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The Spirit of Equus
Horses Helping Humans (HHH) is a local organisation that embraces the spirit of the horse in a therapeutic program known as ‘Hippotherapy’ to treat children with autism and other special needs.
Mere words cannot adequately describe the moments of understanding, empathy, communication & patience that transpire between these magnificent animals and the children. Horses are naturally skittish creatures and they easily pick up on a person’s energy. Adults are warned not to make any sudden moves or walk too closely, and to just keep your distance if you can’t quell your fears. But, amazingly, the horses don’t react with the children, who are generally far from ‘calm’. With patient serenity, they allow the children to touch them, groom them, feed them and ride them, as if they understand.
The program also saves the horses, providing a safe sanctuary for them. Retired from racing & show jumping due to injury or age, there is little use anyone has for them, and because the cost of caring for them is so prohibitive they are usually either abandoned or given to the zoo as food for the lions. The horses used in the therapy have all been spared those ends, and are cared for and loved. The therapy is provided free of charge - these families could not afford it anyway - but the program is now sadly in danger due to lack of desperately needed sponsorship. HHH’s founder and director is Karen Stollmeyer. With her devoted husband and ‘rock’ Ernie Matthews always at her side, she is the driving force behind HHH. Karen holds a Masters degree in Speech and Language Pathology, is a Yogacharya (Master of Yoga), Yoga Therapist, Hippotherapist, Energy Medicine Practitioner, Founder/Director of Bliss Yoga, Trinidad (www.facebook.com/blissyogatrinidad) and a member of the International Yoga Federation’s World Yoga Council.
She and Ernie are also the hosts of the annual Trinidad and Tobago World Peace festival. She studied for her degree in Boulder, Colorado, a place she calls ‘Little Utopia’ because of the lifestyle that is fostered there, one she describes as “peaceful, happy, organic, mindful, outdoors and free”. It is probably here that the first stirrings began within her to live in such a world, where every person has access to a happy and healthy life. She began her career as a neurological speech & language pathologist at a brain injury rehabilitation center in Miami, an occupation that involved seeing the terrible consequences of physically traumatic circumstances. Many times she wondered in despair if she was making any difference at all, as most of her patients were already near death. Just as she was supposed to be on the threshold of a budding career, she felt empty… as if something was missing.
She started doing intense ‘self work’, searching for that missing piece, most times not knowing where she was going but trusting that she was being led in the right direction. She was introduced to yoga through a friend and immediately the ‘empty space’ felt a little less empty. She took to it like a fish to water, reading voraciously about the ancient science and practicing assiduously. She spent the next seven years on her journey of self-awareness, all the while still diligently carrying out her duties in the hospital. It was during this time that she also became acquainted with the practice of hippotherapy, and did at one point consider that perhaps this was where she was meant to be. As a child she had always dreamed of working with horses, and even rode on an equestrian team in college, but the costs involved in acquiring & maintaining the horses proved beyond her means, so she abandoned the idea.
She found herself being drawn more and more into yoga, not just the practice of asanas (poses) but deep into the teachings. It was here that she was finding answers that finally made sense. She received a revelation that she was going to teach yoga and, without question, she answered the calling. In 2003, fate connected her with her guru, Swami Brahmavidyananda Saraswati, founder of the Institute for Holistic Yoga of North America, with whom she trained for hours every day for three months before she was due to return home. When she returned, she retired from her career and began teaching yoga, which she has now been doing for 10 years. The practice of hippotherapy resurfaced when she met Veronica La Fortune, who runs Healing
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