In January 2023 I was delighted to spend two days in the hills above Malibu, California with Cassandra Ogier and three beautiful horses. Those two days were powerful; they taught me about my energetic boundaries, the easily accessible (but often overlooked) quality of presence about my being, and that when it comes to experiencing emotions and other energy in my body, there is nothing to be afraid of.
I am so pleased to have Cassandra on the show this week to share how she weaves the 3 Principles in with her equine guided empowerment work.
Cassandra Ogier is a respected member of the Equine Guided Education & Equine Therapeutic communities. Her experience spans over 15 years as a leader in the development of horse-based personal reflection and educational programs.
She is a Certified Equine Guided Educator and a seasoned mentor and guide. Her approach to Equine Guided Empowerment® through immersion in the living intelligence of horses and nature, breaks new ground in partnering with horses rooted in the concept of free beings, horses and humans, joining together in partnership to achieve awareness, insight and understanding.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.
- Learning about innate well-being after burnout and a cancer diagnosis
- How horses reflect the flowing, temporary nature of life
- How nature helps us to be in the present moment, and be in our bodies, which helps to connect us with our innate well-being
- Why connecting to our bodies creates space for insight
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Moved by Wonder, Living in Awe wild horse retreat with Cassandra and Natalie Benway
- Other events at The Reflective Horse
- Sydney Banks’ books
- Dicken Bettinger’s website
- Natasha Swerdloff’s website
- Rohini Ross’s website
Transcript of Interview with Cassandra Ogier
Alexandra: Hi, Cassandra, welcome to Unbroken.
Cassandra: I’m really happy to be here.
Alexandra: I’m so happy to have you here. I should have said your last name as well. It’s Cassandra Ogier.
Why don’t you start by just telling us a bit about your background. And then how you found the principles.
Cassandra: I’m an equine guided educator, which means that I work with horses to help support human development, which I will go into a little bit more. But my background is as a coach in that modality, and also as a registered three principles practitioner, and I run a company called The Reflective Horse. And we can share a little bit more about that the reflection of the horses and our and our true nature.
I also run a teaching program that expands the reflected horse program out to other facilitators being able to also share equine guided empowerment, as I call it. And it is very much an inside out based coaching modality that we thread all the way through the mastery teaching program.
Alexandra: That’s great. And how did you come across the principles? Do you remember?
Cassandra: Yes, I remember really clearly. And when I was just contemplating your questions, and thinking where did it sort of all begin for me, and so the actual point of me, coming to the principles, what I was thinking about sharing was that it was like a developing a presence for me, over years and years.
The horses at the beginning of my life really acted as a very solid presence in my life, when there was a lot of chaos and confusion, and not great things happening in my childhood. I was always able to go to the horses. And what I obviously realized, as I as I grew up, was that they were fully present. I wasn’t that great with humans, around them. And I didn’t like school, and I really was, pushing against all of that. But really, my career ended up being present for humans.
I worked for 10 years, or a little more than 10 years, in the film industry, in England, in the casting department. So putting actors in theater and, and TV and film. It was really about being present for people, and helping them to understand that things weren’t personal, because obviously, in that industry, you’re being judged and you’re being assessed, and all of this thing. And as a creative person who was bringing in the type of person we wanted for a role, within that I just did a lot of, I suppose, coaching in that way of, helping people to understand it’s not about you, this is just the circumstances.
Then I had three sons, and that is all about presence, and bringing up children, and, having that flexibility, and then as my children grew up, I got reunited with horses. And I actually was running a very successful business in equine therapy or equine guided education. I had a little bit of a distorted view of what being in service was at that time. I worked with a lot of rehabilitation centers, again, with this idea that there is health and well-being in everybody, but it was at the expense of myself, and my well-being and me taking care of myself. To the point of where I discovered the principles, and that segue, I was getting burnt out doing what I was doing.
