HEAL’s Frieda: A Life Well Shared

Greetings gentle friends of HEAL,

FriedaToday’s news from HEAL is especially personal to me. Those readers who have visited HEAL for sessions or workshops will remember Frieda. Even if you never met Frieda, perhaps her eulogy will help you grasp the dimensions, the layers of intelligence regarding humans, and the tremendous heart that psychotherapy horses bring to their jobs. It is no wonder, especially by the age of 15 or 20, that horses are able to respond with sophistication and care to their human “clients”.

Thank you for your continued interest in Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy and Learning (EFPL), a very direct and natural way to minister to humans in pain and sorrow.

Sincerely, Leigh

A  Life Well Lived and shared… Frieda “the Queen”
(May 1985 – May 2015)

With immense sadness and gratitude, I want all friends to know that my equine friend, extraordinary HEAL therapy horse, the bay mare Frieda, passed away last Monday at age 30. She came to me as a two-year-old filly in 1987.  We belonged to each other through 27 of her 30 years, making her one of my life’s most constant long-term relationships. For a life-long horsewoman, no children, now in my 2nd marriage, Frieda blessed me with a profound, wordless intimacy.  And she’s taught me a lot about relationships.

I don’t believe that we really own horses.  Better that we understand them as fellow beings that require a huge commitment, live a long time, and benefit from a good match with particular environments or individuals.   I trust that horses have their own destiny, given a voice and chance to express.  Frieda stayed with me; through turning points when I prayed and also ‘asked’ her.  She was reliablyforgiving and confirming, giving me the message to “hang in there, we’ll get it”.

Between a horse who is young and athletic and the equine professional who is training and riding (Frieda and I in our first decade), many hours are shared in purely physical, body-to-body contact.  There is lots of sweat on both sides, and a large effort on both sides to understand how to accommodate the other.  We had our struggles and low points, but we also reached amazing pinnacles of harmony and shared expression.  Frieda was strong, graceful and generous. I embodied grace when I could flow with her. Her forgiveness of my mistakes was humbling and motivating.

After our initial decade, there were decades of transformation and of giving to others.  Learning to see Frieda as the teacher, instead of myself, formed the fertile ground for HEAL to emerge.  While I went to graduate school for Clinical Social Work, Frieda had the foal she had wanted for so long. Through many difficult life transitions Frieda reflected and helped me process emotions.  When I began a psychotherapy practice EFPL (equine –facilitated psychotherapy and learning) was a new concept.  By the time HEAL was established  in 2000, Frieda was 15, and I was 43.  Frieda was coming into her own as a herd matriarch, an intelligent and caring female elder with a powerful core.

Our herd shifted over time as other horses arrived, some staying for years, but Frieda’s wisdom and her close connection with me made her a confident and strong leader.  Together we gained new wisdom by partnering in our EFPL practice within HEAL.   As I matured enough to write a book, Frieda had another foal, Tankha.

Frieda’s foals grew up to find loving homes outside of HEAL.  Frieda matured into a respected and loving elder within her herd, and with humans.  She seemed always natural and solid, flexible within herself, reserved or expressive, but always grounded and sure of her boundaries.  When she selectively lowered those boundaries to allow intimacy, it felt like a privilege.   Partnering with Frieda to assist those who came to HEAL, I found she could communicate very effectively with a glance, or a single, purposeful gesture. She knew a language of relationship far deeper and more ancient than human words can convey.

When David and I decided to move to Bishop, we felt that it was too stressful of a move and change in climate for Frieda and her even more elderly best friend Gem.  Sandy Matts  of Raven Rock Ranch offered the two wise mares a permanent sanctuary, including continued meaningful work with children and families .  I felt Frieda’s contentment grow at Raven Rock. The whole community supported Frieda when her beloved Gem passed away last winter.

On Monday May 18 Frieda was struck with a very sudden and extremely severe colic. The vet was quite certain that nothing would save her and Sandy wouldn’t allow her to suffer.  Frieda was surrounded by those who loved and cherished her as she was painlessly euthanized.  As Sandy so aptly said, Frieda “… gave of herself for a very long time. I like to imagine that Frieda and Gem are running and playing together, just as they did many, many years ago…”   Frieda, I love you and know that you are always with me.  Know that my tears are of deep, deep, joy.

I welcome your condolences, memories and outreach in my time of grieving for my magical mentor Frieda.    For those who feel moved to give in memory of Frieda in support of all therapy horses, please direct your donations to Raven Rock Ranch, www.ravenrockranch.org.


HEAL “Keys to Connection” 3 Day Workshop
Dates this fall to be arranged –  WA and PA

Are you longing for a deeper connection to yourself, your relationships, or to nature? Learn and practice how to create loving, respectful relationships with healthy boundaries, become more creative in your life. The HEAL model of Six Keys to Connection is based on current neuroscience and the power of partnering with horses to heal and grow.  This 3-day workshop is open to anyone interested in experiencing the Human Equine Alliance for Learning & Psychotherapy (HEAL) model.

Whether you are interested in being an EFPL practitioner or simply want to treat yourself to a healing experience with horses (or both!), you will leave with a wealth of knowledge and experience that is life changing.

HEAL’s Six Keys:
1. Feeling based awareness
2. Boundaries are the relationship
3. The Divided Self – conquering self-judgment
4. Yin and Yang for safe leadership
5. Seeking: allowing super-positive outcomes
6. The Successful Social Brain


HEAL Facilitator Training Program:  5 month Certification program for Masters’ level professionals wishing to incorporate EFPL

This 5-Month Intensive Learning program for EFPL combines hands-on, in-person training with intensively supported distance learning and experiential practice hours.  The HEAL Facilitator Training Program offers sophisticated training for professionals in psychotherapy, counseling and education. The HEAL Model™ provides clinicians and educators with clear and justifiable principles for EFPL, which reliably produce therapeutic outcome for different ages or types of clients and students. At the heart of the HEAL Model are “6 Keys to Relationship” providing facilitators a useful treatment and program planning rubric which is based on the latest neuroscience and anchored in HEAL research on EFPL for trauma recovery.

Please contact HEAL with a request for information if you are interested in this advanced EFPL certification program.