Horse sense: Mindfulness matters

May 2014 Posted in Business
Jill Rivoli uses horses to teach people how to overcome obstacles in their lives.

Jill Rivoli uses horses to teach people how to overcome obstacles in their lives.

By Kristine Thomas

The tasks Jill Rivoli assigns her clients appear relatively simple.

She even demonstrates how to walk up to the horse, touch the back of its leg so it lifts its hoof and how to use a pick to clean the dirt and rocks from a hoof.  Then she says its their turn.

The owner of New Perspectives in Silverton, Rivoli is not surprised when someone tries to replicate what she did and fails. When ithappens, she asks what the person was feeling at the time. And then asks more questions. Then instructs them to try again. And again.

New Perspectives is Rivoli’s equine-guided education business. By asking her clients questions and encouraging them to work with the horses on exercises ranging from grooming to manuevering through an obstacle course, Rivoli is able to gain insight into the client’s behavior, communication and relationship patterns.

“I have an innate intuition to see what is going on with people,” she said. “Just how a person walks up to a horse, I can tell a lot about what’s going on with them.”

To be clear, Rivoli emphasizes the exercises her clients are not focused on riding a horse. Instead, the tasks involve working beside one. She said individuals seek her assistance for many reasons, including inability to move forward in their life, grieving a loss, or learning relationship skills. She also works with corporations on team-building skills.

“Horses are master teachers of paying attention, living in the moment and communicating without voice. These are all skills that humans benefit from honing,” she explains on her webpage for New Perspectives.

New Perspectives
An equine-guided education program.
Owner Jill Rivoli helps people
gain insight into their behavior,
communication patterns, and
relationships by interacting
with horses.She offers both private
individual and group sessions.Upcoming group sessions are:
June 28-29 and Oct. 11- 12 in Bend;
Aug. 16-17 in Silverton
Contact: 503-881-4474;

By having her clients work with a horse, Rivoli shows them how to gain clarity and vision for their life. For her, a horse is a mirror to show people how to remove obstacles from their path and move forward to create the life they envision.

“My focus areas with my clients are about helping them learn to be mindful and be aware of the choices they are making and why they are making those choices,” she said. “It’s helping people look at their patterns of behavior. “

Rivoli said she believes people are a product of their experiences. From their experiences, they learn a pattern of behavior.

“We learn how to navigate through the world through those patterns. I help people think about if those patterns are serving them well and if they are not, how to think about changing them,” she said.

Rivoli, who is the branch director of the Silver Falls YMCA, has completed master’s work in conservation social sciences with an emphasis on leadership and experiential education. Her love of horses began at a young age. She owned her first horse when she was 9 and has spent her life working with them at guest ranches, youth equine camps and resort equestrian facilities.

Jill Rivoli

Jill Rivoli

While she was working as the manager of Miraval Resort’s Equine program in Arizona she learned how horses could help people overcome the obstacles in their lives. While at the resort, she worked with more than 6,000 clients.

Rivoli says equine-guided education helps people improve the quality of their relationships – whether it is with their family, friends, colleagues or spouse. The ultimate goal, she said, is to help people improve the relationship with their self.

To begin that journey, Rivoli starts by asking what “mindfulness” means. Her goal is to help clients become aware of what they are feeling, achieve personal development, learn relationship skills and overcome fears.

“When I ask people what mindfulness means to them, I get a lot of different answers,” Rivoli said. “Most people are aware of what’s going on outside of them but I want people to be aware of what’s going on inside of them and how that influences their behavior, actions and creates patterns.”

By working with the horse, her clients learn how their non-verbal communication transmits what they are feeling.

If a person is scared and tries to clean a hoof, Rivoli said, the horse knows and doesn’t lift its hoof. Same holds true if the client is asked to take the horse for a walk and doesn’t know where he is going, the horse won’t move.

“The horse can read a person’s body language,’ she said. “It’s like a mirror of what is going on within us. There is an energy exchange and through our non-verbal communication, we are broadcasting what we are feeling.”

Too often what happens, Rivoli said, is a person thinks one thing and feels another. And when it comes to the battle between going with what a person thinks or what she feels, the head usually wins. Unfortunately, Rivoli said, the head is not always correct.

“We discount our feelings,” she said. “We are taught to not give value to what we are feeling. Our head often tells us lies. Our gut feelings are pretty accurate.”

By working with a horse, Rivoli shows clients how people tend to make things way more complicated then they need to be. Believing all people seek to connect with others, Rivoli said it begins with awareness – “awareness of our own feelings and needs, awareness of our affect on others, awareness of the needs of others, and awareness in the non-verbal communication that makes up the vast majority of our communication. Being mindful of these things will improve all of your relationships.”

One thing many people do is create a story about what they perceive to be happening. For example, Rivoli said, if she asks a client to take the horse on a walk, and the horse won’t budge, the client creates a story about why the horse won’t move. The horse doesn’t like him, the horse is tired…

Although the head may be saying “yes I can do this,” Rivoli said the horse can read a person’s body language and know what he is feeling.

“We all make our communication way too complicated,” she said.

“By working with the horses, I am helping people learn to be clear in what they want. If they are not clear about what they want, the horse won’t be able to accommodate them as they won’t understand what is wanted.

“I help people understand what patterns they have and what stories they are telling themselves,” she said. “I help people find different ways of doing things.”

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