I actually got so burnt out and didn’t listen to my body that I had a cancer diagnosis in 2017. And it was actually a conversation with three principles practitioner, who is health coach, Ellen, and she really started to point in the direction of what would it be like to just allow my feelings to pass through me. And that was the very beginning of going through this chemo and going through something that was so overwhelming, and I felt very hopeless, but I wanted to keep this positive outcome, or outlook.
What I felt was if I wasn’t positive, that I was going to literally drown in these feelings, and she basically allowed me the permission.
“What if you could just be present to those feelings and allow those feelings to flow through you?”
It was in that moment that I had an emotional release, and I was only talking to on the phone. And after that, because I’d been holding on to so much I felt this innate peace, like a deep peace within myself for just having expressed myself and it didn’t last, and it passed through. I started to get this inkling, which made a lot of other things make sense, that I’ve been thinking too hard about in the past. And that was really how it unraveled for me.
I started reading a little bit more of Sydney Banks. I had heard the principles everywhere. And all the books that I’d read, and all of the teachers that are pointing in the same direction, but it always seemed to be something that I was striving for, that I was trying to attain somewhere. And what the principles really showed me was that it’s really not about that.
There is a human experience, and we’re going to go in and out of, pushing feelings down and having them come up and, allowing this flow to happen. So it really made sense to me, in a way that multiple self-development and causes and retreats and God knows what had not really given me this clear understanding of it’s okay to be me, and that it’s okay to go through these ups and downs. And that that is the human experience that we, are illuminated or enlightened in little windows, and then we forget, and then we come out again, we can see more clearly.
It really is a dance like that, where I didn’t have to put myself under the pressure that I’ve been putting myself under before. So it allowed me space within myself just to be way more trusting and accepting of really what was happening. And that it was all okay. And hence forth, it’s really given me such an enormous amount of trust. And that is, self trust, but also trust in the unfolding of everything. I have a plan. But, just to be really open and curious about what happens next, and not trying to drive it forward or make it happen. So there’s that balance of ease, which I feel the principles have allowed me to really integrate more into my everyday life.
Alexandra: I imagine that horses have that way of just letting their feelings about whatever’s going on, just move through them very quickly, and then move on. Is that fair to say?
Cassandra: That’s absolutely true. I’d seen a lot of that and I hadn’t put those two things together really for myself.
You’re absolutely right; they’re continuously allowing energy, any tension to be released straight away. So they might be shaking their heads or kicking out or breathing out that horse breath that we will all know, and yawning and rolling on the ground. They’re literally just releasing tension almost as soon as it’s anything any pressured situation happens.
That is one of the things that the horses show us is just let it go. And the other thing is, none of it’s personal. None of it is personal. And in fact, I had a client who was here on the weekend, and she explained it so beautifully, that the male horse had nipped at the female horse, and she squealed and threw her leg up in the air and bucked. And then they both actually started play kicking out at each other, then they both walked off in different directions.
She shook her head, yawned, and then went back to grazing. And what we were saying was, that is that is our self-regulated place is to go back to grazing. To recognize that we’re taking things personally, notice that that’s happening, but the horses just are not doing that. There’s absolutely no thought around, if she does that again, or if he does this again, or whatever it might be that the stories that we make up and take personally, when it’s really just another person’s experience and perspective that they’re coming from. It’s really nothing to do with us.
Alexandra: That’s such a great example because I imagine that once a horse gets back to a place where it can graze, that means that it has released any energy of tension, like you just said, because grazing is such a relaxed thing to do, and they’re not on high alert at that moment.
Cassandra: Isn’t it great? Yeah, amazing. Because that is that thing about being in high alert, and us not being able to settle in our human experience, and feeling very, like, I always think about it, like the energy goes into the top half of our body when we’ve got any tension, when we’ve got a lot of thinking going on. We really are existing from the waist upwards, or the diaphragm upwards. And that out breath, you know that back to grazing is allowing the energy to settle within us.
I know, personally, that somatic awareness, embodied awareness has really helped me with the principles. Because, I think that grounding for me is about being in my body, and being able to listen to my body, and to self-regulate through really simple practices, which I teach, but I have to remind myself that all the time, to just feel my feet on the ground to relax my butt cheeks to have a relaxed belly.
