By Linda Kohanov
"There's a serious lack of educational programs that assist military personnel and their families in making the smoothest possible transition from the battlefield to life back home," says Linda Kohanov, founder/director of the Epona International Study Center, which teaches emotional fitness, relationship, nonverbal communication and leadership skills, in part through working with horses.
"Many of these servicemen and women have the endurance, intelligence, and discipline to become tremendous assets to this country, but their lack of training in emotional fitness and social intelligence skills becomes a significant hindrance to long term success.
Children also suffer from the resulting instability in family life, making the psychological wounds of war a multi-generational phenomenon."
Recognizing that funding sources tend to favor people with severe clinical depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Linda
colleagues have created the Merlin's Spirit Memorial Fund for returning military personnel, veterans and their families.
Named for Linda's stallion Midnight Merlin and his
son Spirit, the program teaches people advanced personal and professional relationship skills, empowerment, and resilience in the face of traumatic events.
met Merlin in 1999, he
was a stunning black stallion with tremendous untapped potential, but early training made him so dangerous and unpredictable that he
had to be kept in an isolated corral.
"Some techniques used in training show horses are the same techniques that were traditionally used for war horses," she
"In the wrong hands, these practices become abusive, creating volatile, rage-filled horses.
In rehabilitating Merlin, I realized that he
had many of the symptoms that veterans with PTSD report, a frightening combination of power, energy and hyper-vigilance leading to explosive outbursts of anger followed by an almost unbearable combination of vulnerability, confusion and shame for his
threatened my life several times, but something in his
eyes kept me from giving up on him.
Merlin and Spirit
In teaching the frustrated stallion how to respectfully integrate into a herd, Linda
tapped what she
calls a "fierce sensitivity" in herself and her
learned to set strong yet compassionate boundaries with Merlin while helping him break the cycle of rage and shame that kept him isolated from humans as well as other horses.
began teaching these same skills to people through activities with gentler, specially trained horses, chronicling her
experiences in three best-selling books.
"People were asking for ideas on how they could contribute in his
Linda is an author, speaker, riding instructor and horse trainer who has become an internationally recognized innovator in the field of Equine Experiential Learning and a respected writer on the subject of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy.
book The Tao of Equus: A Woman's Journey of Healing and Transformation through the Way of the Horse was selected as one of the Top Ten Religion and Spirituality books of 2001 by Amazon.com. http://www.eponaquest.com
By Linda Kohanov
explains what you can learn from horses about leadership in the home, at the barn and at work