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My Journey Back to Riding with Breathwork

It was a beautiful spring day that started like any other with me walking out to check on the horses in the pasture. I didn't start the day thinking that from that point forward, it would be three years before I would get on a horse again, but that Tuesday morning in April 2021 had other plans for me.

I managed a herd of twelve horses, eight geldings and four mares. Of the four mares, two were rescue mares pregnant with unknown due dates. The veterinarian estimated May or June so I began keeping a closer eye on them. They were usually standing near the barn that time of the morning so I was not expecting to see one of the mares on the ground.

Intuitively, I sensed that something was off, but let Roxy stay there while I finished rounds. When I came back to find that she had not stood up to follow her buddy, I suspected Roxy might be in the beginnings of colic. Not taking any chances, I called the owner, Melissa, to inform her. She asked me to try getting her to walk and she’d be there in 30 minutes. I asked her to call her vet on the way and I’d walk the mare until she got there.

Everything was going smoothly until a group of geldings running around in a pasture spooked Roxy. Roxy didn’t just react with a small jump sideways or pulling back on the lead rope. No. She decided that those geldings were out to get her and she was outta there! She ran me over and I hit the pavement.

Up to then, I had a history of managing a therapeutic riding program. I participated in local school shows for fun and coached mounted archery. I used my life coaching skills to provide equine-assisted mental health and learning activities to families, special needs children, and adults in existential crisis.

By August 2021, I experienced unexplained weight gain, fluctuating temperatures for no apparent reason, mood swings, insomnia, lack of concentration, and low energy. I spent the next year or so having doctors rule out everything except brain injury before I was able to convince them to authorize a brain scan.

The functional medicine doctor said the injuries were similar to a professional football player’s traumatic brain injury, TBI. She suggested that I stop everything related to horses. We implemented a healing protocol to manage the symptoms. I wondered what professional football players were doing to manage their TBI.

I was surprised as I did some research that many professional football players are actively using psychedelic medicines. Researchers have proven that psychedelic medicines lay down new neural pathways, bypassing the injured areas of the brain.

As a veteran life coach of more than 30 years, I wanted to learn more. I enrolled in Psychedelics Today’s intensive Vital program, a training to learnmore about what is happening today. I learned about microdosing, psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, and a host of other medicines currently being used to treat substance addiction, depression, anxiety, trauma, PTSD, and brain injury.

At the time of writing this article, those medicines are still illegal to obtain or possess in the United States. And not everyone can take the medicines due to various health constraints. The Vital Psychedelic program introduced our cohort to breathwork retreats. Cool.

Breathing isn’t outlawed last time I checked.

Research is also making the case that Transpersonal Breathwork can offer similar benefits as the medicines, using breathing techniques that induce similar non-ordinary states of consciousness. Until I experienced it, I was a skeptic. The benefits are that almost anyone can do it (there are some contraindications), there is no medicine to ingest, and you retain your agency. Riding the wave of the music journey curated for a breathwork experience and using your body’s natural breathing patterns, the body responds in whatever way is perfectly right for you in that moment.

After a year of laying down new neural pathways, my intuition said it was time to get back on a horse. I followed the functional medicine protocols, and I practiced non-ordinary states of consciousness breathing on my own and at the breathwork retreats. I have released deep wells of grief, depression, anxiety, and anger that were sabotaging me.

The picture you see here was taken in January 2024 when I attended a Breathwork Retreat in Costa Rica. My smile reveals my joy riding with friends into the lush landscape of an extraordinary country. It was a fitting way to celebrate the successful management of my TBI.

My physical body is still recovering, but I have managed to release layers and layers of muscle memory related to injuries. This has deepened the connection to my intuition and in turn, has improved my life coaching skills, created deeper relationships, and helped me express the profound joy of being.

It was during one of the Breathwork retreats that one of my breathing partners asked why I wasn’t offering this to veterinarians. She was aware of my other passions as an equine care professional. My work supports veterinarians, owners, trainers, riders, grooms, and farriers. Unfortunately, It’s rare to meet someone associated with horses who hasn’t sustained a concussion at some point. I wanted to share what had made a difference for me with my colleagues. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Join the Breathwork Retreat

Partnering with professional breathwork retreat facilitators at Prasada, the first retreat is planned for Pendle Hill from September 30 - October 4, 2024, in Wallingford, PA, just west of Philadelphia. I’d love to hear your stories and offer support and information about breathwork and the upcoming retreat. To reach Debra, complete this form, or call 770-298-0991.

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