On March 25th, I attended the Spring Holistic Healing Fair at the Machine Shop, where I met a number of people offering energy healing and different types of healing products and sessions.
But one in particular stood out to me. Roadayo Ranch.
When I spoke with owner, Joan Marie Cameron, at the fair, she asked me, “Have you ever thought about healing with horses?”
I replied immediately, “No way, I am scared of horses!”
But she said, “That’s okay,” and handed me a brochure.
The brochure described the work done at the farm. Individuals partner with horses, who mirror the energy of the individuals, and the facilitator helps the individual to understand the process of self-healing with horses.
In other words, the horses teach you about parts of yourself and your emotions that you yourself may not have understood or yet come to terms with.
Joan Marie took the Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) training program with Horse Spirit Connection two years ago.
This program essentially teaches the facilitator how to read a horse’s presence, sensitivity, and intuition so that the horse can act as a sentient teacher, and the facilitator can relay the meaning back to the individual.
This allows for the horse to play a leading role in guiding transformational journeys of healing, personal growth, and spiritual connection for individuals and clients.
(More information on Horse Spirit Connections and FEEL can be found here).
I was immediately enthralled. I knew there was something special for me to discover at the ranch, although I didn’t yet know what.
Shortly after arranging to visit the ranch, I found myself taking the peaceful drive out to Echo Bay.
Little did I know I would be learning a thing or two about myself as well.
Upon arriving, Joan Marie suited me up in big boots and took me out to the barn and pen, giving me a full tour of the main property.
She showed me her outdoor office, the stalls for the horses, and introduced me to some of her horses.
Big, beautiful, and majestic creatures, horses have always intimidated me.
But she told me that interacting with them would allow me to make the most of the experience, and so I entered the pen.
Joan Marie taught me the motions for how to signal to a horse if I’m not comfortable.
“They can sense authenticity,” she told me, “If your nervous, it’s okay, they can work with you on that.”
“They knew you were coming, they noticed you from about 200 feet out. At about 25 feet, they really know you are there, they start looking up and checking what is going on.
Each horse, like each person, has its own personal space. Try to notice any movement in them so you respect their space when you walk up to them. When a horse walks up to you, I will show you how they show boundaries,” Joan Marie told me.
Very soon after, I was getting nuzzled and kissed by some very sweet and friendly horses, who showed me a thing or two about trust and vulnerability.
I learned that 8 horses on the ranch are used for self- healing, but Roadayo Ranch has been a passion project for Joan Marie and her family long before taking up energy and horse healing.
“I didn’t grow up with horses,” Joan Marie shared, “I struggled through a divorce and I wanted to find something that I could do with my girls that would be fun. We started riding and I found it so relaxing, especially after a difficult day.”
She continued, “When my husband and I got together, I knew I needed a farm to have horses. Back then, we had Sephora and Moca. He said, ‘I guarantee you within a couple years you are going to have ten horses!’ I said, ‘No, that wont happen.’ It did.”
Indy, Classy, Buck, Elle, Twister, Ladd, Glitter, Moca, and Angel are just some of the magnificent horses in the peaceful herd that I got introduced to during my visit to the ranch.
Self-healing sessions take place both inside and outside in a round pen.
Currently an emergency dispatcher, Joan Marie has spent 36 years in the field, in positions such as air medic, ground medic, and communications officer.
She has been exposed to a lot of stressful situations and coming out to spend time with horses has always helped her to find peace.
Now, she has taken what balances her life and offers that service to others.
I asked Joan Marie how she had found such a unique business opportunity, and she told me, “The reason I researched this is because I attended a 911 teleconference in Vancouver and there was someone there doing it.”
She continued, “I spent a year working with my horses, getting to understand them after my training. I had friends and family do the sessions with the horses to ensure that I was fully understanding them before taking clients. I wanted to make sure I was doing it right,” she explained of her beginnings.
Through doing this, Joan Marie even did a session with her sister, who had been a non-believer.
She shared the story with me, “We walked out and no horse approached her. I told her ‘you need to be more authentic.’ She ended up choosing Classy. Classy went to three directions and then put her butt towards my sister. I said,’ she’s trying to tell you that you need to feel vulnerable. Is that something you feel you need to work on?’ Her eyes bulged out of her head and she said, ‘oh my gosh, yes.'”
Following the trust and vulnerability exercise, Joan Marie’s sister told her she had always tried to hide her feelings and vulnerability.
“I had always seen her as so confident She said ‘I could always hide it from you, but not from Classy.’ Now, she is a believer in the work I do,” Joan Marie explained of her sister’s experience.
Now, Roadayo Ranch is a haven for clients to work through a number of issues, primarily anxiety, anger, low mood, low confidence/self-esteem, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Joan Marie has had a registered counsellor come out and experience this type of healing so that they can work hand-in-hand, offering ‘next steps’ to the sessions for when people are ready to take on the task of talking about their feelings.
Some of the success stories really resonated with me.
As a woman, in an ever-changing political spectrum of movements like #MeToo and contentious opinions on boundaries and consent, I was touched by Joan Marie’s story of a young girl learning and setting boundaries with the horses,
“The horses teach you how to say no and how to stand your ground. One young girl struggled with saying no to people and friends and just giving in. She worked with Indy, who would push and push her boundaries.
Once she learned to say no confidently to him, he showed her ‘okay, I will walk beside you and I will respect your space and boundaries.’ The smile on her face and seeing the strength and confidence of a child walking with an animal of that size is amazing.”
But it isn’t just about young girls.
We also live in a world where, while it is becoming more common and socially acceptable for men and boys to be more expressive of their emotions, for years, the male gender has been expected to bury their emotions and hide their feelings.
“Sometimes children don’t have a sense that it is okay to feel the way they feel. Out here, no feeling is judged. We help to readjust actions, if you are hurting yourself or others, but how you feel is okay. Opening up to the horses whether verbally or not is okay,” Joan Marie explained.
“I find it is particularly helpful for children who can’t or won’t open up to a counsellor. When you take a child out of the closed in four walls and put them out here with a horse, it gives them a different opportunity. They open up to the horses and they learn something about themselves.
Building confidence to express themselves actually encouraged one child to go to traditional counselling. I find that it works hand in hand with traditional therapy and counselling methods, not so much to replace it,” Joan Marie shared of some of the successes.
It has helped adults, too.
Joan Marie told me of an adult who was inspired by their child to come and do a session.
She also shares a particularly heart-warming story of a veteran, whose time with the horses was the only remedy to his night terrors.
What Roadayo Ranch has to offer is unique in the Sault. It may be the answer that you’ve been looking for, especially if you connect with nature and haven’t found traditional therapy or counselling to be successful.
The wonderful world of horses and their level of emotional intelligence is something that I had never understood or been exposed to before, and I am gracious for the opportunity to get up close and personal with Joan Marie’s equine family.
For more information or to contact Roadayo Ranch, visit them on Facebook.