Collateral Damage

horse near trees

Photo by KML on

“Is it because Thanksgiving was so late this year?”  I asked the kind woman bagging our groceries.  “I can’t seem to find my Christmas Spirit anywhere …”  The woman smiled at me with an understanding look in her eyes and said,  “I can’t seem to find mine either.”  Even my husband had commented, “You know, I’m just not real excited for Christmas this year.  I don’t know what it is …”, his voice trailing off.  I had decorated minimally.  The tree was up and ornaments were hung, the Department 56 North Pole Village was out and the stockings were dangling from their rightful spots however, I hadn’t gone to the extent of decorating and celebrating the season like I normally do, savoring each moment expectantly.  The greenery, wreath and glittery red ribbon that dresses up our front porch was still in the loft space in the garage, as were the lights and cute little trees that normally would be out in the front yard.  “I hope you are able to find your joy in the season.  Have a great rest of your day!” I said as I smiled at our cashier and pushed my cart out of the store.  What I hadn’t shared with her was that my kids were gone for the next nine days including Christmas, collateral damage resulting from my decision to run for my life years prior.

The collateral damage, the debris left behind long after a bomb has been detonated is extensive, far reaching and often times cannot be truly calculated.  That bomb in life could be, as in my case, a high conflict divorce, it could be a death, a health crisis, a change in jobs, a move, anything really.  It’s something that, at some point, really shook things up in your life.  After the initial impact, after the dust has settled and we’ve surveyed the damage and have cleared most of the debris, that’s when the collateral damage begins to appear.  Damage and consequences that we couldn’t have known would result from the initial detonation.  It can be years later when we think we’ve cleared and cleaned everything up, when something pops up that reminds us of the bomb that detonated so long ago.  Like finding an old photograph in the dirt years after a tornado has ripped through a community.    

I read something recently that had my wheels turning.  It was written by a woman who is at the beginning of healing her trauma from the abusive relationship she was in with a narcissist.  She was questioning at what point does one own their part in essentially attracting and being in relationship with the abuser.  She’s climbing out from under the debris and rubble created by the bomb that detonated in her life, dusting herself off and looking around her, surveying the damage and deciding what’s hers to own in all this.  I read and re-read what she’d written as she poured her beautiful heart out in humbling vulnerability and my first thought was, “There is no piece in that to own…”  I thought of my own abuser and the years upon years upon years of manipulation, lies, deception and gas lighting that I tolerated and accepted as my reality, going so far as to blame myself for his choices and despicable behavior.

I personally could not … scratch that … I would and will not, take responsibility for being carefully groomed and trained to receive and accept the abuse that was doled out.  The God given characteristics that are innately me that he was attracted to, make me who I am.  I believe we are responsible for owning our story and for healing the deep, oozing wounds that have been inflicted upon us.  Through the experiential healing process of clearing the debris and rubble, utilizing the Equine Gestalt Coaching Methodology, we gain great insight and awareness about ourselves and that in and of itself, I believe, safeguards us from stepping into the same quick sand filled trap that ensnared us in the first place.  I also believe that through the healing process, we are better equipped to face the collateral damage that is bound to surface periodically.

“Do at least one thing that scares the hell out of you each day!” I yelled to him from the roof as I scooched along the shingles on my butt, in my yoga pants and flip flops!  Lol!  “I try NOT to intentionally scare the hell out of myself … ever.” He said with a grin as he scaled the ladder up onto the roof and took the Christmas lights from me to finish hanging them.  With shaking hands and wobbling legs I descended down the ladder, grateful this son of a roofer was finishing the job for me!  With two days until Christmas I had decided that the only way to ditch the Grinch was to recognize the collateral damage for what it was and allow my tears to roll as I went above and beyond my normal decorating.  I could receive Christmas with open arms and tears or I could be Grinchy and pouty.  Christmas was showing up either way and the thing about collateral damage is, you can’t always “fix” it or heal it, sometimes, it is what it is and the best we can do is embrace it, feel into it and keep moving forward.

Is there debris and rubble piled on top of you from a bomb that detonated in your life? Have you been trying to clear the debris on your own making little headway?  Are the wounds that were inflicted upon your precious heart and soul still oozing, in desperate need of healing salve?  The horses and I are humbly willing to step alongside you, helping you clear the rubble and debris in your life, healing those oozing wounds.  We are here to support you as you journey along your own path to healing and thriving!

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”  ❤




Lurking in the Grey

horse on seashore

Photo by Nika Akin on

Consider for a moment what the word trauma means to you …..

I assure you, trauma is likely not what you think it is.  Don’t get me wrong, it absolutely is what society and culture tells you it is.  We’ve all heard the heroin’s story of surviving years in captivity, feeling hopeless as hour upon hour they survive repeated raping, beatings and threats on their life.  The horror stories of war and what our soldiers witness during their tours of duty in a foreign land where anything goes and the barbaric nature of another culture is forced upon them in a flash.  This is the black and white of trauma.  Have you considered that trauma also has many, many, many shades of grey?

I have been humbly supporting a fellow student and soon to be fellow graduate with his website verbiage this past week and in the process we got on the topic of trauma and what it means.  Within the EGCM model, trauma is viewed as anything that has negatively impacted and shifted a person’s reality.  This shift may not be something we would deem huge and monumental, it may be far more subtle and insidious.

The wind was icy, cutting through my layers of winter gear, howling out of the north.  I asked my big, young, bay Thoroughbred, “Liam”, to step onto the trailer and up into the space between the dividers where he would securely and safely travel to the vet.  “Good boy, big Bayby.  You are becoming quite the road warrior!  We’ll be there in a blink.”  I took a deep breath, fighting back tears.  “It’ll all be okay.”  I said to him as I secured the back door and walked along the side of the trailer looking at the tires, drop windows and doors, doing my mental pre-flight check on autopilot.  “It has to be okay.” I mumbled to myself.

