The EQUUSOMA logo representing the therapeutic approach was inspired by a painting by Kim McElroy entitled Everlasting Shades of Amber. The painting was originally created as a custom piece for a client in remembrance of her horse who had passed away. The use of the painting in its adapted form has been licensed with permission by Kim McElroy for use in association with EQUUSOMA. The poem associated with the original painting is as follows:
I challenge you to keep your heart open
And know that love is eternal
Release your fear and gallop with me into the unknown
Life is unpredictable
So keep moving forward
Dance with your inner tiger in fierce and joyful play
The riches of your life are in
The gift of each new day
And the treasure of love in your heart
— Kim McElroy (2010)
In shamanic and metaphysical teachings, the horse is symbolic of freedom, power and movement, and the tiger is a metaphor for one’s life force. The appearance of a tiger is thought to be symbolic of an awakening of passion or life energy, or a sign to examine how one is using one’s life energy (especially if it has been dampened or low). Similarly, the horse as a totem is said to represent a movement from constriction into expansion, self-expression, and self-assertion to move forward or move on (Andrews, 1993).
It is perhaps not surprising that both Kim McElroy and Dr. Peter Levine were inspired independently by the horse and tiger as symbolic archetypes. Dr. Levine named his first book Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma (1997) after an experience he had earlier in his career in which the imagery of a pouncing tiger awakened frozen flight response energy in a client’s nervous system, eventually resulting in the release of thwarted survival energy from her body and a restored sense of vitality. In this book, he also stated that:
“In dreams, mythical stories and lore, one universal symbol for the human body and its instinctual nature is the horse. Interestingly enough, when Medusa was slain, two things emerged from her body: Pegasus, the winged horse, and Chrysaor, a warrior with a golden sword. We couldn’t find a more appropriate metaphor. The sword symbolizes absolute truth, the mythic hero’s ultimate weapon of defense. It conveys a sense of clarity and triumph, of rising to meet extraordinary challenges, and of ultimate resourcefulness. The horse symbolizes instinctual grounding, while wings create an image of movement, soaring, and rising above and earth-bound existence. Since the horse represents instinct and body, the winged horse speaks of transformation through embodiment. Together the winged horse and the golden sword are auspicious symbols for the resources traumatized people discover in the process of vanquishing their own Medusas.”
(Waking the Tiger, 1997, p. 66).
With equus being the Latin word for “horse” (representing all members of the equine family), and soma being the Greek word for “body”, the name EQUUSOMA emerged as the natural linguistic representation of this symbolism. The synchronistic discovery of Kim McElroy’s image and poem linking horse and tiger energies, in light of the symbolism they hold in Somatic Experiencing®, led to the natural development of the EQUUSOMA logo combining these powerful archetypes in the context of healing from trauma.
The EquuSpirit: Healing with Horses logo for client programs was inspired by indigenous perspectives that nature is a source of healing, and that horses in particular carry their own form of medicine. The quote by Dr. Levine about the archetype of the winged horse is reflected in the feathers in the horse’s mane. The combination of the two metaphors represents the dual power to move forward with energy and aliveness, and lift us above and beyond the barriers, both inner and external, that limit us.