SheHerdPower | Healing with Horses
Top photo by Taren Maroun, all other photos by Bri Marie Cimino
Beth Behrs, our April guest editor, spends many long hours co-starring in the CBS show 2 Broke Girls. When she’s not on set, studying lines, or doing publicity for the show, Beth turns to nature and her beautiful horse, Belle, to help restore and balance her life. From this love of all things equine and her own need for healing came the creation of SheHerdPower – a weekend with horses for women designed to evoke, restore and empower. The three-day program, created by Beth and co-founder Cassandra Ogier, helps to provide sexual assault and sexual abuse survivors a weekend of equine-guided education and healing. Below, we talk with Beth about the impetus for the creation of this program and why horses are so healing.
How did SheHerdPower come into existence?
I went to see Cassandra Ogier, my co-creator in SheHerdPower, when panic attacks that had started when I was a teenager began to worsen after I started my job on 2 Broke Girls. With the spotlight came even more pressure, and I began “spiraling out” with anxiety. 2 Broke Girls co-creator Whitney Cummings told me about Cassandra, whose program The Reﬂective Horse, pairs horses with people in various forms of emotional crisis. I began working with her and fell in love with the work and the horses. Then I rescued a horse of my own (the love of my life), Belle, through the ASPCA and Blue Apple Ranch. I continued doing retreat weekends with Cassandra, and at one of the weekends we had a survivor of sexual assault. Seeing the growth in this woman, after Cassandra’s three-day equine guided empowerment program was the catalyst for us to begin creating SheHerdPower.
Did you set out to specifically do healing work for women who have been victims of sexual assault, or is it something that found you?
I’ve always felt “called” to be an active voice helping survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Throughout college, I volunteered teaching improv/acting classes at Children of the Night, a non-profit that rescues children from child prostitution in Van Nuys. I also had a personal experience where a friend of mine was raped in college, and I was the one that drove her and stayed with her at the Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica, during the rape kit, police report, etc. The Rape Treatment Center is an incredible organization, and I am an avid supporter of their work. I think it’s truly important, now more than ever (in this current political climate), to stand with survivors of sexual assault and abuse. It is not okay. And its time to use our empowered voices to make a change. SheHerdPower’s mission statement stands as such :
- To provide equine guided empowerment programs for female survivors of sexual assault and abuse at no cost.
- To foster a more compassionate, empowered, safe and open support system for those who have been sexually abused or assaulted.
- To grow a community of knowledgeable, empowered advocates, storytellers and leaders who speak out on behalf of SheHerdPower and survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
- SHP advocates for equine welfare and the humane treatment of our four-legged partners.
We know that the presence of animals can be healing, but what is it about horses that called you to work with them in this manner?
Horses mirror humans’ emotional terrain. Some equine scientists say they do this, in part, because we share the same limbic system. As prey, horses are also always reading the environment, and in the presence of humans they pick up on our feelings and intentions. In the SheHerdPower weekends, the women work out how to be clear, direct and confident, as well as learn tools to become grounded and in tune with their bodies, distinct from the mind. They learn to set boundaries and step into authentic leadership.
So are women in some ways more connected to horses?
Often, women by nature tend to put everyone else before themselves. Self-care and self-love become secondary to everything and everyone. When you are in the presence of horses they demand you to be fully present and consistently in the moment. They also demand authenticity in order for there to be meaningful communication. Learning that your authentic self is “enough” to communicate with these massive, mystical creatures is empowering, and I truly believe it ultimately leads to a greater self worth. Being surrounded by nature- rolling hills and sunshine – away from technology, traffic, and city life, allows you to breathe and relax into the present moment and come back to the self. At the end of the day, I believe its self-care and self-love that ultimately leads to success, happiness and a more fulfilled life. This was also my catalyst for writing “The Total Metox”.
Tell us more about SheHerdPower weekend. In what ways are women changed when they leave?
Participants arrive on a Friday, observe the herd, and select a horse to work with. Women usually choose a horse that reflects their own personality traits and deepest truths. Throughout the weekend, Cassandra facilitates exercises aimed at somatic reprogramming, creating boundaries, becoming present and communicating clearly. The end goal is to teach women, through the experience, how to release past trauma in order to access the power they have inside. We just completed our first weekend, and many participants have already reached out to say it changed their life. In the coming months, there will be video footage of the program and testimonials on our website from our participants to illustrate more clearly just how impactful these weekends are for all involved.
How can people get involved?
The first SHP pilot program was just completed in Northern California, and dates are being set for late 2017 and 2018. As the SHP program develops and expands, SHP’s aim is to provide public programs, as there has been an overwhelming response to it. In the early stages of building the foundation, programs are being offered to survivors through foundations and organizations that are known to SHP. Please, everyone reading, help us spread the word about SHP, and please take a stand and be a voice for survivors of sexual assault and abuse in your local communities.
Read more on SheHerdPower here!