I crawled into the little two wheel drive dually we affectionately call, “The Gangster” and put her in first gear, gently rolling up our driveway and out onto the county road.  I eased along down the hill, across the bridge, winding my way out to the highway.  As I began grabbing gears and getting up to highway speed, I traveled back in time to a similar trip to the vet many years before.  The sweet black horse with a big star on his forehead we called, “Luke”, had been lame off and on.  Multiple vets had worked him over, taking multiple x-rays trying to determine the root cause of his lameness to no avail.  That fateful morning, I went out to feed and he was barely able to stand.  He looked neurological to me, as if I could gently press my index finger to his side and knock him to the ground.  I bundled the kids up, buckled them into their car seats, hitched up the trailer and prayed he wouldn’t fall on me as I lead him to the trailer and loaded him.  Once on the trailer, I put him in the smaller stall in the very front of my trailer where I had to push hard against the divider to get it to latch, squishing him a bit between the short wall and the divider.  I prayed fervently that he wouldn’t fall on the 45 minute haul to the vet.

When we arrived, I unloaded “Luke”, staying as clear of him as I could so if he fell, I was out of his way.  As I undid the kids car seat harnesses, I instructed my son quite sternly to stay back and hold my hand.  I strapped my daughter into the backpack that kept her safely up and out of harms way on my back and we walked into the indoor arena where the vet was waiting for us.  He agreed, whatever was going on was neurological thinking maybe the mystery lameness might have something to do with it.  And so, yet another lengthy lameness exam ensued.  As he slapped the x-rays up on the lighted screen I gasped, tears beginning to silently slip down my cheeks.  What I saw was a joint that didn’t exist anymore.  “Jess,” the vet said quietly, “I have no idea how this horse is still standing.  As you can see, the fetlock joint is completely gone.  It should have broken as the trailer bounced and bumped along the road on your way here.  This didn’t look like this comparing a few months ago.  I’ve not seen this kind of degeneration ever.  And the neurological symptoms have nothing to do with the fetlock degeneration.  That’s entirely new.”  I took a deep breath, absorbing his words, the images in front of me and the shock waves that were consuming me, knowing that I had no choice,  I was going to be euthanizing my young gelding.

As I turned off the highway with “Liam”, I wiped yet another tear from my eye.  That fateful day so many years ago, I had hauled up to the vet without even a forethought that I would be comforting heartbroken toddlers and dragging an empty horse trailer back home.  “Jess, this is not the same.  Yes, it’s a mysterious lameness however it’s not the same.  Get your shit together sister!”  My version of a pep talk!  As I unloaded “Liam”, and kissed him between his eyes, I took a deep breath recognizing that what I was reliving was a past trauma that I hadn’t recognized for what it was.  I hadn’t taken seriously the indelible mark that day had left upon my heart.  It wasn’t until I realized that the tension I was carrying was not so much from the concern I had for “Liam”, as it was concern that I was going to relive that cloudy spring day.

“Good to see ya!  You ready to get started with this big ol’ beast?” he asked me.  I stroked “Liam’s”, strong neck.  “Yep.  Let’s see if we can at least pinpoint whatever is going on with him.”  I said.

By society’s standard, losing “Luke”, was a loss, not a trauma.  By the parameters and methodology of the EGC method, it was a trauma.  One that fits neatly in the varying shades of gray that is trauma.  It was a loss of a loved one.  Though not human, “Luke”, was very much a part of our lives and family and his death was something that greatly shifted not only my reality, it also shifted the kids’ reality.  I hadn’t seen it as such until last week as I found my mind drifting back down the highway to a time that seemed so long ago, my heart gently nudging me and answering the question I had been asking myself for days on end, “Why am I so knotted up about running “Liam”, to the vet?  It’s a lameness exam for crying out loud!”   There was some unfinished business lurking in my background, a trauma hiding in the gray fringes that had gone undetected up to this point.

Trauma can be anything that adversely affects and shifts your world.  It might be, much like mine, an unexpected loss of a loved one, human or pet.  It might be a separation or divorce.  It may be a minor or major car accident, a fall from your horse or a ladder.  It may be a betrayal by someone you once trusted.  Something said to you as someone else has bullied you, that cut you deeply.  If you can look back and see a shift in your reality, a shift in what life looked like prior to and then what life now looks like after, you’ve likely suffered a trauma.  One that has been hanging out in the shades of grey where you wouldn’t consider looking for it.

My horses and me are here and humbly willing to walk with you through that trauma as together we work to recognize it for what it was, the impact it has had on you and clear it so that your new reality shifts positively toward the future.  You would be awestruck by how vastly different the world looks, when the trauma we have been packing around with us is healed … vastly, beautifully, amazingly, different.

Learn more about the horses, EGCM and me at:

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”  ❤

Scripted Reality

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Photo by Pixabay on

“What’s funny is you think you know who this is.”  It says.  “I’ll give you a hint.  It’s not your ex.  Haven’t you figured out he doesn’t care about you anymore?  Or is that what really bugs you.  Everyone knows you are a liar.  And we don’t have to hear it from him to know it.  If you knew what boundaries were you would not have cheated on him however many years ago it was.  If you get to lie about who/what you are, why can’t I by giving a fake name?”   My little commentator wrote, using yet another freshly minted email address.  Seriously dedicated, this cowardly one!

It wasn’t so much what was written, words meant to stir up hurt of some sort, thrown out by an individual with all their own baggage, coloring how they uniquely receive information and perceive the world.  What intrigued me was the defensively convicted tone with which the words were written.  Isn’t it just like a subordinate, who’s drank the Kool-Aid, to wield their sword, claiming to know truth when in fact all they are doing is regurgitating what’s been fed to them through a tube?  How fascinating that we take what we are spoon fed by others as gospel without actually checking our facts.  How quick we are to pass judgement and believe the lies that others tell us in order to build themselves up.  Opinions formed without taking the time to sit back and consider what may be part of a person’s backstory, what may be going on in their lives behind closed doors, or that what we’ve been told is quite possibly blatant untruth.  Not a single one of us can say that we have never been quick to judge or believe something we’ve been told without all the facts to back it up.  And, I might add, THANK YOU JESUS that the commentator knows for fact that my ‘wasband’ doesn’t care about me anymore!!!!  I’ve been waiting for yeeeaaaarrrrsss to hear those words!!!!!!!!!