I can feel it in my body, when I’m talking about it, that it’s like the weight of gravity is going to support my self-regulation. When I look at the horses, they are so solid in that way, they’ve got four feet on the ground, they’ve got this very relaxed belly, they, as you say, they have this beautiful tendency to just keep grazing when they’re when they’re relaxed. It reminds me how much tension we hold in the body and what is stored in the body.
And not to say that my experience is that any attention to the body and releasing is not just releasing in that moment, it’s releasing so many things that we built up over time. And we don’t need to necessarily maybe emotions will arise and feelings and thoughts will arise but we don’t have to really know what it’s about. The horses have definitely showed me that that we make up a story about a past trauma or we want to relate it to anything. “That’s because of this or that.” But ultimately, I feel like just coming back into our body and into presence. And the relaxing and releasing that comes with that is not only helping you in the moment, but it’s also releasing tension that we don’t even know where it came from, or emotion that we might have stuck in the body. And that we can trust that, that we can trust that that can easily just dissipate and move through us without us having to know exactly what or why. Which is what our personal thinking wants to do is to connect it to something.
Alexandra: That’s such a good point. I know for sure I have that tendency, whenever a big feeling comes up, my mind will immediately make a big story about it. It’s connected to this, as you said, and it’s happening now because of such and such.
Cassandra: Yeah, that’s it. Our mind is like a computer in that way. But it’s one thing to make those assessments and feel right and justified, or whatever it might be. Yeah, but you’re completely right, that, just allowing it to be is so freeing.
Ultimately, my entry point into the principles was exactly that. I can’t even remember what I was thinking, thankfully. But it was very hopeless. And whether or not I was going to make it through, but it was just tension that needed to be released from my body. And then I felt completely different.
Moment to moment, just allowing myself to feel whatever that is. I’m sad. Not why am I sad. I’m feeling sad. I did that this morning. I was thinking, I feel sad. okay, I feel sad. I went for a walk. I did a few things I meditated. I don’t feel sad now. But I could go into, oh, that must be this or, it’s probably that and just pulling myself into something that really isn’t necessary.
Alexandra: Yeah. Oh, that’s so well said. I want to ask them, what have you seen in this work?
I just love the combination that you have of the work with horses and, and the principles.
What have you seen about how the body can point us toward that innate well-being that’s already there? Is there anything more you can say about that?
Cassandra: There’s a few things that I can say. One is that I think I want to go back to the body. That it doesn’t mean, we have to sit and meditate. It’s just being okay with stillness. And maybe, nature is very helpful, to know how we’re feeling in our body. Just really checking in that all our muscles are relaxed. It could be as simple as that, just to notice. “Oh, am I holding in my stomach? I’ve got tension in my shoulders when I’m talking to you, and then also being aware of what’s around me.”
In nature that’s so open for so many beautiful things, but just being aware of how we want to assess that, and how our brain wants to categorize everything. And just being in that stillness. I feel like that being in the body in that way, is very, very helpful to know that in this moment, we were okay. There is well-being right in this moment. That is well-being.
I think that we could get caught up in many, many things, but it’s almost like even if it was just a minute or two, that awareness of being present in the body, being aware of your environment, even if you’re inside it, it creates a space where insights and creativity and understanding can come in. And I think that, for many of us, it’s hard to quiet in that mind. But it could be minutes or seconds.
In that time, it’s just trusting that that really is a space that is not void of anything, it’s actually where everything can come in. But if we’ve got so much going on in our heads, and we have so much tension in our bodies, then those insights or that creativity, or whatever it is, doesn’t have room to come in. So we’re taking it on for ourselves. It’s thinking that if we control it, and we think overthink, how am I going to do it? What if this, what if that and we hold this tension in our body, there isn’t really any space for the divine, if you want to call it or God or incite spirit to come in.
