Some of the most interesting science behind equine therapy and equine facilitated learning focuses on the measurable heart connection between horses and humans. But science alone cannot adequately explain how horses heal humans or the sense of wonder it evokes. Recently, as I was writing a chapter in my book about horses and healing, I watched some videos of a very special French stallion named Peyo from the Dijon region of France. In the video, Peyo and his person, Hassen Bouchakour, visit Ehpad des Orchards of Chartreuse de Dijon, a convalescent hospital serving people with Alzheimer’s and other end-of-life issues. After backing out of his horse trailer and negotiating the elevator, Peyo chooses which room to enter. He invariably seeks out people that are very, very sick or close to dying, and his healing presence brings great joy to the suffering. Though the video is in French, no translation is needed to witness the healing power of Peyo’s generous heart.
Peyo originally came to Hassen Bouchakour as a dressage horse. Dressage, sometimes described as horse ballet, requires exquisite wordless communication and trust between horse and rider. Apparently, at first, Bouchakour, a world champion in artistic dressage, and Peyo did not click. In fact, at one point, Bouchakour was ready to give up on Peyo and put him up for sale. However, one day, something shifted between the two and everything changed. It was at dressage shows that Bouchakour first noticed Peyo’s propensity toward tending to the ill. The oft-fiery stallion would instinctively move toward the disabled members of the audience where he appeared tender and docile to their touch.
Bouchakour embarked on a three-year journey preparing Peyo to visit the ill and aged. He worked diligently to help the horse grow used to noise and different levels of flooring so that Peyo would be more comfortable inside of hospitals and convalescent homes.
Tremendous care goes into prepping Peyo for the actual visits. His body is covered in antiseptic lotion and a blanket. His mane and tail are tightly braided, and Hassen stays close to him at all times. Medical staff and patients alike appear astonished by the incredible results Peyo achieves simply from his soothing presence: patients who no longer talk, speak; those who don’t move, walk. The handsome stallion’s loving, gentle presence seems to evoke love from those he visits and helps to remind us that healing is always possible. As we move into spring, the time of new beginnings, may we, too, have generous hearts and deep heart connections. Enjoy Peyo’s special message of hope and healing in this article and the videos below.
Peyo and Hassen Visit Ehpad des Orchards of Chartreuse de Dijon:
Check Out Peyo’s Dressage Moves Here!