The Horse Healer in Arizona


National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel, Shannon Switzer, May 1, 2013


Sandie walking with her horse, Bird. (Photograph by Shannon Switzer)

I would be learning about Reiki, the technique of directing “universal energy” through the hands to promote healing. But there’s a twist. My instructor would be showing me how to practice Reiki…on horses.

I’d found Sandie Miller through Camelot Therapeutic Horsemanship, where she teaches a clinic. When I arrived, I noticed it was different from most therapeutic riding centers I’d seen, where riders were usually led around an arena. No one was leading these kids, and they were wearing ear-to-ear grins.

When Eileen Szychowski founded the organization 30 years ago, she vowed to keep the services free. And it’s a promise she’s managed to make good on thanks to a team of more than 40 dedicated volunteers.

After taking a quick tour of Camelot’s facilities, Sandie and I made our way to Santolina Farm, where she usually practices. As we walked, she gave me a primer on energy work. “It’s the same idea whether you’re doing it with people, dogs, or in this case horses,” she said.

Sandie explained that she pairs other techniques that borrow from Chinese and Indian traditions with Reiki — along with a healthy dose of her own intuition.

But when she mentioned that there was a way to scientifically prove that “thoughts can be measured as energy and that energy has the ability to manipulate energy,” my ears perked up.

I’d been trying to keep an open mind about all the energy talk I’d encountered so far, but found the abstract concepts difficult to grasp or even believe at times. So a reference to the scientific method struck a chord.

A long-lost thought from college physics resurfaced: If energy can be studied and measured, why does is it sound so fluffy when we speak of it flowing or transferring through touch?

I’d never been able to answer the question to my satisfaction, and Sandie kept things moving forward by posing another question. If, as Sandie claims, she can manipulate her thoughts to impact other beings, that leads to the question of “How do I want to use that power?” ”It’s a big question — a big responsibility,” she said.

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
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