People flock from across the world to Tucson, Arizona’s Miraval Resort & Spa to experience its renowned spa services and luxurious accommodations. But amidst the herbal body balancing, water massages, and myriad of other ways guests can pamper themselves, one of the most popular treatments involves no pampering whatsoever — in fact, it actually involves grooming horses.
Equine Therapy in a Resort Setting
Wyatt Webb, program creator, introduced the Miraval Equine Experience™ to guests in 1991, and it was a hit from the start. He’d seen the power of equine therapy when he counseled teenagers in the earlier years of his practice. “These kids didn’t trust adults, they were impatient,” he shares. “Standing next to a kid interacting with a horse, you could absolutely see their young lifetimes of learned behaviors.” He realized that horses can act as “energetic mirrors” of the doubts, fears, self-confidence issues, and other limitations that hold people back from living their best lives.
Webb’s Miraval Equine Experience™ can be a 2.5-hour session or a four-day immersion session. Either way, at some point during the session, participants will have to pick up their horses’ hooves and clean them — no easy task. By watching how participants deal with the stress and difficulty involved in grooming these big, unfamiliar animals, Webb and his fellow guides can pinpoint the behaviors that need unlearning.
Cleaning Hooves, Changing Lives
“What makes this particularly powerful is that horses aren’t genetically programmed to be around people. They don’t want anything from us. They read the energy of the people and things they’re around, and they determine whether it’s safe or unsafe,” Webb explains. “So for them to cooperate, they need to determine the safety levels for that. If someone is being disingenuous or hiding something, the horse won’t cooperate. Only when people are being genuine does the energy flow.”
For participants, that means acknowledging the fears that they have about the situation (or about life in general). That means rising above self-confidence issues or people-pleasing tendencies to establish a successful, working relationship with the horse. “It’s like it is in human relationships: it’s not so much what’s talked about that creates problems, it’s what’s kept secret,” Webb says. The horse won’t trust energy that is suspect; the same problems that hold you back in life will hold the horse back from trusting you with its hoof.
Choosing Courage Over Fear
Even after watching so many people go through his Miraval Equine Experience™ over the past 22 years, Webb is still amazed at the power of the program. He’s seen people find the courage and strength to break free from abusive relationships, start their own businesses, and make other tough decisions that can often take years to reach. And it all starts with the simplest of instructions: choose your own horse.
“Everything’s set up for accountability. You’re attracted to what you need to learn. And these horses have to be well-mannered, they have to like people, but that’s it,” Webb explains. “They don’t need any special training; they’re perfect just as they are.