Michael Neill, I believe it was Michael Neill that said this, if you have a fan, like a wind fan, and you have it on top speed, and you throw a deck of cards at it, the cards are just going to bounce off, and they’re not going to go anywhere. But if you can slow down the fan, and throw the cards, one or two of those cards are going to get through. I really love that metaphor.
For me, that takes a quietening of my system. To be able to feel like cards can get through it feels like that, in those insights, I’ve got a space to come through. But we’re really used to driving everything and making things happen. And not usually given the opportunity for that deep trust to actually bring something to us.
Alexandra: One of the things that I learned when you and I worked together a couple of months ago, was I felt like I was a walking head a lot of the time. Not very connected to my body. And so I love what you’re saying about that. That space that it creates when we do make that connection.
You mentioned earlier about the energy and how it can be here up high, or then we can let it settle. And I shared with you, when I was with you, that to me, it seemed like there was water in a balloon. And the water, if you squeeze the bottom, it gets squished all up to the top. But you can do it the other way too, and have it go down in the lower parts of yourself. For lack of a better way to say it.
That quietness, when we do that, and that trusting in who we are and our presence. Horses have that presence as well.
Cassandra: With the horses what I’ve come to know is, especially with larger groups of horses, like wild horses, and I’m talking about free roaming horses, not horses that are separated or under the control of a human. When you have them in their natural environment they want every member of that herd to be self-regulated. Because it doesn’t feel in balance when they’re not. So they’re pushing us to self-regulate, in a way. It’s very subtle, because it doesn’t have an agenda behind it. But they’re wanting to know, Who are you? Where do you fit in to this dynamic?
It is just an energy dynamic. But when it feels out of balance, they don’t feel comfortable. So they have tension in their body. If one horse is thinking there’s a mountain lion on the hill, that energy will inspire them to move as a collective. And so when they’re at peace, and they’re grazing, they are self-regulated.
So what happens when we’re around them is that we fall into that self-regulation. And there were all kinds of scientific studies about Heart Math and energy of bigger animals, especially horses that were in an energetic field. And we can feel it. I mean, it’s amazing, people really quiet and down. And there’s that sense of looking into the middle distance, where I was always told that was not a place that you want to be.
Remember in your school you’re just gazing out the window, and you’re in this beautiful world, and they’re like, hey, come back here, pay attention. But what I’ve come to learn, and what I’ve learned from the horses is it’s this beautiful space of presence. You’re not daydreaming, you’re just present.
I learned this very early on in the principles when I sat with Dicken and a couple of other wonderful people; Natasha Swerdloff and Rohini Ross. And we were answering questions at the end of the retreat. I put my hand up, and I said I think this stuff is contagious. Dicken said to me, yeah, it’s a feeling. It’s contagious. And that is the thing with the horses, is many of us probably don’t even know what self-regulated feels like. And as you said, you felt like a lot of your energy was up here and in your head.
It’s almost like the horses teach us, or they help us remember what it was like, because at some points in our lives, we did feel that sense of deep peace itself, sense of regulation. And they just remind us about that. So they almost have us being in that place. And then we remember, and for me, that is where the innate well-being, and the understanding of our innate well-being comes in. Because it’s like, when you’re there, you’re like, Oh, my God. This is it. This is a beautiful feeling. And then that just carries on that feeling doesn’t go away.
That’s because, the way I see it is, it’s a somatic experience. It’s an experience that you’ve had in your body, distinct from your mind, your mind has got nothing to do with it. And so you might want to journal about it or like keep that capture that of course, it’s going to do that. But ultimately, that deep remembering in the body is where I believe we recognize our deep and innate well-being. There’s nothing to fix there. There’s nothing to change, there’s nothing to get right. There’s nothing to achieve, and that that sense of peace is really where everything begins from.
Alexandra: Yeah, oh, that’s lovely. And given you brought Dicken up, one of my all-time favorite quotes is from him. And he said, this was in a webinar or something I was watching several years ago.
Tension reminds me that I have everything I need.
When I first heard that I thought, what does that mean? It just seemed incongruous to me. But now it’s my favorite thing ever. Because it our bodies always let us know, when we’ve forgotten that we are peace, and we are well-being and that’s how I interpret that quote.
