"You must whip your horse Lee Ann!" I will never forget those words that the horseback riding instructor often shouted at middle-school aged me. On my horse, I was decked out in knit riding pants (with sugar cubes in the pocket), boots, a helmet, and of course, a whip. I was scolded so often with those accented words that even my family teased me about them and won’t ever forget them either. But this was an early experience I remember having with horses, and clearly, it didn’t sit well with me. I love animals, why on earth would I want to whip them? Continue reading for free right now on Daring Discoveries Substack.
As part of the final in-person module to get certified in Equine-Facilitated Learning by The HERD Institute, you are required to lead a mock session. I already knew after I was certified that I was going to want to combine EFL and the work I had been doing as a Daring Way™ Facilitator, so I decided to be brave and just give it a try. Having run courses on Brené Brown’s 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living many times, I chose one that I am always working on: Cultivating play and rest: Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.
The session went well. My co-facilitators were two horses named Admiral and Lucy, and there were lots of sweet moments of play and rest between them and the participants. I also got a taste for just how much there was to attend to when you combined two modalities that are each so powerful on their own, wowza! Afterwards we had a quick break for the trainer to make her notes, but then it was onto the next session as it was the final day of the three-day module and all five us needed to present.
“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
After I had my first hit of Equine-Facilitated Learning (EFL) at Brené Brown’s Courage Camp in 2017, I was hooked. So much so that I was willing to drive five hours away in 2018 to attend a Texas gathering of Certified Daring Way™ Facilitators that was going to include more EFL.
When I learned that only one or two of us would actually be going in with a horse, I felt my anxiety and scarcity rise. I didn’t want to take away from someone else, but I didn’t want to miss out on something if it was meant for me. I found myself blurting out my fears, and the facilitator calmly asked me to be curious about my discernment struggle. I pretty much hated that.
The truth is I’ve lived a lot of my life as an observer and not really in the arena. It was always safer to let others be vulnerable, and I would wait on the sidelines until I’d gathered enough trust in the space and courage to be seen. And while I’d been practicing being braver and bolder, it was still hard to trust myself and my instincts. My worried head often got in the way of my wholeheartedness.
When my phone rang with a client emergency as I was observing the first arena participant, it was a little helpful nod from the universe as to why I was not in there. I walked away from the group and towards the parking lot to handle the call, and after being a calm witness for someone else, I was inspired to take a moment to offer myself the same gift. I acknowledged that I had been expecting things to go differently, and that I was feeling doubt, disappointment, and frustration. I also praised myself for taking the risk to come, and for vulnerably sharing what I was thinking and feeling with the group. And when I turned around to head back, I saw this face greeting me at the main gate:
Lee Ann Hilbrich is an author of three books, a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator of Brené Brown's work, a Qi Gong and Yoga Teacher, and a SoulCollage® Facilitator. She's also certified in Equine-Facilitated Learning.
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I abide by the Brené Brown Education and Research Group's Belonging Statement (Click Here to View) and am committed to inclusivity, equity, diversity, and belonging.