November 5, 2019

Restoring Connection Workshop with Koelle Simpson

Restoring Connection Workshop with Koelle Simpson

A few weeks ago, my friend Emma and I had the amazing opportunity to take Koelle Simpson’s Restoring Connection- Equus Coaching Workshop at Dougherty Ranch.  Do you know about Equus Coaching? In a nutshell:  Equus Coaching is a safe/intimate experience that helps provides clarity on your inner state and how it influences your world around you.

“Through working with horses, we reveal our inner truth. Granting us the power to make true life changes.”


I’ve always enjoyed being around horses and my mom was OBSESSED with them, so I was super curious about this experience. 

Koelle Simpson is a world-renowned life coach, horse whisperer, and leader of the Equus Coaching Movement.  I was bubbling with excitement when I was able to see what she was able to do with horses she had never met before. She is a true magic maker and such a gifted/tender human being.  Her presence immediately put everyone at ease. 

You can read more about Koelle here!

The experience we shared together has been life-changing for me. I had a few profound breakthroughs and was witness to other people’s feelings and emotional work. IT WAS INCREDIBLY POWERFUL!

I’d like to show you my notes and a little bit about what we learned during the weekend.

Dougherty Ranch is in Nicasio, not too far from my home here in California.  The environment is just as beautiful as the people that work there.

 As someone who spends a lot of time behind a computer managing my work/ life online, this weekend spent “off the grid” was WELCOMED. I’ve learned that the more we seek connection in a digital world by being glued to technology, it becomes more difficult to make real life connections.  We are out of practice being in touch with ourselves around others. 

The only way to truly connect with others is to CONNECT WITH OURSELVES first.  If we are reacting to our environments and getting caught up in posturing and people-pleasing, we cannot be our true selves and our connection is not authentic. In order to be your true self, you need to feel safe in your environment.  When you are safe in your environment, you can open up and make real connections with your vulnerability.  Understanding how to create a safe space by setting boundaries is key. Grief has taught me this conecpt more than anything!

The first day of the workshop was spent learning about/recognizing our coping mechanisms in situations that test us. 

Here are the three main coping techniques we employ when we are under stress:

3 Main Coping Mechanisms 

  1. Avoidance/Isolation
  2. Moving Towards  (people pleasing/creates safety/caretaking)
  3. Moving Against (reactive/responsive/causing other people to feel your feelings/passive agressive/aggressive behavior)

When you are in a horse pen with a horse by yourself, you can clearly see what coping mechanism you gravitate towards. 

In the safe environment Koelle created for us, we were all able to discuss our coping mechanisms openly with each other before we worked with the horses. Everyone spent at least 20 minutes working with the horse and Equus Coach in front of our groups. We were all guided through our experience by our coaches in front of our groups and had one-on-one time with our coaches after our individual sessions to process what we experienced. So much came out of just one session with my horse, Squirrel. WHEW!

In a pen with a horse, you get to see who you truly are in that moment.

Your coping mechanisms come right to the surface. A horse senses your thoughts and feelings. You can connect with them in such a remarkable way if you are open and clear with your thoughts. 

When you share a space with a large animal, you get to know what you need to feel safe in your environment. You must center yourself.

My dominant coping mechanism is #2  MOVING TOWARDS.  I try to create a safe space by helping but I don’t always help myself because I have a bad habit of putting other’s needs before mine. When I was able to connect with myself and my own needs, my horse connected with me. 

This question became clear:


By the end, I was able to get a horse hug.

In our intimate group, we were able to experience a husband and wife go through the workshop together, a sweet/loving mother & daughter team, a few friends sharing a new experience, a healer looking to play, a person who was scared of horses facing their fears, as well as a few high powered professional women who work very hard yet struggle to be present. Everyone’s experience was unique to them and it was such a beautiful gift to share in. 

Our next session was all about SETTING BOUNDARIES.

As Koelle put it, “Boundaries are just EXTREME TRUTH TELLING.”  Being able to say what you want and need is a very powerful tool. You have to know what you want and need and you can find that when you center yourself! 

Our exercise was to lead a horse and set our boundaries with space using the horse reins. 

The more we practiced, the more our horses understood our expectations and boundaries.  It felt so good to be in sync such an incredibly smart and sensitive animal. 

We all felt so safe and seen with our coaches.

After an 8 hour day together, we left FILLED WITH INFORMATION and rested up for the next day. 

On day two, we were ready for our greatest challenge yet!

We partnered up with another person in the group and worked together to get a horse through an obstacles course.

The catch? We had to do it all without verbal communication, which meant that we had to learn how to connect with someone else without talking. Expressing our needs and desires without words was challenging at first but SUPER empowering when we were able to MOVE A HORSE THROUGH OBSTACLES WITHOUT TALKING.  If we weren’t connected, the horse didn’t cooperate. 

Koelle guided each group through the exercise, inviting us to pay attention to our experience and stay curious with the connection we were making with the horses.

When anyone was feeling discconected, she had us focus on one of our 5 senses to reconnect.

Apparently it is impossible for all of the stories in your head to continue if you are focusing solely on ONE of your five senses.

  1. Touch
  2. Smell
  3. Seeing
  4. Hearing
  5. Tasting

Through thoughtful examination, she was able to help us to understand what was happening with our connection. 

And even when the horses did not cooperate, we learned how to stay focused, regroup and try again.

They all just wanted to know what we wanted from them.  

Horses are incredibly spiritual creatures. 

They are sensitive.

They are funny!

They are just as curious about connection as we are. 

They love LOVE just as much as we do.


They’re spirits are wild and free.

My biggest takeaways include:

Being able to identify my coping mechanisms and when/why I use them.

My sense of safety is really what helps me become curious. 

If I want to connect with someone, I must connect with myself first.

I must create a safe space to experience my feelings and that can happen when I am able to set my boundaries and my expectations. 

In life, it is always important to remain curious about the quality of your connection.

But most of all, shared vulnerability is NOURISHING.


Spending time with other people without screens is IMPORTANT.  

So is time spent with amazingly friendly barn cats!

When I need to connect with myself in a distracting chaotic world, I will put my energy into focusing on one sense at a time to find my center.

I am so grateful to Koelle Simpson and her team of Equus coaches & Master Facilitators for making our experience a magical one.

What a tremendous activity to do with a friend!

 I’m so thankful for you and your animal-loving spirit, Emma. Thank you for doing the work with me and making these beautiful photos to share. I appreciate you your big heart and your photographic eye. 

This post was sponsored by Koelle Institute for Equus Coaching. As always, my experience and opinion is my own. I am so incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to make big breaks in my grief journey through this shared experience.  Be sure to follow the Koelle Institute for Equus Coaching on Instagram and Facebook to see updated information!  Working with horses is life-changing & life-giving! 

Photos in this post by: Emma K. Morris & me 🙂

  • Scarlett

    Ahh I was looking forward to this post!! I love horses. What a beautiful experience. So glad you enjoyed it so much and got so much from it!!

  • Nandy

    Very informative and beautiful! Thanks for sharing your experience, Tracy.

Leave a Comment