I was folding laundry and listening as the news station was reporting on a portion of the Patrick Frazee – Kelsey Berreth trial proceedings and findings that were released a week or so ago.  I snapped my head around as I looked at my husband wide eyed!  Memories came flooding back to me that I’d long since buried and forgotten.  “He did that to me!!!  It was the craziest thing and I remember trying to decide if he was serious, like actually believing what he was saying to me or just hoping I would buy into the theatrics!”  Patrick Frazee, they reported, had been texting himself from Kelsey Berreth’s phone inventing this whole imaginary conversation between the two of them in an attempt to cover his tracks a bit.  My ‘wasband’ had done the same thing on numerous occasions.  He’d take my phone and go into another room or drive off with it, texting people he was convinced I was having affairs with as well as friends he was sure knew something and attempted to manipulate them into spilling the beans about the imagined affairs.  Then he would text himself from my phone having an entire conversation between the two phones!

The first few times it happened I felt as though I was losing my mind.  He’d make this huge production about how unfaithful I was and then yell, “I saw your phone!  It’s all there Jess!!!  And how could you forget texting me and admitting your guilt!?!”  I had always left my phone unlocked.  I never felt I had anything to hide or worry about.   I figured if the phone was unlocked, he could go through it anytime he felt insecure (all the time).  I never considered he’d start making up conversations and trying to drag my friends into his crazy making by texting from my phone!  After his notorious tantrums would subside, I would pick up my phone and start reading through text messages I knew I hadn’t sent trying to make sense of it all.  At first he had me where he wanted me, off balance, confused and at a loss (narcissists love it when you are questioning reality and doubting what you know to be truth).  Until I caught him in our bathroom with my phone one night.

“What are you doing?” I asked, naively expecting a truthful answer.  “Isn’t that my phone?  I’ve been looking everywhere for it!”  He put it in his pocket and shook his head at me.  “I don’t know where your phone is.  You’re so careless!  I give you a nice phone as a gift and you can’t even take care of it!”  He scolded me.  I know the look on my face said more than I intended, it often times does.  He turned, tossed it on the counter and said, “It’s sitting right here!  You’re such an idiot leaving it lay around like you do!”  I was in utter disbelief as I watched him storm off.  As I read through what he had been texting I could read the confusion in between the lines of those he was texting.  As he railed me for the conversations he’d been having it began to dawn on me that he might very well believe what he was saying … or did he?

As I read back through my little commentator’s latest intended attack it dawned on me that the individual may very well believe every carefully blended spoon filled concoction that they willingly swallow without second thought.  We are all prone to passing judgement.  For oh so many years, I took what he said to me at face value, never questioning for a second that what he said might be a white lie.  I didn’t think I had any reason not to believe him.  It never dawned on me why he loved Miranda Lambert’s song, “White Liar”, so much!  Narcissists love that their victims are either too naive to ask questions or too afraid to.  Either way, even if the co-dependent is suspicious of some foul play in some way or are bold enough to present hard evidence to back up facts, even when the truth is there in black and white, the narcissist will stick to the script they have already written until death do they part, the script tightly clenched in their grimy hand.  The truth can be in front of them, undeniable and overly obvious and they will continue to deny its existence.  It doesn’t fit into the narrative they have created for themselves where they are routinely the victim … always and forever …  They will meticulously hand pick and surround themselves with others who will play into their hand, cohorts willing to eat whatever they’re fed without hesitation, blindly doing the work of the narcissist spreading their lies for them ensuring that their victim hood remains rooted and strong.  The lengths a narcissist is willing to go are limitless.  Texting and emailing others, having imaginary conversations with them in order to build their case, hiring people to follow their victims, photo-shopping pictures to back up their imagined narrative, it’s all in the toolbox of a narcissist.

If, like I once was, you are beginning to ask questions and see things more clearly.  If, like I was, you are beginning to see through the fog that has so thickly encircled your thoughts, logic and reality and you are beginning to realize that your relationship has been built upon lies supported by abuse and manipulation.  If, like I did, you have begun to realize that what you once believed to be rock solid truth is in reality, shifting sand at best and you are unsure what to do about it, reach out.  You are not alone and the clarity that comes from the time spent in a round pen with a horse, your closed toe shoes in the dirt (no boots necessary) and the wide open spaces of the prairie awakening your senses is priceless.  I’ve been in your shoes and so have many, many others.  You are not alone and you are not losing your mind.  Let the doubters, doubt and the haters, hate.  They’re passing judgement no matter what it is you say and do.  The round pen is a safe space, judgement free and sacred.  The perfect space to sort through and discover your truth.

You can find the horses and me at:

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”  ❤

Old Souls and Freckles


He was unassuming and aloof.  He was never really a puppy in the sense that he never messed in the house or chewed anything up and he was never really playful.  He was more of an old soul right from the get-go.  He never liked to play fetch or tug.  Feeding him treats was always a little sketchy and when you’d pull your hand back you’d count your fingers.  When I would sit at the kitchen table he was always next to my chair and when I was standing in the kitchen talking to the kids, he was always laying on my feet.  A steady, constant fixture in our lives, day in, day out.

They called him “Junior” and I spotted him driving into the Walmart parking lot.  What caught my eye were the freckles on the faces of the pups in the bed of the pick up parked in the back row with a sign that said, “Puppies”.  His face reminded me of my Brittany Spaniel, “Opie”, with his freckles spotting his white face and the black patches around his eyes where “Opie”, was red.  “Opie”, was my first co-pilot, traveling to and from college, horse shows and anywhere else a dog might go with their human.  He was like my kid and the day I lost him my heart was crushed.  He had bone marrow cancer.  I still remember the call from the vet.  I had taken him in after he had a seizure that sunny Saturday morning.  I knew that it was possible for Brittany’s to develop seizure disorders and I also knew that they were very treatable, so when the vet called early that afternoon to share with me that “Opie” had cancer, I was in utter disbelief.  The vet said that their machine couldn’t count his white blood cells because they were off the chart.  He said they had to send the blood work into a lab that could count them and that led to more tests to confirm the worst, my sweet bird dog had cancer and there wasn’t anything that could be done for him.  I took him home not knowing how long he would be with me.  The vet felt he had at least a year.  That following Thursday morning he had a seizure that was the worst yet and that dog stared into my soul with his sweet brown eyes and I knew he was telling me it was time.  It was raining and as I carried him into the vet’s office I remember my son kicking him, mad that I had the audacity to balance my furry child on top of my pregnant belly as he was seizing yet again!  I always said that “Opie” had to go before my son was born because he wouldn’t have looked too positively on sharing me.

