Take a Walk on the Wild Side

There is no denying that we are living in a fatigued, fractured, and uncertain world.  Here is a question for you: “What will bring us together and help us heal?” From my perspective, the answers have been in front of us since the beginning of time. When was the last time you felt awe as you stood in nature’s vast beauty?  When was the last time you stood in the presence of true wildness? Being in nature heals us. It is both invigorating and peaceful.

TeachingHorse was inspired by how wild horses lead their herds. We have been working in partnership with Return to Freedom, a Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, CA since 2005 and we have brought over 1,000 clients to the sanctuary. (https://returntofreedom.org/). In 2006, we adopted a herd of 3 wild horses. Living with wild horses dramatically expanded our understanding of what they have to teach us about navigating through uncertainty. Many of you who have come to Double Run Farm in Leland, NC have met our wild horse herd member, Hope.

In the past year, the number of people who are part of the TeachingHorse network of facilitators has tripled. Many of them had never been to Return to Freedom. Even with the magnitude of uncertainty we are all still facing, we decided to hold a TeachingHorse Summit at Return to Freedom in August of 2022, so that all our facilitators  could have their own direct experience with the wild horses. Normally we only travel together to work with clients. Not this time. No clients, just us. This was a time for us to come together, to heal, and be inspired by wildness.

At the core of our work is The Diamond Model of Shared Leadership. This model was created to represent two fundamental aspects of horse culture. First, we explore how horses organize and collaborate to navigate through uncertainty. Second, we explore the capabilities that horses use to select their leaders (Attention, Direction, Energy, and Congruence).

My goal for taking our colleagues to Return to Freedom was to give them a first-hand experience of watching wild horses in their natural environments. I watched the light bulbs go off in their bodies, minds, and souls as they stood on 1,000 acres of the rolling hills of California surrounded by hundreds of wild horses, who live free to roam with their families as nature intended.

I could feel the sense of awe and wonder take over their spirits as they marveled at polarities playing out in the way the horses communicated with each other. We observed fierce displays of strength paired with tender displays of care between stallions and their young. We experienced a lead mare looking to the horizon, then taking time to make a sincere connection to another herd member. The wild horse herds went from looking at a group of humans as a possible threat to embracing us as part of their community. Nature’s answers have been right in front of us since the beginning of time.

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