“You can bring the horse to the water but you can’t make it drink.”

 

As I sit here and write this; looking back on my experiences as a part of Oregon Trail Recovery, I am filled with gratitude. Grateful for the quality of life my sobriety allows me to live. Grateful to see men, young and older, experience these miracles of recovery. The look of awe on their faces, as some gazed upon a horse for the first time (myself included). The staff and beautiful animals at Sycamore Lane Therapeutic Riding Center were extremely welcoming and very comforting. Starting slow, clients were acquainted with the four majestic horses one-on-one. Any fear of these one ton animals dissipated after a few moments of caressing these graceful giants.
Clients participated two at a time guiding the horses through six different pairs of cones, set up like the pockets of a pool table. Sounds simple enough right? Well here’s the catch, there’s a hands off approach. This required a lot of verbal communication and body language. For some it was a breeze. For others, the willingness of the horses did not amount to be enough for the clients to guide them through the cones. (Hmm, I’m sure some can relate that to something in their own lives.)
Another activity involved obstacles such as; cones, barrels and miscellaneous toys for horses set up as land mines. Clients were given control of leading the horses by the side reigns, while being blindfolded. The clients had to decipher which directions to follow choosing between two voices. Voices of their fellow brothers in O.T.R. Representing the voice of truth, or the voice that lies and tries to lead us astray.
As joyful as it was to watch many succeed, and humorous to see others walk directly into walls, barrels, and other miscellaneous obstacles; I related all of it to a quote I’ve heard many times in the program of O.T.R. along with the fellowship of A.A. “You can lead a horse to the water but you can’t make it drink.” Which for me means there is always a choice, and we as individuals have the control of only our own choices.
For those men who decided to go to equine therapy on a cold and rainy November night; all left with an amazing experience, some laughs, great memories with brothers, and a better understanding of themselves, and something much larger than themselves.

~Zack Tempone

Dec. 15, 2015