You are standing alongside a horse on a bright, sunny morning. As you brush the horse, you focus on your breathing and let go of any judgments and thoughts that arise. The morning proceeds with instruction about and experience in reciprocity with the horses, a concept woven deeply into Indigenous worldview. By the end of the session, you have the realization, “I know I have learned things about myself that I am going to take throughout the rest of my life.” Welcome to Horse Ibachakali, a unique program offered by Tapestry Institute incorporating horses, mindfulness and Indigenous worldview.
Ibachakali (click the word to hear a sound file) is a Choctaw Indian word for “connected” or “connection”*. The Horse Ibachakali program is designed to explore connections of many kinds between people and the natural world, which includes the inner as well as outer landscapes we all inhabit. It is the only program of its kind that integrates hands-on learning, mindfulness, and Indigenous worldview in an empowering experience of engagement with horses to transform individual human lives.
Participants in Horse Ibachakali sessions learn simple methods for being mindful – staying in the present moment without judging yourself or anything else — while you groom, halter, lead, or sit on a horse. At the same time, they also experience different ways of knowing, learning about, and responding to the natural world, and explore some essential elements of Indigenous worldview such as relationship and reciprocity, as they apply to working with horses. Even if you have worked with horses before, Horse Ibachakali teaches you how to do so using mindfulness within Indigenous worldview, creating a truly unique experience. As one participant said, “It brings something out from inside of you that you didn’t know existed in there.”
Participants in Horse Ibachakali:
- Experience an Indigenous (Native American) way of relating to nature
- Learn basic mindfulness in a natural setting
- Explore applied mindfulness
- Learn about relationship and connection within Indigenous worldview
- Learn how to engage in relationship based on reciprocity
Horse Ibachakali is a life-changing program that anyone can experience. While this is not a typical horse therapy program but rather one that helps people reconnect to that natural world, its impact is one of healing. We previously partnered with the WINGS Foundation of Denver to help their members, who are adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. In 2016, we had to temporarily suspend the program, however, because we no longer had a workable venue for holding it. The recent focus of news and social media on the destructive impact of sexual abuse, however, has caused many people to contact us, wanting to participate in or to refer their patients to us for the healing offered through our program. So, starting in spring of 2019, we want to find a way to offer it again. To do this, we must find a place that provides a sense of privacy and security to participants while they are doing the program. This means we need to not be at a boarding facility where other people and their horses are around and about. In terms of housing the horses, the facility must have secure fencing of any type, reliable water access, space for parking of 4-6 vehicles, and room for us to construct a small arena of panels. If you are aware of a place for rent or lease, anywhere in the Colorado Front Range, or eastward out on the plains, that could potentially fulfill these needs, please contact us.
Be sure to visit our blog to read a participant’s published story, nominated for a major award, about her life-changing experience in Horse Ibachakali!
Your donation helps make this program possible, and it also helps support the horse partners in this important work. Yakoke for your support!
*Yakoke (thanks) to Dora Wickson of the Choctaw Language Program, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, for helping us further refine the word we use to mean “connection.” You may know of our horse program by the term we used previously, Itahoba. That word also means connection, but in a more detailed conversation with Dora and other Choctaw language speakers in the program, the word Ibachakali was suggested as even closer to the specific sense of “connection” to which we wish to refer. You can hear a sound file of how the word is pronounced here.