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Meet Vivian Thwaits of Art Soul and Horses

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vivian Thwaits.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My love of art and of manifesting my visions through the creative process began as a child. I can so clearly remember manifesting my first puppy, I must have drawn that puppy 1000 times! I talked about the puppy incessantly, and I held a crystal-clear vision of exactly who my puppy was. It was no surprise to me when my puppy showed up: I had been in contact with him through my creative visualization.

Unfortunately, as so many of us do, I lost touch with my abilities as I grew into adulthood and, by my mid-thirties, I was caught up in the whirlwind of life and my career as a nurse. I threw myself into taking care of the well-being of others and forgot about the importance of self-care. My professional life was blossoming, but I was suffering on multiple levels – mind, body, and soul.

At 43, after having a major panic attack that felt like I was dying, I was given the gift of horseback riding lessons and my life changed forever. I had always loved horses and being in their presence rekindled my creative fire, reconnecting me with two of the things I had loved most as a child: Art and Horses. That was the start of my healing journey.

As I ventured along the path to wellness, I remembered the combined power of art and journaling – setting my intentions to words. I remembered speaking and drawing my puppy into my life, so I bought an art journal and began drawing out my future. I call this inspired creation.

My first goal was to buy a horse, so I began drawing and writing into reality a beautiful horse called Yanni, who came into my life in 2007. Yanni was the perfect prescription for my burned-out soul; I would go to him after work and my headaches would disappear like magic. Unfortunately, our life together was cut short after he succumbed to a tragic illness, but his gifts have continued to bless me beyond his death.

I became fascinated with Reiki as a healing modality, and also grew more interested in the healing capacity of horses. During an off the grid course at the Bitterroot Ranch in Wyoming, my vision for this community – of Art Soul and Horses – was established. On a mountaintop at the ranch I was met by a very old-soul horse named Cirrus. With him, one quiet evening at the top of that mountain, I felt a pure joy and a sense of fulfillment.

In that space of peace, standing next to this magnificent being, I felt as if powerful healing was taking place. It is amazing what you can create when you disconnect from all the shiny trappings of the modern world; at that retreat, I was introduced to the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method® (EGCMethod), created by psychotherapist Melisa Pearce in Colorado.

After my powerful encounter with Cirrus the horse on the mountaintop, I immediately signed up for the EGCMethod certification program and spent the next 3 years learning Melisa Pearce’s unique coaching method that involves a partnership between equine and human coaches. Gestalt is a term for wholeness and, in this process, the horses play a powerful part in helping to bring people back to wholeness and healing.

As a result of my certification, I have been able to create a program that combines the power of the EGCMethod – the co-facilitation between horse and human – with the healing magic of Art. My passion is to build a community where we can honor and harness the healing creative force in all of us.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The vision for Art Soul and Horses grew out of my turbulent journey with my first horse, Yanni, and the other horses in my life. My time with Yanni was very short and very sad.

He taught me so much about love, and loss, and forgiveness. I know now that Yanni was here for a specific reason and I can see, with hindsight, how each step carefully led me to the next.

I learned from Yanni that, even in the depths of our pain, the horses can help us enter a state of peace and joy – and in this state, we are free to flow in mind, body and spirit to the places inside us that we have long forgotten. There is always the next step; there is always a new story awaiting us. There is always light to be found. The key is listening to our innermost heart’s desires, even when that heart is broken into a million pieces, and being willing to believe that we can create joy out of the fragments.

All this talk about inspired creation and manifesting might fool you into thinking that the perfect manifestation of my vision was easy, but it wasn’t. There were struggles every step of the way: juggling a rigorous coaching program with my day job sometimes put a strain on the bank balance, my relationships, and my confidence, but I stayed focused on my vision, with the help of the horses, and the support of the Equine Gestalt Coaching Community, led by Melisa Pearce, I learned that in times of darkness and doubt, it is essential that we reconnect with our hearts. One way to do that is through the creative process – journaling, drawing, even coloring.

Sadly, dreaming is all too often discouraged these days, and it can damage this magical, creative place inside of us. But I firmly believe that when we have a clear vision of where we want to be, and how we want to feel, our intention activates pure magic.

Please tell us about Art Soul and Horses.
In my coaching practice, I primarily focus on addressing compassion fatigue in the nursing profession – it’s my way to give back to the thousands of nurses who suffer from compassion fatigue and burnout but still show up at the job every day. It is also for those nurses who have been eaten alive by the profession and have ended up forced into a diversion program to address whatever self-medication strategies they may have used to cope. I want them to re-learn what it feels like to love themselves enough to build resilience and to heal from the effects of caring for other people to their own detriment.

I learned through art, journaling, and spending time with horses, that the best adventures in life happen when you stay open to new possibilities. Even if you’re not sure how to get to your destination; even in the deepest state of burnout and overwhelm, the process, the horses, and the magic of envisioning can reveal new and better paths forward.

I believe that I am the only coach who is using the creation of art in the presence of horses combined with the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method® to facilitate healing. As an RN I have chosen to bring this unique healing modality to address the epidemic of compassion fatigue and burnout in the nursing profession, but my coaching approach can be applied to anyone who is looking to find more joy and healing.

I am known for my art workshops and one-on-one work that helps undercover an internal voice of infinite possibility. I am always honored to sit with those in their pain and watch joyful breakthroughs when we work in the studio and with the horses. I am proud of creating a community that brings people together to experience joy and play in the presence of horses.

In 2018 I will be presenting this work more broadly to the nursing community and am seeking out high-profile speaking opportunities to shed light on the crisis of compassion fatigue and burnout in the nursing profession. We offer workshops and 1:1 opportunities for people to experience this life-changing work, regardless of their profession, and we will continue to host bi-annual community concerts to build community and celebrate inspired creativity.

At Art Soul and Horses, we dive deep into people’s stories and help them build a vision for their future. We explore what each client needs to live in fulfillment. The horses teach them to stop and listen to their internal voice and wisdom and to start re-charting their journey. Together, the horses and I show people what it looks like to love and give back to themselves and to realize that they have every opportunity to change their story. I believe that this work is a transformative process. It offers a life-changing path of exploration and healing and, for those who stopped believing that they had the power to course-correct their life, it can also be life-affirming.

For any reader who mentions this article, I would be happy to offer 20% off my standard coaching rate of $395 for a single, 3-hour long private Equine Gestalt Coaching and Creation session. For workshops or coaching packages, pricing reflects the custom nature of each offering and therefore may vary from client to client, so I would ask that people reach out to discuss how best we could meet their needs.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memories involve animals and art and having fun. I still feel that same way today.


  • Vision Art One Day Workshop with Horses tapping into their creative heart 1-Day Workshop $100.00/per person
  • Private 3-hour sessions at the ranch run $395
  • Introductory 2-hour session $120
  • Monthly Community Circle for Nurses and Nursing Students $10.00

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Rebecca Lindsay Photography

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Kara Sorensen

    April 13, 2018 at 2:46 am

    I can’t say enough about Vivian and her horses! I started working with her in December of 2017 and things dramatically changed for me after my first session. Vivian is an intuitive, skilled and compassionate coach and her horses are amazing healers. The art brings it all together. It’s one of those things you have to experience to believe. So I encourage you, if you have the slightest hunch that this work could help you, follow it, you won’t be disappointed. This work is simply life changing!

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