Horse Tales

Career Army Veteran Uses Experiential Learning with Horses to Move Beyond Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

Meet Lishamarie Hunter

Headshot of Lishamarie Hunter in her military uniform with US flag in background.
“I had no idea how to be a civilian.”

Army – Sergeant First Class
1980 – 2006
Germany, Alaska, Korea

“When I got home, I didn’t know what to say to anyone. I had no friends and certainly had no idea how civilians get anything done,” Lishamarie tells us. “Everyone seemed to be more concerned with coffee, donuts and being nice than getting something done. In the Army, the donuts come last, if at all.”

“I tried teaching in an elementary school, but they said I was too strict. Basically, the principal made me feel that everything I’d done for my country was useless here. I was just trying to keep the kids from getting into trouble … especially the girls. I know all about how that happens. Men who are supposed to be good guys can turn on you.” For Lishamarie, most of her anxiety and vigilance is due to men in the military. “If something bad happens, there’s no one to tell, so my ‘go to’ had become a baseball bat …

… usually the verbal kind,” she tells us with a wry smile. “The stress of it all was making me sick though, so I got into a group with some female vets who had been through the same things I had in the military. It helped some, but I still came into most situations with agitation.”

“Then, I met Nick, a big gray horse in Port Deposit, Maryland, where The Equus Effect had just started a new program. By the fourth session, I realized two things:

One, if I could manage this 1,200-pound animal by being calm and engaging, I might be able to handle people that way.

Veterans use experiential exercises with horses to heal
~ by Lishamarie Hunter


Veteran Lishamarie works with horse Dutch on Experiential Exercises
“I might be able to handle people this way …”

Two, when I was in the here and now, not fuming about what happened before or what was going to happen next, Nick felt safe with me. 

If I went off in my thoughts about the past or the future, he got agitated, just like I always do.

I discovered this for myself and I realized how much better things go when I’m present. No one could have told me that in a million years.”

Now, Lishamarie knows how to de-escalate situations by coming in with a sense of equanimity instead of aggression. “I already know how to go from 0 to 100 … and where that leads. I actually use humor instead of my ‘bat’ to cool things down rather than stoking the fire. It’s changed my life.”

Lishamarie is now able to give full expression to her feelings about military life through her painting, which she teaches at a local college.

Do you know someone who wants to learn more about working with veterans, people in recovery and/or other trauma survivors? See our introductory course for ESMHL Professionals, Therapeutic Riding Instructors, EFP and EFL practitioners and individuals in the healing arts.
We are offering a workshop called Inside The Equus Effect for individuals and practitioners to experience our approach. Please see Inside The Equus Effect page for more info.

Thank you to our supporters for helping us broaden our reach to other parts of the country. Veterans deserve to have better tools for self-expression and creative ways to ‘tell their stories.’

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