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Ponderosa Connection

This interview progressed into a collaborative experience shared between Crystal Fatteicher and Nicole Hebert. The beauty of practicing awareness of energies in the process of experienced and exchanging energies between living beings has been both a humbling and empowering experience throughout this interview. Much like the work that Crystal does with horses and ponies, Nicole was facilitating Crystal throughout the interview and Crystal facilitated Nicole when working with the horses and animals. Thus, encompassing the shared healing process between human-horse bonding and relationship – just as the person engages in the healing experience so does the horse.

“We are not just helping others heal – we are also helping ponies and horses heal”

“The horse knows what we know and the horse knows what we don’t know”

1) A little bit about Crystal and her journey…. Crystal was born in Manitoba and grew up in the Yorkton and Moose Jaw area and was riding horses before she could walk. Crystal spent a lot of time helping with her Grandma’s pony farm and after her grandfather passed away when she was seven years old. She then became her grandmother’s “right hand man”. It is with that title, held early by Crystal, that she was often found overseeing two siblings and multiple cousins (30+ to be exact). While working on her grandmother’s farm Crystal learned the ways of working with ponies, animal behavioural communication, and teaching children how to ride. There were other duties as well such as horse shows, trail rides, and training ponies. Her grandmother raised, bred, and trained ponies in which she was most partial to Welshes, Arabians, and Morgans. Given her upbringing on her grandmother’s farm Crystal carried on the practices and knowledge from her grandmother and extended family.

Crystal elaborated on her personal awakening that influenced her journey towards healing…

After high school I moved to Alberta to spread my wings and find my own way in life. When I was ready to go to school I moved back to Moose Jaw to attend college, which lead me to finding a partner, starting a committed relationship, and raising a family. I enjoyed a successful corporate career, which included Administration, Human Resources, and Information Technology. My life took a turn and I experienced a series of multiple major life events that started with the death of my last grandparent in December of 2017 followed by a fall that smashed my tailbone resulting in a visit to the E.R. on Christmas Eve. Shortly after that I started feeling energy at a physical level that brought about my awareness that I was experiencing a personal awakening.

My life carried on in an unfamiliar fashion… then in the beginning of April 2018 I was storm stayed on the highway on my way home from work. At the time I thought I had handled the situation relatively well, but within a couple weeks I began crying uncontrollably. By the middle of April I had an emotional breakdown and reached out to Mental Health Advocates, multiple doctors and counsellors to further understand what was happening to me. This resulted in a late diagnosis of Complex PTSD at the age of 42. I was finally starting to make sense of a lifetime of mental health disorders that I now understand to be symptoms of Complex PTSD.

These include: Anxiety, insomnia, depression, addictions, substance abuse, anger management, codependence, and eating disorders. This also included attempted suicide in my teens, suicidal ideation, and cycles of hopelessness and despair.

As my healing journey progressed one aspect I became very aware of was the number of toxic relationships that existed in my life (both internal and external). I began to acknowledge the various relationship injuries I had experienced that started at an earlier age and this was impacting my work, home, friends, family and myself. My first traumatic memory was at a tender young age at the hands of a caregiver in my own home. This childhood trauma was left unspoken and untreated until in my 40’s. Therefore, I had lived the majority of my life under valuing and minimizing my traumatic experiences. This resulted in me coping by numbing myself in various forms. I now recognize that my mental health illnesses were mainly my immature, uneducated and unaware way to cope, numb, and minimize my trauma so that I could survive…. But in turn this perpetuated the cycle that I was in and ultimately led to my breakdown.

2) We then asked Crystal how this influenced her work now with horses, animals, and healing through energy… her journey towards the work that she does with animals in relation to the power of energy in healing…

In Crystal’s words: I feel this influenced my work with horses through animals and healing by… I started investigating energy and healing medicine, which started with my Equine Assisted Learning Certificate which pivoted my healing and finding my identity. This journey exposed me to a lot of various healing modalities and wellness practices, which included: reiki, animal communication, quantum sound technologies, yoga, Qigong, meditation, sound therapy/healing (crystal bowls/gong baths), essential oils, emotional freedom tapping, mindset coaching, vision boards, animal therapy, and other various emotional and energy healing.

