Today we’d like to introduce you to Kaia Livingstone.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Kaia. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
In my adolescence, I went through some rough years, as many of us do. I started to question who I was, what was health, what the secret to joy was, and how to overcome these feelings of immense hurt that I sometimes would feel. I saw my peers experience similar issues, issues that they mostly hid from their parents and adults. Because it was a secret world of questions, challenges, and rebellion, the blind were leading the blind where teenagers were advising teenagers on how to be better adults and I realized this wasn’t working.
I tried going to therapy a few times but sitting on a couch in a room with a stranger felt anything but genuine and healing. I thought, “How do I become a happier, healthier, and wiser person in this world that seems so lost, hurt, and confused?” I took an interest in Buddhism, which also exposed me to many other religions down the line. I started to learn about “world wisdom tradition” – the idea that many religions have a similar inner core. I realized that the study of psychology, especially the development of neuroscience, has so much to offer humanity in understanding our attachment style, trauma release, relationship wounds, and what drives us in our behaviors and mindsets. While my mind was diving into books, science, retreats, lectures, I found myself drawn over and over again to the beauty and simplicity of the horse – an animal known for its emotional intelligence, power, and its almost mystical qualities.
While I learned the knowledge from books and people, I experienced the answers to my questions while working with the horses. I understood how we could feel more joy, love, comfort and how to recognize stress, fear, and anxiety in ourselves, and others. I started to see how the horses were willing to move, relax, and be present with humans when we are in a certain mindset and have a certain feel – indeed I noticed those same people that the horses were drawn to, other humans were drawn to them as well. I started to experience the world differently, and realized there was something beautiful here – by combining the structure of psychology, the magic of world wisdom, and the feel of working with the horses, we can find a better version of who we are, one we truly believe in and one that is mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually more at peace.
In 2016 I took all my work that I had been combining, considering, playing with, and took a leap in starting my own business, Spirit Horse. Although Spirit Horse is only in its first few years here, I can’t believe how much change I have seen in the people that have come through here to learn these ways. Some people prefer sitting in the farmhouse office, sipping tea with a blanket on their lap, while others love to walk around and admire the hawks, mountains, rolling fields, and of course the horses, while others are thrilled to sit on horses and learn the art of riding them without using force. My specialty is that I work with people and horses to have such a solid relationship and understanding between one another, that we can ride the horse with no bridle, bit, or any restraints of any kind, which is actually very rare to find in the horse world. Regardless of how people want to be at the farm, the work boils down to some very simple principles, one being that we must find the best in ourselves before we can nurture the best out in others.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Haha, no. At first, I was literally laughed at by some folks and told what I was trying to do was ridiculous. One person told me, “it’s absurd combining horses and psychology. They have nothing to do with one another!” I wouldn’t say the horse community welcomed my work with open arms, which I genuinely hope changes one day because horses are so much more willing when we consider relationships first. Indeed, we are all more willing when we consider a relationship first. I still often get horse people who want to work with me, but say they are unwilling to be in therapy.
I realized some people have a terrible connotation with therapy, that somehow that means they are broken and damaged. I see this as a space to work on yourself, find what you need and how to ask, and is the ultimate self-care. Plus, I just don’t see people progress with the horses as fast or as far when they have resistance to working on themselves. I think the horses sense pretty quickly that the humans can blame the horses when the work isn’t going our way and then the horses lose trust in us pretty quickly.
The therapist community wasn’t particularly supportive either, often making assumptions that the work with horses was simply less effective in changing someone. I didn’t feel like I was fitting in with either world, and as lonely as that felt, I genuinely believed in what I was seeing with my clients, the horses, and the community that was beginning to form – people were becoming calmer, kinder, more joyful, making changes in their life for the best, enjoying their relationships, their children, their partners and friends. They weren’t just talking about changing their life, they were changing it.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Spirit Horse story. Tell us more about your work.
Spirit Horse is a program that combines an understanding of human psyche with human wisdom and the tangible experience of working with a horse to create an experience for the human to shift and change who we are and how we live our lives day today. Technically Spirit Horse is an equine-facilitated psychotherapy practice but clients come for so many more reasons than therapy. My specialty is teaching people to be in better relationships either with themselves, other people or with horses. Some people have sought out Spirit Horse to learn to ride horses with no ropes or restraints, which is very rare to find even worldwide.
My original idea was to work with teenagers but I found a need for this work in adults, fathers, mothers, therapists, doctors, veterans, everyone… and I realized that Spirit Horse fills a void that many of us need, the ability to truly connect and be honest with ourselves. I also find that working with clients around trauma, making meaning from their pain, and learning to grieve, come up with almost every person I spend time with. Horses process trauma in a tangible way and grief as well, but don’t come up with stories around their meaning-making. We, humans, are delightful as we can create meaning and pass our understanding on verbally but we can also torture ourselves with our stories and resentments. Part of this work is understanding what our stories are, versus what our truth is, and allowing what tortures us to fade away. I notice when we do this for ourselves, the horses will want to spend more time with us and trust our leadership and guidance because we are coming from a clear place. This process is not often easy and takes bravery but sitting in a snowfall or around a lake seems to give people a little more perspective than being caught up in the chaos of their day-to-day lives.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I am so fortunate that I am able to rent space from an old and well-established farm in Longmont, Blue Cloud Farms. I took a job there after my undergraduate work in 2009 caring and working with horses. The owner, Helen Gould, was a great mentor and kindly allowed me to open Spirit Horse there in 2016. The farm is 40 acres of some of the most beautiful land in Colorado between Boulder and Longmont. The farm itself helps to create such a magical experience for clients. We also lease a very old farmhouse that we spent a few months fixing up before we were able to see clients in. Very old farmhouses have such charm but also much upkeep! We would take our eldest daughter every weekend to add walls, clean, fix, paint, build until the farmhouse looked like it would welcome the community through its doors.
I have been lucky to find mentors who have helped me hone skills, combine philosophies, create principles, and help me guide this program into fruition. There was such criticism in the beginning that I think without the support of a small, strong community, I probably would have given up and said this was impossible work to introduce. It was also important to me that I was backing up everything I was teaching and doing it with science so that, even though it may seem magical at times, there is evidence that our brain and being is changing through this work. I did my best to take each layer of criticism as a challenge to create and implement the best program I could, but sometimes I felt like I just wanted to give up. I am so thankful that I didn’t and thank you VoyageDenver for interviewing me and considering Spirit Horse to be a hidden gem!
- Hour long sessions are $100 with a $25 horse lease fee that goes to the owner of the horse if we work with one
- 2 Hour group sessions are $40
- Intensive, all day work, range from $125 to $250 for the day depending on the intensive
- Address: 6069 Prospect Rd. Longmont, CO 80503
- Website: http://www.spirithorse.net
- Phone: 303.882.4994
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: instagram.com/spirithorse.journey
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpiritHorsetherapyandtraining/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel&eid=ARAPx307THbyBnk0E8wxy_mqK31QMVtU6vc9s4WSnxjdhQTBgqHx_WBIOV58Gv8aiPeyRAy5aQgUVaPt