The story went that the husband raised border collies and the wife raised cocker spaniels.  The stud dog and bitch cocker got together and the wife was livid, demanding the puppies be gone as soon as they were old enough.  The husband’s border collie had ruined the cocker spaniel’s reputation, as the husband put it!  And so there sat the husband in the Walmart parking lot trying to sell the bastard mutts.  “Junior” became our “Y.U.”, our sweet little cocker spaniel – border collie whoops!  He traveled a bit though he always preferred the front porch to the front passenger seat in a dually pick up.  ” “Y.U.” jump outta da truck when it’s time to load up and leave?  “Y.U.” on the couch as soon as the front door closes?  “Y.U.” so rude about taking treats from me?”  I would jokingly ask him.  He was patient and kind to my babes as they grew from infants to toddlers to little kids and now teenagers.  When we helped my Jack Russel Terrorist to die with dignity last year I figured we’d have a few years before having to cross that bridge again.  I was wrong.  “Y.U.” aged before our eyes and it was his turn to die with dignity.

I have spent the past week staring into his foggy eyes, kissing his forehead between his soft cocker ears and reminding myself it’s okay to make this decision.  Each time he would fall unable to get up or “Bambi” in the kitchen on the linoleum,  I would tell myself, “Jess, you know it’s time.  You may never be ready and this is about quality of life for him, not quantity of life for you.”  Each time he stood on weak, shaking legs, steadying himself after getting up from a nap, I knew it was time and each time he’d mess in the house over the past few months, the dog who never had an accident in the house ever, I knew it was time.  The dread draped around my neck like my wild rag (a cowboy’s version of a scarf) on a cold day.  The tears easily and readily falling each time I considered that our time was drawing to a close.  As I knelt on the warm, soft, bed our vet had prepared for us and whispered into “Y.U.’s” ear, “I’m here buddy.  I love you.  You’re okay, I promise.”, I felt his spirit being tenderly freed from the bondage of his old body.  He lifted his head one last time, laying it in my lap as I knelt there, tears softly falling onto his freckled face, “Godspeed sweet, old soul.  I’ll see ya soon.” 

” “Y.U.” have to grow old?  You’re supposed to live with us forever …..”   

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”  ❤

Good Fences

black horse beside green leave tree

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I have known that by publishing publicly what I write, I am putting myself in a very vulnerable position, opening myself up to undeserved and unwarranted attacks.  That’s part of a measurable risk I willingly take in order to share my story in hopes of encouraging others.  Social media has become a safe haven for weak, small minded, individuals to viciously slander and attack others behind the security of a fake profile picture and alias.  As of late I have been being “attacked” by one, too chicken to reveal their true identity.  Each time a blog posts within minutes they’re quick to call names and make statements that give away who they are.  It got me thinking about boundaries or the lack thereof.

Personal boundaries can be defined as “the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others.  They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others.” .  I encourage you to learn and read more by researching key words such as, personal boundaries 

I can’t say I’ve always had strong boundaries, or at least with people.  If I had, I never would have allowed a man to wipe his mucky shoes on me, using me like a doormat at the entrance to the office of a feedlot manager.  Instead of “taking it”, I would have stood up for myself and walked away from his chaos and drama, his abuse and control, far sooner than what I did.  Interestingly enough, I’ve had no problem setting and holding boundaries with the horses in my life.  For whatever reason, I never translated setting boundaries with horses to setting boundaries with people … or at least not then.  Most people don’t have the opportunity to learn that lesson and believe you me, when a horse violates your boundaries, you know it and you have a split second decision to make!

When I first read the commentary on my “little” blog post, I was shocked.  What it said didn’t make any sense to me and the names I was being called weren’t accurate to what was written.  I mean seriously, if you’re going to call names, at least use the right ones!  Lol!  What shocked me wasn’t so much what was said as the fact that I’ve had such resoundingly positive feedback and this went against everything people were writing and sharing with me.  I considered responding and then set a boundary for myself by not responding.  What the unnamed commentator is looking for is the opportunity to be engaged in an unfair fight.  I’m completely exposed and they are tucked safely away behind their falseness.  The following week when a new “little” blog posted, they were quick to comment, as in within minutes of it publishing!  I literally laughed out loud thinking, “Really!?!” and then I set a secondary, more solid, boundary and blocked any comments from that particular “person”.  The next week when my next new “little” blog posted, there was the commentator leaving their accusations and attacks in the comment section … again.  This commentator had set up multiple brand new email addresses so that they could continue to harass me!  “WOW!”, I thought to myself, “Now that is dedication!”  And so I set an even firmer boundary.

Boundaries, for me, are about integrity (doing what you say you’re going to do long after the motivation you felt when you said you’d do it, has waned), self-protection and love.  The majority of the horses that come to me off the track have spent most of their lives dragging little 4 footers (grooms and the like) around on the end of a stud chain!  They have no respect for a person’s space and therefore no qualms about running you over!  I see it in rescue horses who are handled gingerly by people who believe that being firm is unfair and unloving.  And I’ve experienced it with horses who have been owned by people without much if any, personal boundaries.  I cannot build rapport or trust with a 1,000 lb animal who sees humans as the dope at the end of their rope.  And, it’s dangerous.

Much like with horses, people seem to believe that by setting boundaries, they are somehow eliciting that they don’t love one another or they’re being unsupportive, or  self-centered.  Quite the opposite is true.  Whether it’s with our significant others, kids, co-workers or even our horses, we show them love and respect when we set and maintain boundaries with them.  There’s a reason for the saying, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

I quickly learned that if I did not set some very hard and fast boundaries with my ‘wasband’, I was likely to get mowed over and thrown in the chipping machine!  Much like a 1,000 lb ex-racehorse whose never had someone protect their personal space much less expect that they respect it, narcissists resist boundaries.  They detest them!  The first few sets of boundaries I set with my ‘wasband’ after I bolted, were met with a full on temper tantrum!  How dare I refuse to allow him to manipulate me!  How dare I refuse to allow him to cuss me out!  How dare I refuse to allow him to take a mile and a half after I’d offered him a fraction of an inch!  You get the picture.  And as hard as setting those boundaries were, maintaining them was even harder.  Most people can’t curl a 50 lb dumbbell for several sets without first strengthening and building up their bicep muscle.  I learned that setting and maintaining boundaries was no different.  That said, my life became infinitely more peace-filled and calm once I did.