Cassandra: Yes. So if I’m understanding you, tension is an indicator of where your mind is. So if you feel tense, and you recognize that in your body, you know that you’re in thinking?
Alexandra: Yes, that’s right. Your body is trying to just remind you remind us that we’ve forgotten momentarily that we that actually we are peace, and we are well-being and that tension that shows up if we notice it can be such an ally, because it lets us know where our thinking is at.
Cassandra: Yes. That’s so true. That’s so great.
Alexandra: We talked about the energy of horses. And one of the things I learned when I was with you, is that they know the difference if a mountain lion is walking on a ridge, and they can see it, they can tell if it’s hunting, or if it’s not, if its belly is full, and it’s just walking by. I don’t really know what my question is about that. I guess it has to do with the fact that we live in an energetic world. And I think we discount that so often.
One of the things that I saw when I was working with you was that horses remind us of that, and are constantly in that. They don’t have a way to not be in that flow of energy awareness. I love that about them.
Cassandra: I think it’s a really, it’s, it’s it? They are reading intention. And that is for the safety of the herd. So they’re able to pick up on the environment, the energetic terrain of the environment. And I think that you’re absolutely right, that we actually have the same ability. And how to allow that to be from a grounded place, and I think that that’s also what the horses show us.
They’re not hyper vigilant, they are aware, but they’re grounded. So they’re very grounded, but they’re awake, and they are 360 awake, but they’re not in hypervigilance. So it’s interesting, isn’t it that, ultimately wouldn’t that would be my optimum, I suppose, is to be grounded and present in my awareness. And also aware of what’s going on around me, not in terms of anything predatory. But just aware of my environment.
And I think that when we work together, the horses, they’re moving and acting in a very much larger energetic field than their actual body is. So their body is five foot long, six foot long. And they are living in a more expanded energetic field. We notice that is very similar to birds or fish, that when they move, they don’t necessarily touch, they’re actually moving, and you can see the space in between them, but they move each other through that energetic field. So they are living in that the whole time.
My experiences as humans is that we’re not fully living in that energetic in our own energetic field, we’ve been very conditioned to shrinking, and acquiescing. And saying, oh, sorry, we don’t want to upset anybody, and we just allow things to happen to us. Because we’re not really aware of that more expanded sense of self. As a culture we’re quite diminished. A lot of expansion is often posturing and ego. But if we were to be just aware of this expanded energetic field, it really reminds me of things like, the word sovereignity, and self-honoring, and, centered in the self. And really beautiful expanded ways of explaining us when we’re feeling really open and a wider field of experience.
The horses really push us into getting really in touch with that energetic field, because they’re going to bump into us if we’re not in it. Basically, if we’re not showing, I have an expanded energetic field and I mean that from not any adversarial or dominant place. It is just like I am an expanded energy field too. And then they really respect that and experience that without any thought or judgment, they are recognizing that expanded energy field and they feel safe.
They feel comfortable when we’re in that space when we’ve actually been able to embody that space. And that, for me is just such an amazing gift that they don’t really respect us when we’re in this very diminished or shrinking position, they actually pay attention and want to be around us and feel comfortable and want to be led by us when we’re more expanded. And we’re aware of that. So that is how herd dynamics work. I think that that’s really how human dynamics work to that when we really are in that sense of self, and it isn’t coming from the ego, that we are safe, and we are comfortable. And we are, a good leader. And ultimately, I feel like the horses like Dicken, or Sydney Banks or a guru, in a way they are teachers in that way. Because they want us to be in that space, they really, they’re really asking us to, to embody that space. And to be who we really are.
Alexandra: Exactly. And I just had a really big insight or sort of an image, it’s that true nature, when we’re at our center is in the middle. And when we don’t know how to do that we seem to swing to one side or the other. So shrinking, as you said, really pulling ourselves in and, and not embodying that. And then the other way we do it is to, as you said, to be really in our egos and sort of aggressive.
