Horses and the Medicine Wheel

Illumin, Rites of Passage and Eponicity are collaborating again to offer this incredible and unique experience that combines the teachings of the Medicine Wheel and the gentle, reflective nature of horses for an embodied journey towards wholeness. The Medicine Wheel provides a framework for understanding ourselves within the cycles of life. Equine Facilitated Learning works with horses who are able to reflect to us the quality of our presence and help us practice embodying qualities like confidence, trust, patience and humility. Together over the course of 8 days we will take a deep, profound, embodied, joyful and enlightening journey towards greater authenticity and self-awareness.

No prior experience with horses is necessary. This retreat is limited to 8 participants.

About Eponicity and Equine Facilitated Learning

Eponicity offers Equine Facilitated Learning workshops where interaction between horses and people are designed to create experiential learning and development. The way horses sense, think and behave can help humans better understand and see themselves. Activities are uniquely designed, facilitated and de-briefed to deliver profound and powerful experiences. Having an embodied experience is a powerful way to bypass intellectual or behavioral blockages and create new neural pathways for sustainable change. Equine therapy isn't new but has recently garnered greater attention for it's efficacy in embodied healing. It was featured on Oprah and is now included in several university psychology and psychotherapy curriculums. So far the known benefits are:
  • Confidence
  • Overcoming Fears
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Self-Concept
  • Communication Skills
  • Trust
  • Perspective
  • Decreased Isolation
  • Self-Acceptance (identifying and coping with feelings)
  • Impulse Control
  • Social Skills
  • Setting Boundaries
  • Recognizing Boundaries
  • Spiritual Connection

About the Medicine Wheel

The Medicine Wheel is a Native American symbol that represents the connectedness of all of life. In the medicine wheel the seasons, the cycles of life, the different qualities of humans and animals- all of it is shown in relation to the rest, not separate. In this way we can understand that winter does not exist without spring, summer and fall— the bear cannot exist without the salmon, and there must be the wisdom and experience of old age to enable the survival of the children through the hardships of the seasons. The medicine wheel teaches us to understand the importance of each thing within a larger whole, and to remember our human identities as parts of that larger whole. While modern life seems to chant that we are separate and that we dominate nature, the medicine wheel whispers to us of our connectedness and interdependence. The gift of this is a restored sense of connection with all of life and the healing of our own cycles of wholeness within that. The medicine wheel teaches us to know ourselves deeply and to understand and claim our place in it all. Mike Bodkin of Rites of Passage, and Dashielle Vawter of Illumin and Rites of Passage,  work together to offer Vision Quests and Medicine Wheel based workshops in the US and abroad. In this workshop they will offer medicine walks and will also use the lens of the medicine wheel to help debrief the equine activities.  

The Medicine Wheel and Horses

Our journey to the Southern region of the Medicine Wheel takes us to our childhood where we learned to play, see ourselves as individuals, become in touch with our human form/body. A well balanced horse knows how to play and evokes our playful and spontaneous childhood desires, helping individuals with childhood wounds to heal and finally feel safe playing. Moving from the South, looking to the West we enter adolescence, we begin to develop our inner resources and find our uniqueness and sense of self. In the West we learn to feel our emotions and to release grief and loss. Horses help us uncover blocks within ourselves that hold us in the West, in our shadow and the dark places Emerging from the resources we discover in our West, comes our reasoning, our work ethic, our intellect and adulthood. A place where our ego may suppress our intuitive processes. Our North governs and keeps resources in balance. With the North and the horse we will explore how to balance our logic with our intuition. Exploration of the Eastern shield of the Medicine Wheel takes us to our spiritual doorway of birth and death. It is our union with the divine. It is Spring and Sunrise. The horse will show us the East by opening and awakening our intuitive senses, leading us into our spiritual connection to the energetic world around us.  