Further to this…

Crystal expressed that the most empowering and humbling experience is watching the reveal of the transformation between humans and horses (human-horse relationship connection and the transformation that stems from that bonding). The relationship between horses and humans can be both the healee (the receiver) and the healer (the giver) and that there is a partnership that encompasses a gifting and receiving of energy to foster balance. In working with horses and energy it is acknowledged that you bring your true present being to each lesson. Horses are connected through empathy in nature in that they foster a natural intuition with energy from others, which are a part of the overall environment. There is a catch and release type of relationship amongst energies. Horses engage in a fluid language of their own amongst one another that involves a means of regulating and communicating presence in various forms.

Horses are the teachers in the work that Crystal does through her upbringing and education with animals and people. It is the balance between acknowledging the energy and respecting the message it is telling us through our bodies. Horses have a deeply rooted intuition of their own energy in relation to energies external to them and this allows for an authentic and organic presence when working with people. It makes for a non-invasive way of teaching and encouraging healing through accountability in the various forms of energy that our bodies harbour naturally.

3) We asked Crystal how energy impacts us in healing and how this is experienced when working with horses …

Crystal stated that the horses’ first language is energy, which helps explain why they are naturally versed in energy and are amazing emotional supports that allows them to hold space for trauma and pain. Crystal talked about how energy is medicine and that ‘we’ are energy. Meaning we are our own medicine.

Crystal went on to say that working with horses is a doorway into our inner Knowing, which is led by self-awareness. Horses help us to identify where our energy centres are imbalanced or blocked and gently guide us to inner balance. Horses hold the acceptance of accountability in our energy and what we put out into the space we share with the horse while in a session. This allows for us to be aware of the energy felt and acknowledged throughout our shared time with the horse. Within the shared sessions the horses hold no judgment (this is important for healing from trauma) and are able to maintain this safe space in the human-horse bond as there are no expectations. Only guidance in the lessons that come forward based on the experienced human-horse relationship and bond that is shared through energy and presence. This is also a practice of mindfulness in itself, as the horse will hold you accountable to be present with your energy in the moments that are shared within the session.

Crystal stated that the horses’ first language is energy, which helps explain why they are naturally versed in energy and are amazing emotional supports that allows them to hold space for trauma and pain. Crystal talked about how energy is medicine and that ‘we’ are energy. Meaning we are our own medicine.

4) We asked Crystal what she has taken away in her experience in working with horses, healing, recovery, and getting to be a part of someone else’s healing…

Working with horses and energy is both a life style and a choice and within that is a commitment to presence and honoring our healing expressions. This can be shown through how we hold our bodies and how our bodies hold us from within. It is both the seen and unseen presence of self in all actions and words. The ways we communicate in various forms is shared within the human-horse bond and there is a lesson to be learned from both the human and the horse. More importantly, it is knowing that a person holds energy and that this energy alone takes up space that is both felt, heard, and responded to. Horses also encompass the same and, therefore, are sensitive to energy and how that energy presents itself in humans.

Crystal expressed that there is a horse lesson for everyone and it is very individually based.

The question is: are we willing to receive their guidance, wisdom, and support?

Crystal generally works with animals and horses that are rescues, as they offer a profound parallel to humans. With their active presence in watching, aiding, and supporting recovery and healing process, it has a strong connection to humans, as it is very directly relatable to them as well. In relationships with horses they demand a respectful connection and relationship – there is no question. If there is disrespect experienced in the connection or relationship, it will be shown in how the horse presents itself. The rescues that Crystal works with have endured trauma themselves and often is an outcome from human contact. Because the horse has also experienced mistrust with other humans, they too are able to connect and engage with the healing process. It is important to understand this, as it says a great deal about the idea of it being ‘OK’ to take up space in this world.Crystal went on to say that, “We are Nature; I feel that we have forgotten that along the way. Therefore, I believe that nature is our purest form of energy medicine for us (humans)”.

That your presence alone is felt, acknowledged, and heard because we are all a part of nature creating a wholesome experience:

Oneness experience – when you are working with a horse you almost become ‘One’ almost like a dance. You are one with nature and you are not alone.

5)We asked Crystal what her presence looks like when being a part of someone’s time with a horse… Who is the guide or teacher in this process?

