Rosalyn W. Berne, Ph.D
Author, Scholar, Equine Empath


Willow Oak Farm Happenings & News


On a visit to the Virginia Equine Welfare Society (VEWS), a horse rescue facility in Ashland, Virginia, I used my Equine Empath abilities to help a traumatized horse. While in dialogue with another resident horse, I felt a mare named Raven come up right behind me, her head at my shoulder and the side of her body against my back. “I’m the horse you’ve been waiting for,” I heard Raven say.  "Take me with you and I will help you to deepen your work,” she continued. Two months later I returned to VEWS with a friend and her trailer. We were there so I could adopt Raven and bring her back with me. Raven was the horse I’d dreamed of having, way back when I was a girl of 12 years old. My husband and I were living in a house in the city, so I had to put Raven in a boarding facility, a distance of 45 minutes away by car. But over time, I longed to see her every day. So we sold our home in town and bought Willow Oak Farm. Now we all live together in the same place. 

Ruby is the "traumatized, struggling" horse I originally went at the VEWS. After learning from VEWS folks that Ruby's condition had since improved, we adopted Ruby to be Raven’s pasture mate. Ruby has shifted from a frightened, sometimes snippy and aggressive mare, to a gentle, sweet, happy companion for us all. 

Life at Willow Oak was going well for Ruby and Raven. But husband Bill thought we needed “more masculine energy” on the farm. I agree. We found Nash, a 16 hand quarter-horse appendix, living on the south side of the James River on the historic Belmead, a former plantation now horse boarding facility. It didn’t take long at all for Nash to establish himself as leader in our small herd. And within a day of his arrival, Raven, feeling relieved and safe with Nash nearby, laid herself down on the ground to rest.  She had never done that before!

My Journey to Willow Oak Farm
Maybe it was this somewhat-overactive, sometimes-vivid imagination that has brought me to the life I am living today: a professor who is also an “equine empath.” Or perhaps it was simply a longing in my heart that sustained me through the twists and turns of my intellectual and personal life up to this point. This summer (now that I am at 59 years of age), my husband and I packed our belongings and moved out of our Charlottesville city home to Willow Oak, a horse farm in the countryside of Fluvanna County.  Why on earth would we do something like that, at a time in life when so many people our age are doing the opposite—selling their longtime homes for something smaller, maybe a condo in town? Well, that’s a longer story. But suffice it to say that it began with a mare named Raven who, while I was consulting for a horse rescue facility, came up behind my shoulder and said, “I’m the horse you’ve been waiting for. Take me home with you and I will help you to deepen your work with horses.”

Written by Rosalyn W. Berne, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Danielle Spires