. Any opportunity for humans to closely interact with animals is a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Horses and dogs- my companions throughout life. They have given me encouragement to forge ahead!
    Great story. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes…a thoughtful emotional connection exists between us and animals…all we have to do is reach out and make that connection.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this post. I have had horses over 40 years, and I agree wholeheartedly. Just touch it – Feel the soul, the truth, the spirit, the power, and for me, the peace

    Liked by 1 person

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