Crystal painted a beautiful picture of what her role looks like within and alongside sessions with the horses:

Below you will find Ethics and Standards of Practice – horses have a basic understanding of respect and presence with the person and for everyone (all animals and persons) that enters into their space.

My presence is that of the teacher’s aid – I truly am the horse’s helper. The horses do all the teaching – I offer intuitively guided information, stories and open-ended questions – but above all I provide a safe place to hold space… and watch the magic unfold. Crystal went on to say that there are SIX elements in facilitating a session between a horse and a person that are essential for safety and respect within a session: 1) Attention 2) Observation 3) Flexibility 4) Imagination 5) Patience 6) Silence

It is important to keep an open heart – in which we are open to infinite possibilities with no limitations in the sessions. We are open to the experience with no judgment. The intention behind this is to provide a safe and open place to hold space.

We are also anticipating the needs of the horses and the person – this takes a bit of planning and time. Every time my horses have a need this positively influences or softly encourages me to be accountable. Even when I have to place myself in the position of responsibility and accountability – they force me to step in and there is still growth with this – a shared leadership.

During sessions there is a process of Critical thinking – problem solving – reflection – and then release and this is a constant relationship with the horses, the participant, and myself. This process is fluid and it is consistently interchanging and shifting throughout the learning experience. There is also discernment and presence with and amongst the horses and animals – provide and retrieve presence based on energies shared. This involves the structure of a session as well – anticipating the needs of the client – sometimes structure is needed and other times we need no plan and just follow presence and energy guidance with the person, the horses, and myself.

There is always space to reflect on continuous improvement – always room for growth. With that it is a necessity to have curiosity and consistency as the session progresses. The process requires a view of priorities and a container that a person can fill with curiosity, needs, and goals. The container starts out empty and open for the client and the horse to fill throughout the experience. It is also essential to provide an inviting and welcoming environment (comfort), consistently anticipating the person’s needs, and allowing them to explore to become aware of their needs in a session.

Another important necessity for sessions is upholding and fostering Safety during sessions – A person needs to feel safe in order to open up authentically and purely. A bond is initiated before they come out and this is initiated between myself and the person(s) – We then assess their needs and goals and determine the setup of the initial session and re-assess as we go forward. Safety is made up of multiple elements in itself and the first one is physical safety – I will inform of apparel to have on hand in order to keep yourself safe. Energy work is done before sessions – depending on the session and the person there are times meditation/smudging is practiced – We also need to clear the mind and open the heart to what the client needs for that day. This is by clearing and releasing old energies for the safety and the health of the horses as well. I speak about this with the client in that I teach energy awareness through being responsible for our own energy.

Teaching element (safety) – It is essential to understand how to hold the rope, how to move around the animals, horsemanship skills, and how to work on a farm safely. I facilitate the work, but part of the facilitation is teaching the safety and way to be around the horses. Being able to identify – horses calling me in or calling me to space myself out. It is a tag team.

The horses’ nourishment – I am always assessing that the horses needs are met prior to when a person attends their session. Ensuring all teachers (human-horse) are nourished and taken care of – this work is demanding on the body – it requires a person to put all of their being into the work (balancing these energies is my daily focus every day). It is a Mind-body-soul experience, which requires constant care and nourishment.

The most important piece during a session is to Listen to the horses. They will tell you always what is needed and when it is needed. They are not only the client’s guide, but they are also guiding me as the facilitator. They are the teachers.

I will also help to parallel the persons experience with the animals to something that exists within their reality or their real life. The people do the same in a way.

Observation skills – tying into the parallel – I will observe people facilitating themselves. When they start facilitating themselves – it is so empowering to see them accepting the process.

Patience – step back and let the person process it exactly how they need. I cannot have any expectation – it is not my journey – I respect it to be theirs – I show up with an open book – “paint your picture today”. Even if I identify what the person needs I cannot put that into their personal course.– this helps keep out that unsolicited help. The horses’ teaching takes time – it is my job to uphold the horses’ position/presence as the teacher.

Horses know what you know and what you do not know. So it is important to trust the process and wait for clarity from the horses, whom, will tell me this in different ways. Even for “Safety” pieces that I deem necessary, the horses will still be the ones to show if it is needed.