My horses and me are available to support you as you learn what boundaries mean to you, how to set them and then maintain them.  There is something about the life lessons horses share with us that stick with us.  And, in case you have checked out my web page and read up on my co-facilitators (off the track Thoroughbreds), my ex-racers no longer treat people like dopes at the end of a rope.  We’ve worked that out!  Lol!  You can set up a FREE exploratory call by going to our page at: .

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave” ❤


Invisible Marks & Imaginary Expectations

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New Mexico continues to romance me.  With her wide open spaces, warmer weather and unique landscape, I can’t help but love her a little more each time I cross the state line.  I found myself outrunning winter the day I left to go back down to New Mexico.  Our temperatures dropped 70 degrees in less than 24 hours and I jokingly told my husband, I’d be back when it warmed up!  My copilot, “Woody” (our Cowboy Corgi) and me loaded up and drove like our hair was on fire, escaping the nasty grip of an early dose of winter and slipping into the beautiful fall New Mexico sunshine.  The further south we traveled the more layers of winter clothing I was able to strip off like the ice and slush that dropped away from my pickup with every mile!  I felt as if I was going home and I was full of anticipation for the work we were geared up to do with the house parents on ‘The Ranches’ campus.

Due in part to my challenging zip code “issue” (I’m laughing as I hear Heath Kull saying, “Your zip code is a problem for me!”), I would have the opportunity to work with each house parent pair for only one session.  Each couple had their own way of interacting with each other within their marriage, with the other house parents on campus, with the staff and with the kids and the hope was that through our work, we could shift the dynamic enough to begin to create a more positive environment within ‘The Ranches’.  I hadn’t had much interaction up to this point with the house parents other than pleasant “Hello’s” and waving as I drove out.  I was flying a bit blind, unsure of what the expectations of me were and of what the end goal might be for each couple I worked with.  As our sessions began, I didn’t feel like I could find my groove and after having my confidence rattled a bit by something that had transpired at home, I closed out our first day second guessing myself and feeling utterly exhausted.  I couldn’t quite figure out why I was feeling so off my game.  Was I feeling unprepared?  Was I feeling out of my element?  Why was it so easy for me to interact and work with the kids and a bit more work to work with the adults?

As I lay in bed trying to fall asleep that night, I purposed that the next day, I was going to “just do you Boo” and not worry about what my imagined expectations might be or try to accomplish something that I imagined I needed to check off an imaginary list.  As I was drifting off to sleep I felt God nudge me with a picture from that morning.  The beautiful woman I had the honor of coaching that morning, stepped into the round pen literally shaking in her boots, terrified of horses.  The horse she was paired with is one of the most kind, gentle and gentlemanly horses in the herd.  His velvety soft coat and deep, melty dark chocolate eyes, oozed with the tender space he was willing to hold for her.  As I stood by her side, with trembling, timid hands, she delicately touched his neck and shoulder.  I promised to stay by her side until the nerves subsided and she felt safe enough for me to step out of the pen.  The next picture that came to mind was of this same beautiful woman hugging the horse ‘Thank you’ and standing next to him, empowered and confident with the most radiant smile on her face.  I took a deep breath realizing I was being pretty hard on myself.

The next morning, as I stood in the arena, the rising sun kissing my cheeks, I quietly petitioned God to fill up the cracks I had in my confidence.  Anywhere where I had allowed someone else’s actions and words to chip at my own belief in myself and my abilities needed attention and I knew He could to mend those cracks for me.  I thanked Him for hearing my prayers and took a deep breath.  The day’s sessions flowed beautifully with learning and fresh insight.  I felt more like myself, settling into my own unique little groove.  The final couple of the day surprised me with their encouragement for one another and the joy they shared as each took turns playing in the round pen with their chosen four legged partner.  The excitement was palpable as they began speaking the non-verbal language of energy with the horses moving them from a walk to a trot back to a walk again all with the power of their focus and mindfully manipulating their own personal energy within their bodies.

That night Heath invited me to be a guest on ‘The Ranches’ podcast series, “Raise Them Up”.  I could feel my inner introvert panic!  Not wanting to disappoint and appreciating the opportunity for yet another platform to share this work, I agreed and then considered that I had no idea what he wanted to talk about.  If you read one of my recent posts on terrorizing my inner introvert, then I’m sure you can imagine the talking to she was giving me!  Lol!  Here’s a link to the interview:

Equine Gestalt Coaching – Podcast Episode 58

I truly enjoyed the interview and it offered me an opportunity to gain some clarity around the work we’d done.  Though my processing takes place inwardly, this stretched me to process outwardly, into a mic!  Lol!  What became clear to me was that much like the house parents I’d worked with the past two days, I had held high expectations of myself that were completely undefined.  As if I were reaching for a high mark that I couldn’t see let alone touch, I had set standards for myself that were written in a foreign language with no translation.  Most of us do this and then beat ourselves up for missing the mark we can’t even see!  Part of the EGC work is about gaining awareness and mindfully addressing those patterns of behavior that we have that may not be serving us.  Note to self:  trust the process!

Like the house parents (and me), you may be holding yourself to an invisible set of standards, a high mark you cannot see much less reach, holding unrealistic expectations of yourself that are, at best, wholly and completely unfair.  The beauty of this work is the horses ability to support the client in interpreting those standards into a language you can understand, defining and setting realistic expectations and bringing that high mark you’ve set, into sight.  And it’s all done from the ground, no riding or horse experience necessary 🙂

Check us out at:

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”  ❤


Put Me In


We, my superhero husband and me, have stood on the sidelines cheering.  We have frozen on the sidelines in disbelief as we find ourselves being hometown-ed by insanely arrogant refs and we have driven the upwards of 6 hours to sit in the bleachers and watch our son pace the sidelines of the football field, chomping at the bit, refraining from screaming, “PUT ME IN COACH!!!”.  We’ve painfully and hopefully watched as the coaches get him ready to go in and then motion to him to hold off.  We tell him repeatedly, he’s a freshman and he’s putting in his time.  He’s learning and gaining experience.  We explain to him that those other freshman being put in are either in because upper classmen are injured or because of politics, you know, the name game.  It’s the reality of it.  After each game, as he fights back his frustration and tears, we talk about how the most important game, is the game he plays mentally.  He’s building resilience that the others may not be.  We encourage him to continue to leave it all on the practice field, being sure to remain coachable, leaving arrogance, ego and that know-it-all way of thinking (hello, he’s a teenager!) in the locker room.  I’m sure it’s tough for him, I cannot begin to express how tough it is as his mother.  And before you say to yourself, “He’s probably not that good.  You’re just his mom.”  Ummmm … I’ve watched the kid practice, he’s a beast!