“I'm so grateful for the experience I had at Leaves and Lizards. It was truly a life changing experience that I couldn't have anticipated. Being surrounded by such love from all the horses, waking up to a stunning view of the volcano, eating delicious organic meals and working with such amazing facilitators (Debbie, Sally, Dashielle and Mike) was healing on so many levels. My overall experience of this workshop in 3 words is sacred, exhilarating and unforgettable!”
“I am going to be honest. Your retreat is the best thing I ever participated in...Also, I am aware of a new inner space of my perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and definitely the dreams. They help reveal the truth of my life as it is while sensing the truth in my life and connection to others beyond my imagination. And yes, I am able to picture new solutions in my life with imagination.”
“The horses are extraordinarily genuine, compassionate and giving - their interaction with me brought out feelings I had not expected to surface and I worked through blocks and identified barriers I didn't even know were there. Working with the horses in the group dynamic was also a fascinating mirror to how I show up in other life situations.” “Equine facilitated learning and the medicine wheel is a perfect combination for profound and meaningful self work. The guides from Leaves and Lizards and Rites of Passage do a fabulous job at creating a hands-on activity-filled workshop that promotes personal growth and the gaining of valuable life wisdom, while balancing down time for rest, play, exploration and rejuvenation. I felt cared for, seen and heard - and that's how well they treat their horses too! You will deeply connect with these divine creatures, with the Costa Rican jungle, and with the guides and other participants. I highly recommend this event and it is most definitely money well spent. And now there's even a pool - bonus!”  


Michael Bodkin, M.S., MFT, is a psychotherapist and wilderness guide who has been the Executive Director of Rites of Passage for over 25 years. His passion is leading people to the mirror of nature to discover the gifts of their soul. He holds expert knowledge of the Medicine Wheel bringing this ancient spiritual practice to modern day life. He directs the guide training programs for Rites of Passage and has led Vision Quests and trainings in places as diverse as South Korea and Australia. Dashielle Vawter is a Vision Quest and mountain guide, coach, singer, and minister. Eight years ago after a spiritual awakening she left her nonprofit career path and began a journey of exploration aimed at uncovering her hearts deepest passions. She started working as a mountain guide in 2010 and discovered the Vision Quest ceremony through mutual friends. Her first experiences questing were key in her own process of transformation and healing and after training and apprenticing she now helps facilitate this process as a guide. While the road has been winding and wild, it eventually led to the emergence of her coaching practice and the uncovering of music as a deep and abiding love. Exploring the creation of sound and the practice of singing are her deepest passions. It is an honor to support others in claiming their own unique and beautiful paths. Deborah Draves Legg left her life in the USA and a 25 year career as a registered nurse in 2006 and created Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat in Costa Rica with her husband, artist, Steve Legg. Her years working as charge nurse and transport nurse in Neonatal ICU, Pediatric ICU, Adult Hospice, Director and founder of a pediatric home care program prepared her for the challenge of creating this healing retreat in Central America. Horses found their way into Deborah’s life serendipitously after the move to Costa Rica. Little by little as the herd grew to 20 plus horses so did the equine therapy programs. Sally Nilsson is an expert facilitator, certified executive coach, experienced mentor and instructor in Eponaquest horse-led leadership and personal development activities. Sally spent 15 years as a corporate attorney in London and Hong Kong, starting her career in a leading global law firm and culminating as General Counsel of a multi-billion European real-estate investment firm. She stepped off the deal junky path in 2015 to follow her passion and focus her full attention on supporting others to find and access the life they truly want – and to believe that, like her, they can create it.  

Additional Information

Activities are dynamic and will be tailored for you personally to support your individual learning process. All exercises are expertly facilitated and de-briefed to maximize your learning potential. In this retreat we'll be using the medicine wheel to both frame and debrief the activities. An example activity is learning to build a relationship with your horse on the ground so that he follows you freely without any lead rope or bridle. There are 25 horses, who live together as a herd on 26 acres. Eponicity grows most of their food, cutting fresh grass for them daily. We ride in bit-less “pain-free” bridles – it is very important to us to have happy, healthy horses. At Eponicity, we support the horse/human interaction with relationship-based horsemanship. When we listen to what our horses have to say, our relationship potential with them is infinite. The retreat is hosted by Leaves and Lizards, a retreat center near the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica. Surrounded by glorious nature, away from the stresses of daily life, guests are nourished with farm-to-table fresh food, natural water, comfortable accommodations, massage and yoga. This retreat includes 5 hours of massage, in addition to the accommodation, food, activities and guidance provided! What is keeping you from being your best self? Take a journey around the Medicine Wheel to feel, heal, and restore your true and whole Self. This retreat is limited to 8 people.


September 17th, 2017—September 27th, 2017:  Arrival at Leaves and Lizards . Departure on September 27th in the morning (departing flights should leave after 1pm). $2899 includes, accommodation for 10 nights (8 nights of retreat plus one before and one after to ease travel and integration), food (for the 8 days of the retreat), horses, materials, guides, activities, 5 hours of massage. Not included: Alcohol, tips, airfare, and airport transfers.