I will also need to essentially “tone down” a session by not having any distraction or excess in learning environment. Making sure that the space is clear of clutter that could be in harms way or that nothing is there that should not be there (any triggers to be purged). I am minimizing any triggering opportunities and I will note any unexpected triggers that may arise during a session, which I will work through, so that my horses are kept safe for the client (s).

Do not micromanage – empowerment piece to stand back and let the person have their experience without any expectations.

No judgment – acceptance – who am I to judge how a person shows up to a session. I don’t know what it took for that person to get up that morning. There is no space for judgment. The horses teach the non-judgment element – there is only ownership and accountability. Through this acceptance is fostered and the learning environment is held in safety and softness.

To give positive reinforcement – helps put that person to the next spot – sometimes you can tell when people have not had positive reinforcement – that reminder or pointing out what a person was able to do can be so empowering for someone who may be has not heard that for awhile. This sometimes can show up when a person is ready to move to the next skill development. The self-validation a person displays when we are keeping the momentum going is highly rewarding for all involved – myself, the horse, and participant.

Body language – I will anticipate needs based on how a horse is responding – that is the way they are speaking to us (body language/verbal). When I step into teaching with words – this is more empowering. I use my words and if I recognize that I am teaching (assessing my own body language) I take another step back. I only step in when an individual asks for it or to further demonstrate my words. This also is how I model being aware of our energy fields. The horses’ body language is essential – it is important to know how a horse holds themselves in their nature.

If there is a potential that is recognized in a session – my presence is to use curiosity and awareness, but ultimately, I am holding space and allowing the horse to identify if or when I am needed to step in. My presence is focused on helping, encouraging and supporting the clients to bond and engage with the horse – with an authentic connection (this is generally happening while working alongside the horse).

Using open-ended questions, I am supporting space for the person to determine their own answers and freedom to explore. I don’t give direct answers or questions – I keep the questions and responses open for the person to determine their perception of what the horse is doing. It is essential for the Person to own their experience. The client (s) – I give them permission to utilize me as little, or as much as they deem necessary.

Just like standards of practice I have for myself as the facilitator, I also have standards of practice with the client:

• Pointing out when a horse is setting boundaries for safety – giving

caution of the horses’ safety and the clients’ safety when needed.

• The horses’ personal boundaries within the learning environment – this

is the horses’ home which is a sacred space and needs to be treated

as such – here to enforce that the horses’ home environment and

themselves are receiving equal respect – the horse and the human

receive equal respect. Maintaining the horses’ personal boundaries

and their home boundaries is very important – that is up to me to

maintain that.

Working with groups and group related work– all individuals are encouraged to attend. Opportunities to participate are given, but are optional as observation is necessary and awareness is the goal. There is an invitation to try new things, expand on themselves, practicing positive encouragement, and reinforcement.

Questions open the door for experience and reflection, which provides a softer way of encouraging someone to look at things a little bit differently. Soft guidance.

I also need to Manage conflict – I always put it back with the horse who is the teacher.

• Advocacy for underlying needs even when they are not jointly related

to how a person is presenting themselves.

• Space for movement/outdoor connection.

• A person is stimulated the moment they approach the arena.

• My job is to remain neutral and non-judgmental.

• Ability to manage conflict resolution if a situation arises.

• Respect all individual participants and animals – that is integrity of the

work that we do with the horses.

• Facilitation needs to create and maintain a positive learning


My job is to show up – regardless of what life brings or the days brings – I will show up.

Keep calm – and facilitate on…

“Being grounded as a facilitator and solid and open is important in all sessions.”

6) We asked Crystal how this has this impacted her life

In her own words…

Hugely and greatly, as it highlighted the imbalances and areas of my life that required my attention, action or decision, and most importantly accountability. It was a massive life event cleansing of all aspects of myself and areas of my life. Working with horses literally, figuratively and on all aspects saved my life. My work, ponies and mission are why I am here today – I am still breathing, hoping, and loving on all those not able to love, hope, or breathe on their own yet. I am a healer although I had some doubt before; I see now that people are their own healers, therefore I am a healer and horses are the modality. Crystal mentioned the notion of, “…lets heal people with a journey to joy”. Crystal mentioned that her body craved balance and an understanding between her masculine energy (doing) and feminine energy (being) – both of these energies matter and require balance in her life. Horses have helped her acknowledge the masculine and feminine energies that exist within her and the importance of discipline, consistency, and accountability in all aspects of her life both inward and outwardly.

There is an idea of owning our energy and in turn owning our space. That it is okay to take up space so long as we can respect what our needs are and acknowledge the responsibility that we have to ourselves as a whole. Working with horses, it is welcomed within the shared space of the human-horse experience and bond to both take up space and give space. To be both present and open to learning from the horse, and in turn, the horse being able to learn from you. It is to be able to be mindful of who and what we are presenting in our energy and it is there that a horse will reflect this in various ways, as communication is both spoken and unspoken in nature.

There is also the practice of having honest reflections with ourselves and being open to the answer we may or may not have at the time. The horses also experience this too in their shared journey with you and though you may have different horses (teachers/healers) every time, it is important to notice what remains consistent and what message do these consistencies in energy, presence, or feelings provide for you.

7) We asked Crystal how our communities can continue to grow and build a better understanding of mental health and the practice of mental wellness…

In her own words…

From my experience, our communities could benefit from more education, services, and supports to help eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health – that phrase alone is emotionally charged at a collective level. Teaching others what mental wellness consists of is my positive approach to be the change I want to see. I truly believe everyone has dealt with mental health at some point in their lives, toxic people, places, and things are around us everywhere, but how we approach it depends on our tools, skills, and knowledge.

Society as a whole could benefit from open conversations about mental health and mental wellness as both a language and a community. Horses hold the ultimate lesson that encompasses the practice and lifestyle of mindfulness, by holding no judgments or hidden expectations of others and holding space for shared healing and recovery. There is a need for connection not only in awareness, but knowing how to be present in the discussion of mental health and also how to be an ally to your neighbours within your community. Mental wellness is a practiced mindset that is best supported through learning from one another – it is a shared learning and healing experience.

Another major aspect of my mental health has been largely impacted by my environment, trauma, and relationships. Relationship injury has (both internal and external) played a large part regarding the trauma I have experienced since childhood. It has impacted my life choices, behaviours, and actions. It has also largely attributed to my lifelong mental health illnesses and well-being in many ways. Our communities need opportunities where we have support, services, and resources to encourage families and individuals to make necessary life choices. Sometimes those choices are hard and the right choice is not always the easiest choice. Having open conversations about relationships has value to help bring self-awareness at a collective level.

Supporting children and families as they make healthy life choices

and decisions while building and strengthening relationship


Supporting how to have conversations about mental health with all

generations and how to be an open, active, and engaging listener.

Supporting ways to provide appropriate education around building

healthy boundaries and communicating those boundaries


Supporting ways that allow for people to speak their truth and be

supported in a safe way (by all areas of our communities).

Supporting a foundation of fluid empathy for others and their

authentic experiences with mental health.

8) We asked Crystal what she hoped that the work that she does alongside the horses will accomplish or provide for others working with them?

My mission is to provide an opportunity for others to develop a strong connection to nature, animals, themselves, and each other. More importantly – I strive to help remind people that we are nature – we have kind of forgotten that along the way and horses are nature so they are helping by bringing us back to home. A persons’ own self-awareness, confidence, and esteem allows them to self-discern, direct, and lead in every aspect of their lives.

Much like the human-horse bond/connection we also hold this same shared energy with the world around us and it is so important that we acknowledge this amongst all the pressures telling us that we do not belong or we do not have a purpose – we in fact do have a purpose and we do belong because our presence alone is felt and heard by the world around us – because we are nature. The beauty in working with horses is that eventually you begin to understand that presence is not solely felt physically, but emotionally and spiritually. From this we can find joy from the inside out instead of allocating validation and worth from the outside in.

“Horses allows us to open ourselves to our inner knowing like a doorway to our true north path (inner compass)”

Stay tuned for more interviews in the Voices of Hope Series…

Join the Journey of Hope…

If you are someone or know of someone who might interested in the Voices of Hope Series connect with us through our email: or contact our facebook page @journeytohopemoosejaw

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