The first few weeks of practice as his team mates were sizing him up my husband asked him, “Hey, do you know how I got the nickname ‘House’?”  Our son thought for a minute and said, “No.  Cause of your last name?”  My husband smiled a cocky grin and said, “No.  Because a few weeks into practice, I’d had enough of the trash talking and waited for the right time to flatten all those seniors who thought I was “soft”.  Practice hard and tackle harder kid.  They’ll leave ya alone and respect you soon enough.” And he did just that, putting 100% of himself into each practice.

I have learned an invaluable lesson this season as I’ve watched these kids play.  A lesson I, myself, highly value and have rooted deeply within me and that’s how to continue to battle it out even when you are losing.  During the first quarter of our game last week, there were more flags thrown against our team than I can honestly count.  The murmurings in the bleachers quickly turned from disbelieving, “WHAT!?!?”, to joking about what the flag might be for.  And let me be clear, if a penalty is warranted, then by all means, it should be called however knowing what I know and witnessing what I’ve witnessed, it is beyond comprehension when an official literally makes something up just to offer the home team an advantage in yardage.  Of the 8 games we have played this season, 3 have been at home.  Of those games, all, have been poorly refereed at best.  Though I may be biased, I do believe I am fair if not neutral and I can say that our team, for the most part, is classy, respectful and all in, especially in comparison to the others.

We played a team early in our season that had the majority of us in a state of shock.  There is trash talking and then there is the kind of cursing and outright evilness that would put a cute shade of blush on a truck driver!  There was a point when these arrogant, entitled, puffed up boys were cussing out the refs!  Not a single flag thrown.  I was seeing red considering what would befall our son should he speak that way to an adult much less an official.  I’ve told myself, this is the world we are living in where boys are not being raised to be respectful/respectable men with integrity.  They are no longer being taught to take their hats off when they are in a building, sitting down to eat or when they approach someone who’s owed respect.  I get after my son when he doesn’t hold the door for me for crying out loud!  Or when he calls me “dude” or “bro”!  Generations before me have cried out precisely what I am crying out, “What is happening!?!  God help this generation to pull their heads out of that place before all that my brothers, father, uncle, grandfathers, etc. have fought for dissolves before our very eyes!!!!”

“Ok … rein her in Jess.  Not what we’re writing about today.”  What I have learned and have been honored to witness is our team digging deep when the cards are stacked against them.  They continue to play as hard the 4th quarter as they played the 1st quarter.  When the score on the scoreboard shows several touchdowns to zero, zilch, nada, our boys don’t hang there heads and throw in the towel.  No, they seem to dig their cleats even deeper into the grass, setting their shoulder pads a wee bit stiffer, blocking the opposing team with a force that causes me to wince as I hear the plastic smashing and the helmets clashing.  Our boys take the sunshiny yellow penalty flags and swallow them up as fuel to ignite their hunger to win.  And, much to the other team and refs chagrin, we do win … all odds stacked against us … we win.

Much like our football team and my son, we have a choice to make.  When the penalty flags are flying and the odds are stacked against us;  when we look at the hand dealt to us and know, just know, that we’re losing this hand, what is the response?  Do we throw in the towel and give up?  Hell, we’re already losing by so much anyway, right!?!  Or … do we dig our cleats in deeper?  Do we clench our jaw and growl, “NOT ON MY WATCH!”  I would like to believe that each and every one of us sets our shoulders, shakes off the penalties that don’t belong to us and plays just as hard that 4th quarter as we were playing in the beginning 1st quarter.  The attitude with which we practice and with which we execute is e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!  In life, be the one who remains coachable and solid, the one who keeps getting up and fighting back even when there’s a sea of yellow on the field around you.  And, if you aren’t sure how to summon that piece of you, if you want to fight and feel too exhausted to continue on.  If you know you should stand firm against the penalties and yet feel worn down and frustrated to the point of giving up, you know where to find my horses and me.  Go to:

We’re here and more than willing to support you as you find that inner linebacker within.  The refrigerator of a man, the “House”, that is in you and ready to learn to fight back.

Go Cubs!!!

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave” ❤

Terrorizing the Little “I”


Part of healing is often either re-establishing or establishing one’s voice.  I’m not sure I have ever had much of a voice.  On a scale of 0-10 I am a 9I (introvert).  Speaking isn’t necessarily something I’ve made much of a habit of!  Lol!  I’ve been accused of being a snob, thinking I’m better than others, of being rude, stuck up, blah, blah, blah … none of which is true or at least not for me.  I tend to sit back, listen intently to what others are saying to me and around me.  I take in my surroundings and observe from a distance all the while processing and considering what’s flowing in and out of my thoughts.  As I began to write a couple years ago, what started out as a somewhat meek voice within this platform has grown stronger and bolder.  That part of my voice, though not literally physically vocal, has begun to gain footing and gotten stronger over time as I’ve exercised it.  My literal physical voice has remained fairly mute ….. up until now.

I was listening to the soothing sound of my geldings munch on their breakfast as I mucked their pens in the early morning hours when my phone rang.  I had some time before the kids began showing up and so I decided to go ahead and answer the call.  I stood in the warming New Mexico sun as the voice on the other end of the line explained that I’d been chosen to participate in a podcast interview.  GULP!!!  Though I was listening intently to what was being said, I could feel my throat trying to tighten and my little introverted self scream, “NOOOOOOO!!!”  As I agreed to participate, I felt my little inner introvert faint!  This was waaaaaay outside of our comfort zone!!!  I was fanning my little introvert and waving smelling salts under her nose when the kids arrived.

As the scheduled date and time drew near, I worried about how I may or may not convey my message and I began to question myself, thinking, “Honestly, what is my message anyway?”  I’ve not done any “public” speaking outside of a speech class my freshman year of college.  My head was so jumbled up with what I wanted to share that it felt as if everything was tied in a knotted mess!  I had listened to a few of the interviews that had been recorded by fellow coaches and each one was so well thought out and presented.  I was sure I’d fall flat on my face, after all, I’m terrible at answering things on the fly.  My little inner introvert began to bang loudly on the door yelling, “Cancel!  For the love of everything sacred and quiet, cancel the thing!!!”

The day arrived and after a brief discussion to get to know me, Chris Angell of Groundswell counted down and the interview began.  He would ask a question and my mind would speed 100 miles ahead of my mouth.  I could hear my little inner introvert moan as I stumbled over my words, “You know we need time to chew on and process things before answering!”, she’d say as she slapped her hand over her face.  Chris would smile an encouraging smile and ask a new question and my mind laughed as it out ran my mouth, again.  It was like a cruel game of tag through the dark woods.  Then it happened!  We got disconnected!  I’m sure it was on my end.  Our DSL is terrible and the tiny east coast company that is our service provider out here doesn’t seem to care since they’re the only show in town … for miles!  As I searched my computer for the issue at hand, my little inner introvert wiped the sweat from her brow saying, “Thank goodness that’s over with!  Don’t ever do that to us again!”  And then the connection came back.  “We’ll start again where we left off,” he said, “My team should be able to patch this together without much issue.”  My little introvert fainted … again …

That night I played, replayed and magnified the interview in my head.  I hardly slept thinking about what a terrible job I’d done.  Chris had been such a gracious host and interviewer and I had been a stammering, stuttering, can’t answer a question thoroughly interviewee.  I sent an email the next morning explaining how I felt and asking if I could have a do-over if the patching together didn’t go well.  I figured if it patched together well, then I’d swallow hard and deal with it.  If, however, it didn’t patch together well then maybe I could reschedule and try again.  My little inner introvert was wide eyed in disbelief, “I can’t believe you would put us through that again!“, she cried out!

The best way to reach people is to meet them right where they are at.  For some that is through writing, for others it’s through video and yet others it’s audio.  It may be through social media, email or snail mail.  As I calm my little inner introvert each time I do something waaaaay outside our comfort zone, I remind her that I have a story to tell and hope and encouragement to offer others.  I cannot do that by remaining quiet on the sidelines observing without speaking.  The EGC work is life altering!  It can dramatically shift the trajectory of your life!  I pray that in some way, this interview encourages you.

To learn more about the horses and me, you can go to:

And keep a lookout, as my website will be shifting and changing to better capture the work I do.  I’m so much more than a specialist in healing from narcissistic partnerships.

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”  ❤


Accusations of Alienation

monochrome photo of a horse

Photo by Kevin Bidwell on

“Alienation.” He said for the umpteenth time!  I was so tired of the accusation hurling toward me like arrows being rapidly fired from a bow, never hitting much less sticking to the target, but flying through the air just the same.  I could feel the words I wanted to fire back welling up in my throat, “Merely saying that word is a manipulative maneuver with fancy verbiage that the courts use to leverage their decisions and rulings around without evidence.  He has NO proof of anything.  The DSM doesn’t even recognize alienation as a thing!”  Instead, I did what I was becoming so good at, I took a deep breath, tightened down the filter on my mouth and watched as he threw the word around half a dozen more times, parading it around the courtroom like a trophy pair of underwear he’d just stolen off a prostitute!


Merriam-Webster defines alienation as:

alien·​ation | \ ˌā-lē-ə-ˈnā-shən  ˌāl-yə-\

Definition of alienation

1a withdrawing or separation of a person or a person’s affections from an object or position of former attachment ESTRANGEMENT alienation … from the values of one’s society and family— S. L. Halleck
2conveyance of property to another


Medical Definition of alienation
a withdrawing or separation of a person or a person’s affections from an object or position of former attachment alienation…from the values of one’s society and family— S. L. Halleck


Kids are smart, they are resilient and above most everything else, they are observant.  Their survival depends upon it on the most base level.  I cannot count the times I have consoled my kids either together or individually as the weight of what they were told about me by their father and his flying monkeys or what they heard as people spewed lies about me to each other within ear shot of my kids, has hit them.  As they would recall what was said, with tears in their eyes and anguished hearts, I could feel the words that had pierced them like red hot pokers, daggers meant to sear their precious hearts.  Words spread over them like seeds on a field, watered with every opportunity in hopes they would sprout a disliking for me that what grow into hatred and eventually be harvested as complete estrangement from me.  The onslaught was cruel at best!

I was determined from the get-go to do everything within my own power not to talk trash and stoop to his level … ever!  Have I slipped up?  Yes.  The filter I have over my mouth, can at times, like any filter, become jammed up and clogged.  There are times I forget to screw the filter on tight enough and an eye roll, a sigh or an, “Are you kidding me!?!” slips out.  I am generally quick to apologize to the kids and then dismiss myself so I can blow out the filter with the air hose and screw it back on nice and tight.  I wanted my kids to make up their own minds about who he was and is.  I wanted them to form their own opinions around who they believed their father to be.  I didn’t want to taint that with my own emotions, opinions and facts regarding him and so, I’ve kept my mouth shut!

I sat in the courtroom only half listening as he and his attorney did what all of his attorneys he’s hired and fired have done best, manipulate the system into believing he’s a victimized father just trying to do his best to be the bestest dad ever (and yes, I am typing this was the utmost sarcasm!).  All I could think about was how utterly hypocritical everything he was saying was.  He, his partner and their cohorts have taken up trash talking like it’s an Olympic sport in which they may medal!  What’s interesting to me is, that which is meant to harm and maim me, only harms them instead.  My kids are back and forth between both households.  The contrast is extreme. We’re talking north from south, east from west, good vs evil, light vs dark … you get the idea, it’s a major contrast.  And they have been quick to point out the contrast.  On more than a few occasions over the years, both kids have stated how nice it is to be home and not listen to my husband and I rant about the other party.  They talk about how old it gets listening to the other party talk about my husband and I and what “losers” we are.  All I can think each time they share this is I don’t have the time, heart or energy to spend on those people!

As he wound up his testimony and I snapped back to the present, I couldn’t help but think that as much as I loathed being labeled the alienator, I knew they could call me whatever they wanted, label me whatever they decided was fitting in that moment however what was most important to me was and is how my kids see me and the choices I make.

Choose to allow the other parent to paint themselves into their own corner.  Don’t hand them the paint or the paint brush.  It may take time however as your kids mature and get older, they will begin comparing how you act and maybe more importantly, how you choose to speak vs the other parent.  Allow them to form their own opinions about things and remain supportive, loving, and available.  Be the person that sets their phone aside, makes eye contact and listens when they need an ear to hear.  It sounds tough and it’s even tougher to follow through.  Emotions can be a bit challenging to rope.  I assure you, you will be so very happy you did and more importantly, your kids will be able to say that you left the trash talking where it belongs, in the dumpster!

If you find yourself saying, “I wish I could control my mouth.  I wish I had the same filter that I could screw into place and keep my anger, disappointment, hurt and grief to myself when what I really want to do is tell my kids exactly how I feel about the ex!”  I am here to tell you, I can help you with that … we, my horses and me, can help you learn to be that active listener that your kids need.  To be the person that leaves the trash talking to the other party, allowing their kids to form their own opinions as they observe the contrast between the two households.  And, I can help you to release the anger, frustration and hurt penned up inside of you in a healthy productive and cleansing manner that will leave you feeling lighter than you probably have in years.  Schedule an exploratory call with me to see if I’m the coach for you.  It’s free … as in free of expectation, obligation and cost.  Learn more at:

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave” ❤


Who I Don’t Want to Become

blue and orange light projeced on left hand of person

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

“You may not know who you want to be but I’m guessing you have a good idea of who you don’t want to be.” said Coach Moore as he spoke to our football team before their first game of the season.  I listened as the former coach spoke to our boys about what it is to play with class and how to keep fighting when the scoreboard says you’re losing.  He tried to help the kids understand that there is life after football and it’s how they show up at practice, at a game and in life, that truly matters, not the game itself.  As he spoke with the passion of a true coach, a man who loved the kids he’d coached and the opportunity he had to influence them for the betterment of our community and this world, I was struck by what he said.  It was so simplistic and yet so profound.

Within the program I was trained in, anything we might ask of our clients, we were first asked to do ourselves.  Cute, right!?!  Lol!  Not only did we need to get clear for ourselves, we also needed to truly “get” the struggles of each exercise.  One of those exercises that is profoundly enlightening is around values and figuring out what our move toward and move away from values are.  Our values are our operating system and they dictate how we move through this world, our environment, our everyday lives, minute by precious minute.  I have learned over the years to steer so completely clear of my move away value that I wrestled with figuring it out … for months upon painfully frustrating months!!!  You see, that “thing” that you don’t want to feel is more powerful than that which you do want to feel.  You will do anything and I mean a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g to not feel whatever your move away value is!  Coach Moore was talking about a move away value when he stated, “… you have a good idea of what you don’t want to be.”

I couldn’t help but saddle up and travel down a well worn trail in my mind.  The one that begs the question, who do you NOT want to be?  Who do your kids NOT want to be?  As I sat at the trail head I recognized that I can only speculate who my kids don’t want to be.  Let’s be real, that’s their business and not mine.  It’s easy as a parent to think we can interject and direct who our kids become however, it’s not up to us.  We set them up to be as successful as possible with solid values and morals and then it is up to them to determine, through their own life experiences and interpretation of those experiences, who they chose to be or not be.  We only have control over who we are, who we are becoming, who we want to be and who we know we do not want to be.  Let’s reframe and own this, I only have control over who I am, who I am becoming, who I want to be and who I know I do not want to become.  And all of this begs the question, is who I know I do not want to become, shaping who it is I do become?

There is song that, I Am They, sings called, “Scars”.  The lyrics start:

Waking up to a new sunrise

Looking back from the other side

I can see now with open eyes

Darkest water and deepest pain

I wouldn’t trade it for anything

‘Cause my brokeness brought me to You

And these wounds are a story You’ll use

So I’m thankful for the scars

‘Cause without them I would’t know Your heart

And I know they’ll always tell of who You are

So forever I am thankful for the scars ….

As Coach Moore continued to speak and I found myself ambling down along that winding trail in my mind sitting astride my solid mount I continued to ponder, who do I NOT want to be?  As easy as it may seem to answer, I encourage and challenge you to dig deep and truly ponder this.  I don’t believe it’s as simple as stating, “I don’t want to be fat.” or “I don’t want to be poor.” or “I don’t want to be dependent.”  Blah, blah, blah …  There is meat and a backstory behind the simplistic.  There is Moore or more behind such a simple query, such a simple statement than that which meets the eye.  Do you know who you are?

I read a sweet book on our way to Oklahoma titled, “Overcomer”, a novelization by Chris Fabry.  A set of, what one of the characters, Coach John Harrison, determines as unfortunate circumstances, takes him from coaching a “real sport” as he says, to coaching a not-sport.  A twist and turn of events lands him in contact with a bedridden man who asks him, “John, if I asked you who you are, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?”  The coach answers time and again and his bedridden acquaintance keeps after Coach Harrison asking each time, “And if that’s stripped away?”  Until they finally get to the heart, the root of who Coach Harrison believes himself to be.

And so I ask you, “Who do you want to be?”  Or rather, “Who do you know you do not want to be?”   The answer may come to you quite quickly and seamingly simply and so in the words of the bedridden man, “And if that’s stripped away?”  If you continue to strip away at each answer and reply your brain is likely automated to answer this question with, what do you come up with?  What is our bottom line?  What is the root of who you want to become?  Who you believe you are and more importantly, who you do not want to be?  If I had to guess, you are rather annoyed and getting ready to exit out of this post.  And that’s okay.  If the question begins to eat at ya a little, surprise you in the middle of the day as you go to eat a bite of your favorite lunch and as you close your eyes hoping to fall asleep, my horses and I are here to help support, encourage and guide you as you dig around to determine your answer to this.  It is beyond our normal reply such as, “I am a mother, daughter, aunt, grandmother, sister, wife, uncle, husband, father, grandfather, etc.”  The answer is beyond the title you have at work, within your community, etc.  The answer lies deep within your soul and it’s been buried beneath all the labels we accumulate throughout our lives.

You can find me at:

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”  ❤