Just about a year and a half ago, Yacolt author Meghan Hindi published “The Healing You Can Do,” a picture book about overcoming abuse and trauma.
In the book, Hindi’s words, paired with illustrations by Katie M. Berggren, examine the effects trauma can have on a person from a young age. The book follows a “light to dark to light” theme and uses colors to tell the story of trauma while it follows the main character through a healing experience.
In 2020, Hindi made the healing experience tangible and opened a equine healing sanctuary on her farm in Yacolt.
“The book was written in order to propel the original mission, which is essentially a large plot of land to do full holistic therapeutic care for trauma survivors,” Hindi said. “I had always been a big advocate for equine therapy for trauma, but I had never done it.”
Sessions on the farm start with hot tea and discussions. New clients will come to Hindi’s barn to “unload'' everything that is on their mind. From stresses of 2020 to personal trauma, Hindi will listen to it all. Occasionally, clients will do a body scan and meditate with Hindi.
“I encourage (clients) to sit down, clear their mind and tell the story,” Hindi said. “Most struggle to feel present and feel here in the moment and not carry a lot of anxieties and pain in with them. After telling a story we work on physically unloading that.”
According to Hindi, after clients unload their stories and discussions as they feel present, relaxed and “free” on the farm. Following the discussion, Hindi tells of her personal experience with trauma and teaches clients how she deals with anxiety, depression and more.
“I’m not a counselor or a licensed therapist,” Hindi said. “But I am a survivor, and I made it through the hardest times to get where I am now.”
Unloading stories is an important step of Hindi's process to make attendees of the program feel safe and welcome.
"The goal is to help my clients find easy ways to check in with themselves, be present and find joy and peace in the moment," Hindi said.
In the next step of the program, clients meet their equine partner. Hindi has four horses on the farm: Avalon, Aeriy, Bently and Paddy. Some of the horses, such as Aeiry and Paddy, were rescued from a feedlot and brought to the farm by Hindi. Rather than attendees picking their horse, Hindi said it is imperative to the program that the horse picks its partner. Following the first part of the session, Hindi walks the attendee to the four horses in the barn, and that’s when a horse comes up and “chooses” the client through the bars. Currently, Paddy only works with two humans because the animal is sceptical of humans due to abuse in its past. The humans and horses in the program can bond over their past and are kindred spirits together, according to Hindi. However, if a person is interested in a specific horse after two or three sessions, they’ll have the chance to meet with them. However, Hindi said nobody has chosen a second horse and always sticks with the one that picked them first.
“They never want to leave the horse they originally bonded with,” Hindi said.
The program is a very individual and personal experience. Because attendees work in Hindi’s barn one-on-one right now, the program is COVID-19 protocol friendly and personal. Hindi said attendees should come to the program ready to “drop whatever they know as a fact” because many trauma survivors are “defined by what happened to them,” and Hindi wants people to be able to “drop that and speak to them.”
Even when she has more property, Hindi wants to ensure that the program is a safe place for all. While Hindi’s clientele is mostly women due to the nature of the healing she provides, Hindi said the program and future programs are open to everyone, including men, non-binary people and minors with parents’ permission. Hindi also explained that she has no religious affiliations and will work with people across the religious spectrum.
“I am not religiously affiliated and we will connect with whatever speaks to you. Whatever your personal belief is,” Hindi said. “I believe in a very non-divisive message.”
Following an appointment, attendees write an anonymous note to the next person. The note can be anything from the heart. Hindi explained that most of the time, people end up writing a note that they would normally write to themselves. However, when the next person comes in and reads the note, Hindi said each note is “always perfect.”
Using equines for therapeutic healing isn’t unique to Hindi’s farm. Because horses can sense how you feel when around them, they are used to help people from veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to survivors of sexual abuse. Attendees of Hindi’s program do not ride the horses that choose them. Rather, they pet them, braid their manes and do groundwork horsemanship.
“My method is more intuitive horsemanship, and we teach the body language of the horse,” Hindi said.
Equines have been in Hindi’s heart since she was a child. Despite growing up in New York, Hindi said she “did anything to be around horses” as a child and spent a lot of time cleaning stalls and being a horse hand. She didn’t own her first horse until she moved to Washington state and had enough property to properly care for them.
Hindi hopes to teach more than just on the ground horsemanship in the future and expand to offer riding lessons. Future plans for Hindi and the Healing You Can Do Program include having horse trainers, more property and room for group therapy work and other therapy programs such as garden therapy, dance therapy and more.
“I have a lot of plans for the future when we have more property to work with and COVID is over,” Hindi explained.
Hindi said The Healing You Can Do has seen a great amount of success in people who have joined the program, and she wants to continue healing the community through programs such as horsemanship, gardening and dance classes in the future. Once COVID-19 restrictions end, Hindi hopes to begin doing book readings and tours to promote the literary side of “The Healing You Can Do,” which plays a large part in the therapeutic portion of the program. Every attendee gets a free copy of the book from Hindi.
“Eventually I hope to have a holistic space that I can host book events in while offering peace,” she said.
Program attendee Jennifer Feickert said the program has been a life-changing experience. “When I found Meghan on social media, I couldn’t believe there was actually a program that integrated trauma healing with equine training. I called Meghan that day and scheduled my first session. In just a few meetings, I’ve had a life-changing experience. My childhood, womanhood and self-love is being restored in a way I’d never imagined,” she said. “All this, while learning from the elegant grace and healing magic of a horse. I cannot imagine a better mentor and teacher for this unique program than Meghan. She has created a beautiful environment for this work, and her spirit reflects this beauty to those she touches. I cannot wait to see where this journey takes us.”
For now, the program is available on an appointment basis by contacting Hindi through The Healing You Can Do Facebook page at facebook.com/TheHealingYouCanDo. After a brief introduction, Hindi invites people to her farm for a session. Sessions range from $80 to $150, depending on what the attendee can afford. In the future, Hindi hopes to offer scholarships for sessions so those who can’t afford it can still receive the help they need. However, Hindi said those low on funds can still contact her to be put on a waitlist for the program.
Because Hindi has big goals for the future, donations are always accepted to the program. All donations are used to care for the horses, expand the program and go into a fund to buy more space and land in the future, she said. Hindi also raises funds for the program through the sales of the accompanying book, which can be bought online at etsy.com/shop/thehealingyoucando. Donations can be placed online at gofundme.com/f/the-healing-you-can-do