Professional Student of Life
Adventures in personal growth
April: Adventures with Horses
A horse is the projection of people’s dreams about themselves… ~ Pam Brown
I’m standing in a round pen with a pony named Tinkerbell, tears streaming down my face. Koelle Simpson, horse whisperer and Master Life Coach, has just asked me, “So, sweetheart, where in your life are you not choosing you?”
I should have known. Everything in Equus coaching (which uses ground work with horses to facilitate personal growth) is a metaphor. Which can feel a bit like having a grenade go off in your hands. In a good way.
Anyway, when Tinkerbell seemingly didn’t respond to my overtures, and Koelle asked me what I wanted to happen, I said, “I want her to choose me.” And that’s when the grenade went off. For the next fifteen minutes I stroked Tinkerbell’s head while Koelle coached me through the realization that perhaps “entangled” was the best way to describe my relationship with my daughter. Trying to help, feeling responsible for everyone else (even people I don’t know) is a lifelong pattern. When do I choose me?
Then, my time almost up, Koelle said, “What do you want to do now?” and what followed was an explosion of a different kind, an explosion of pure joy as Tinkerbell took off, streaking around the pen and I (according to my friend, who was watching) stood in the middle with my arms in the air and yelled, “She’s running free! She’s running free!” I actually have no memory of that part. I was just stunned with the joy of watching that little pony flying free. Another perfect metaphor.
As if that wasn’t enough, the next day I took part in a herding exercise that also blew the doors off my mind. As I watched the Master Coaches demonstrate what we were supposed to do, I initially thought: No. Friggin. Way. Politely, of course. I love horses, but I am in no way experienced around them, and these three horses were galloping and rearing as the Master Coaches herded them (silently) around the outside of the round pen, peeling them off one by one into the enclosure. It’s all done with energy, and the purpose of the exercise is to illustrate very graphically how effective you are at using yours. Or not.
Of course, when my group’s turn came I stayed true to old patterns and volunteered for the “hardest” job, which was to stand at the entrance to the round pen. In that position you’re a key player in peeling the horses off from the group as they run past, and then preventing them from rejoining the herd once they’ve been split off. Yikes.
When they barreled around the corner the first time I felt one moment of pure panic. Then I stepped out, looked the closest one in the eye and said (in my head), “You go in here.” And in he went. I was so surprised I nearly fell over. But then I immediately had to go to work holding him there while my partners brought the other horses around, one by one. In the end it actually seemed easy, and we were jumping up and down like crazy people, high-fiving. I don’t think I’ve had many other experiences in my life as empowering as that!
Though I had wanted to try Equus coaching for a long time, the reality turned out to be even more powerful than I’d hoped. Horses mirror your energy (for better or worse) in a way that’s impossible to deny, and yet the lesson is given with such grace and gentleness that it slips almost painlessly past your defenses, just like a metaphor.
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