Hope woman finds her calling with equine healing

Ulrike Spitzer works with seniors, people facing burnout and experiences with trauma

Imagine you are lucky enough to find your true calling. Now imagine this calling involves gentle, majestic, 500 kilogram creatures.

“This is what I feel I came into this life to do — the healing work and to bring the horses into the work and to share the immense gifts that horses bring to people with others,” said Ulrike Spitzer.

A resident of Hope who recently opened the Healing Den, a collaborative space for energy healers and bodywork practitioners, Spitzer is also bringing horses into the healing work she does. Through Kaleidoscope Healing, she conducts workshops and sessions introducing people to the power of horses to move energy through the body and heal trauma.

During her childhood in Germany, Spitzer spent her weekends and summers riding. When she came to Canada in 1996, she started working with a guide outfitter in the Chilcotin riding and guiding with horses.

When she started studying bodywork and counselling in 2006, the horses went from being part of her work to being her release from the stresses of everyday life. Every month she would take a long weekend away from her studies and healing work, to decompress.

“The horses were always what kept me healthy and grounded. Horses require us to be fully present in the now, in the moment. Be here now, basically, because they are always fully present, in the moment, aware of predators, of dangers around them,” she said.

At the same time as she realized the power the horses had to keep her grounded, she also saw the horse she has raised since birth becoming less than a perfect trail horse. Shoko, now 17 years old, was spooked by everything on the trail and after a few injuries, Spitzer knew she had to do something else with her.

“Because she was my baby, I have raised her, trained her, I couldn’t just sell her. And seeing how good she was with people, I decided it was time to bring the horses into the work,” she said.

Spitzer began volunteering with Langley-based Linda-Ann Bowling. She witnessed how programs for women and at-risk youth functioned.

“Horses have been used in therapeutic riding for ages, but more and more people started using horses on the ground in a counselling setting, and that was started in the eighties. There were several women who independently discovered it in the eighties, in the U.S.,” she said.

Spitzer now bring the horses into the work she does with people who have experienced childhood trauma and abuse, people who are experiencing high stress and burnout, seniors and anyone who is interested in bringing horses into the energy healing they do with her.

“With the horses it is so much easier because it doesn’t get intellectualized. It’s like you skip the brain. You immediately get in touch with emotions and the physical sensations in the body,” she said. “That is key for people who have abuse history, trauma history, sexual abuse history, is the body wisdom. To access the body wisdom, because it is the body that was abused in most cases. And to relearn to trust the body as a key messenger and a friend is crucial to heal from trauma or abuse.”

While many, especially women, facing childhood abuse and trauma are drawn to Spitzer’s work, she is also reaching out to people with other needs as well.

A one-day retreat, Disconnect to Reconnect, is aimed at caregivers and those experiencing stress and burnout in everyday life.

After visiting her friend’s mother in a care facility, she decided to offer the healing power of horses to seniors. Every Thursday during the summer, seniors are invited to sit down for tea and engage with the horses.

“I see how lonely they are…they don’t get really motivated to go outside and do other things outside the care home,” she said. “But when they hear horses, there is a motivation and they’re curious about it.”

Spitzer has had two of her horses — Shoko and Moonshadow — since birth, and the oldest, Florita, since she was six years old. She spends a lot of time training them to ensure they are fit to be therapy horses.

“I know their personalities, I know their quirks. I know with whom I can match them up,” she said. “Although the match happens naturally. People think they choose a horse, but they are actually chosen by the horse.”

Her belief in the power of horses is so strong, that Spitzer is offering most of her sessions at very low rates, so low she doesn’t make any profits. She does so because she wants the people of Hope and surrounding areas to experience the horses firsthand.

“I’m doing this, because I have been blessed to have horses in my life to keep myself healthy and grounded, and I strongly believe that it is my purpose to share the healing power of the horses with all those who need healing,” she said.

Spitzer is offering the last Disconnect to Reconnect summer group retreat this Saturday, Aug. 18. Senior Thursdays are every first Thursday of the month between June and September, and other projects including a three-day group retreat called the Equine Wheel of Life will be offered in September.

Horses are used in the treatment of PTSD, so Spitzer has reached out to the Hope and Area Transition Society, to talk about the possibility of a collaboration to work with people in HATS’ addictions and mental health programs.


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