Gestalt coach, Stacey Bean (right), credits her 15-year-old half Arabian-half paint gelding, Cowboy, with helping her heal from the loss of her husband and begin the Indigo Trails stable’s life coaching program.

Although her clients might think the answers to their questions come “straight from the horse’s mouth,” Gestalt coach Stacey Bean credits her equine partners with helping her clients recognize those aspects of their lives that need healing and balance.

“I believe that my clients have their own answers already inside of them; they are just sometimes outside of their awareness,” said Bean.

Bean offers Holistic Health and Horse Centered coaching at her 20-acre stable in the Sugar River Valley near Verona. She started the Indigo Trails, LLC life coaching program in 2016.

She has recognized her horses have much to offer people seeking wholeness.

“Horses have an essential gift,” said Bean. “I have come to learn horses have more to teach me than I have to teach them. They are so good at being grounded; they’re in the here and now, helping teach us how to be rather than how to do.”

A California native, Bean’s family tree extends back to the Gold Rush era. She started riding at an early age and showed hunter/jumpers in her teens. Later, she worked as a whitewater rafting guide in Colorado, California and Africa.

Bean met her husband, Darren, at the University of Vermont’s College of Medicine when the two attended the school. After graduation, their job search eventually led them to UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health where Darren took a job as an emergency physician.

She admitted initially she didn’t know where Wisconsin was, and when Wisconsinites talked about the Packers, she wondered why there would be packers in Wisconsin since the state didn’t have any mountains.

“I was used to the kind of packers who packed horses or mules to carry supplies on trips into mountains,” Bean said.

Settling in Wisconsin, Bean also took a job as an emergency physician at a nearby hospital and had started a family when the rug was pulled out from under her in May 2008.

Bean’s husband was on board a UW Med Flight helicopter transporting a patient to Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in La Crosse. Shortly after take-off on the flight’s return trip, air traffic control lost contact with the aircraft. The helicopter had gone down, crashing into the side of a bluff east of Onalaska. The flight nurse, Mark Coyne, and pilot, Steve Lipperer, also lost their lives in the crash.

Bean was left to pick up the pieces with the couple’s two children. During the first year of grieving, Bean stayed away from the emergency room, trying to determine the direction for her life. The decision led her to give up practicing emergency medicine.

She began seeking an aspect of medical care she long felt was lacking in the medicine she had practiced. “I felt there was a piece missing,” said Bean.

During the time of discernment, Bean worked with a shaman and did energy healing. During this journey to recover from the devastation of the loss of her “soul mate,” Bean came across a quote by Joseph Campbell, author of the “Power of Myth,” that became her guiding inspiration: “You have to let go of the life you planned in order to have the life that’s waiting for you.”

Around the same time, a friend in Montana steered Bean toward the “Touched by a Horse” program. Created by Melisa Pearce of Colorado, the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method includes horses as active members of her life coaching program.

Gestalt helps clients examine their lives and seek a life of purpose. The philosophy of Gestalt coaching is to help people identify any unfinished business and work toward experiencing acceptance and appreciation of their selves. The coaching moves individuals beyond pain, fear, anxiety, depression or low self-esteem.

As she was becoming versed in Gestalt, horses came back into Bean’s life in 2012. She credits her horse, Cowboy, with helping her heal.

To help others experience the healing energy of horses, Bean offers clients experiences where she has one of her horses also engaged in the sessions. Two past sessions stand out in Bean’s mind.

The first involved an exercise where Bean was working with a client to help the client accept a personality trait that made her uncomfortable. Bean placed a ground pole in the round pen, designating one side of the pole as the place where the client was comfortable and the other side representing the client’s vulnerable persona.

The client was encouraged to step across the pole and stand on the side where she wasn’t comfortable. The client would step across the pole but wouldn’t stay long on that side of the pole.

Bean’s horse Dakota went up to the pole, straddled it and pulled the pole toward him. The client just stood and watched the horse. When the client stood planted in her “comfort zone,” Dakota went over to her and nudged the client across the pole to the other side.

Bean and her horse helped the client see her vulnerable side was an acceptable, unbroken and beautiful part of herself.

“She completed her session with this new awareness and was able to accept and love another piece of herself,” Bean said.

In the second incident, Bean’s horse Bodhi helped a client prioritize her life. The woman was trying to cope with a life filled with activities that had become overwhelming. The woman was given 12 lead ropes, each representing an activity or aspect of her life — her job, her volunteer work, her family, her marriage, etc.

As Bean discussed each activity with the client, she would stretch the lead rope out and lay it on the ground. When all the demands of the woman’s life were laid out in front of her, Bodhi walked up to the lead indicating the woman’s husband, picked it up and carried it to the woman.

“That action moved the woman to tears as she became aware that her husband and her marriage was more of a priority to her than she was currently making it,” said Bean.

In addition to her medical and behavioral modification training, Bean has a Master’s Degree in exercise physiology and specialty training in nutritional education and women’s hormone health, which allows her to develop a holistic approach to help her clients create fulfilling lives.

More information about Holistic Health and Horse Centered Coaching can be found on Bean’s website at https://indigotrailsllc.com.