It’s hard to talk about certain things to even the closest of friends or family members. The most horrible of offenses or ailments people suffer with day to day—things like the loss of a family member or close friend, eating disorders, war, or rape—aren’t one-time conversations people can just have and then move on from. We may not be comfortable opening up to other human beings about certain things, but what about a horse?
Hans van Randwijk, from the Netherlands, offers a program called “Horses Helping Humanity” that aims to help trauma victims, struggling families, and everyday individuals improve their communication and life skills and, most importantly, their attitude about themselves.
Sometimes just the thought of talking to another person can trigger fears of judgment and humiliation, but a conversation with a horse is an entirely different experience altogether.
“Your body language is so important. In a split moment, horses tell me who you are because they have no agenda. The horses are respectful and consistent; they can look inside people and see all of the anger, the aggressiveness, the behavioral issues, everything,” Randwijk said.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- HORSE HEALING : Angel (left), Hans van Randwijk, and Pita (right) are lending a helping hand—and hoof—to people in need.
He’s been working with horses for more than 35 years and received his certificate as an equine educator during his 10 years in the Netherlands.
He later spent time in Ireland in the private sector helping people train their horses, while also traveling to learn from other health and equine specialists like Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Ariana Strozzi, and Dr. Allen Hamilton.
To further his studies, Randwijk attended 15 two-week courses in the U.K., Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Portugal to help certify him as an equine therapist, coach, trainer, and facilitator. While he was still in the Netherlands, he worked at the Dutch Police College where he spent time counseling the officers who had seen the worst in training.
“Every month I had a group of police officers, and even some of the toughest guys with over 25 years of work experience cried. There was an emotional breakthrough with the horses because they allow me to be very gentle,” Randwijk said.
A couple of months ago, he moved to Arroyo Grande, where he lives on a quaint, peaceful plot with gardens, a stone pizza-oven, a tree house, and his two horses. Angel walks excitedly as Randwijk approaches her, but once Randwijk stands in front of her and puts his gentle hands on her side, she becomes perfectly still with her eyes locked on his.
Pita looks over from his stall and longingly waits for a visitor—and a few pats on his forehead.
Alexis King recently graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in graphic design, and when she’s not volunteering at Options Family Health Services or taking care of developmentally disabled adults, she’s helping Randwijk with some of the day-to-day operations.
“The whole experience of working with the horses makes me think of something my dad always told me: ‘The 11th commandment is thou shall not bullshit thyself.’ The program is about you facing yourself, and it can be hard to really see, love, and accept yourself,” King said.
Randwijk makes no exceptions to character when it comes to the kinds of people who can benefit from his services. He recently put together a program called Horses Helping Inmates and submitted it to the San Luis Obispo Men’s Colony where he’s hoping for an opportunity to counsel. He’s also looking forward to working with the Committee of Veterans in Bakersfield and counseling some of their veterans toward the end of June.
“I hope to help make people aware of who they are and what they are, so that their perspective can change. Some people might think their perspective is good enough, but I hope they can see things from a different perspective—one that’s more from the heart and not the eyes,” Randwijk said.
If talking to people about your personal life isn’t in your comfort zone, give Randwijk and his horses a try at (303) 803-0870 or firstname.lastname@example.org.