And you think of the people who think they’re leaders, or tried to be a leader, but really, they’re just bluster and yelling. Their middle is that really true, centered, grounded place that doesn’t have to show off and doesn’t have to shrink.
Cassandra: Yes, that that is so true. I feel like I really had that experience. I know that that was within me, for sure.
I was working with a young man this weekend, and we talked about that, that there is this place of balance, but what we tend to do if as exactly, as you said. My experience is that I had acquiesced a lot, and let put other people first, and not really been very self-honoring. And then when I wanted to get my needs met, I came at it so aggressively because I didn’t trust that I would be heard because I gone from one and I literally had to go from this one and to the other. And it didn’t get my needs met. I felt so frustrated and so angry.
I would definitely come in super hot with what I wanted. I know that that’s how I approached if I had to do something for myself, and I had to ask for something that I wanted. It was hard. It was hard to do that. And it was almost like I had to gather that energy, which came out as like. I think that that is very, very true that we tend to flip from, one side of the pendulum to the other.
Alexandra: I can see in myself, as you say that. I’ve been exactly that same. Very acquiescent until a moment, when, as you say, I needed something, needed to get a need met. And then yeah, just very aggressive. And dysregulated.
Cassandra: That dysregulation and it’s like that that phrase, the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m sure we pretty much all been there.
The experience with the horses is almost finding that sweet spot, or, somatic experiencing, really it’s experiences in the body where you get to feel where that place is. I do like working with couples, pairs of people, because we can really test that out with each other and give each other incredible feedback when we do some somatic exercises, which really is about feeling into this expanded energetic field.
You get to feel when you might be a little bit too much for the other person. And when you could step it up a little bit and be a bit more assertive. We can really help each other. And I think that happens in relationship where, there’s more balance and more harmony, that ultimately, hopefully, we could be in a place where we could help that other person to feel into that regulated place.
The horses really helped us too, because they aren’t going to move unless they feel that expanded energetic field. They’re just going to be standing there, and they’re going to keep on chewing the grass. So, they’re pushing us to mean that. To be like, this is from a neutral place, and not getting tension in the body about it, but in a relaxed way, just saying no, this is my space. And then they’re like, Okay, yeah, I see that. Yeah, very neutral.
Alexandra: You definitely can’t fake it with a horse. Well, this has been great. I could chat to you forever. Cassandra. It’s just lovely.
Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about where we can find out more about your work. I know you have a work retreat coming up shortly after this episode comes out, so tell us about that as well.
Cassandra: I’d love to. My website is thereflectivehorse.com. And you can find out about programs and a little bit more about the background of my work.
We have a retreat coming up, which is actually very special. And it’s March the 31st until April 2, 2023 and it’s in San Juan Bautista in California. It’s at a Wild Horse Sanctuary. It’s magnificent. It’s 4000 acres, and 525 wild horses. I’m partnering with a wonderful woman, Natalie Benway, and we are facilitating a three-day retreat, which will go into the somatic practices, and being with the horses.
What’s very interesting about these horses is that most of them, you can’t even touch them, they are wild. So it’s very much about communicating without the normal things that we would do. So making connections and communicating in a nonverbal way, and really honing into our intuition. And we’ve called it Moved by Wonder, Living in Awe because when we’ve gone there, we’re just like, wow, it’s very expansive. So that is coming up.
And there’s a couple of other things coming up in May and June. One of them is an offering with Brad Gallop, who is also three principles practitioner, and he’s also an equine guided educator. So we’re going to do something together. I can’t remember the exact dates, but it’s around about May the sixth and seventh and that’s going to be in Malibu at our way, which is where I’m based at the moment.
Alexandra: Great. I will put links and mentions in the show notes as well, for anyone who’s interested.
Cassandra: Thank you so much. There’s an events page on the website, and there’ll be a few things on there.
Alexandra: Great. Well, thank you so much for being with me here today. I really appreciate it.
Cassandra: Thank you so much, Alexandra. It’s a great pleasure.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai