On February 18th, 2023, the first Daring HERD® Courage Workshop was held at Braving Star Farms. It was amazing! My very first personal experience with equine-facilitated learning in 2017 was actually all about courage, so I wanted to share it here, along with the four components of ordinary courage (as defined by Brené Brown's research).
1. Rumbling with vulnerability
I entered the arena with the side of my chest aching. I had shingles there when I was in High School, and often when I get anxious, I feel the nerve endings where the huge, painful blisters once were. We hadn’t been given instructions for what to do in the arena, and not knowing what is expected of me is a panic inducer. Later I would find out the vagueness had been on purpose because we were meant to be rumbling with vulnerability, but all I had in that moment was the shitty first draft I had written before going in: People are watching me. I will cry. I won’t know what to do and will second guess myself. I will step in shit.
2. Living my values
The only reason I was in the arena with two young horses was because I had said yes to living my values in the arena of life. With a leap of faith, and a ton of anxiety and fear, I had let go of who I thought I was supposed to be and said yes to living my new values of creativity and compassion. I was at Courage Camp, taking this workshop, because I had become a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator. I had left the world of non-profit psychotherapy and started my own business, something I never thought I would do. And the only thing that carried me through all the shit of that transition was my values. Then, just like now, I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was showing up - vulnerable, brave, and ready to be seen.
3. BRAVING Trust
After spending most of my life not listening to my body, part of my self-trust practice is taking its signals seriously. With the remnant tingle at my ribs, my quick breathing, and my pounding heart, I knew I needed to calm down. I stopped walking towards one of the horses and reached out to the nearest tree. With my hand on the rough bark, I took a deep breath, and grounded myself. Almost immediately, the horse that had been nibbling on grass stopped grazing and looked up at me. I was seen with that big brown eye, and now my heart was pounding in a new way. Slowly, I walked forward, not wanting to startle him and break the moment. Amazingly, he didn’t turn and run away, and before I knew it, I had a new sensation of soft warm fur at my fingertips. I was so appreciative of his trust, but I wanted to get closer. But what if, I thought, the horse doesn’t want that? I became tentative, and in my head, and suddenly, he turned away.
4. Rising Strong
A facilitator stepped in at that time to process what was happening for me. I shared that I wanted to hug the horse, but that I wasn’t sure if that was okay with him. The facilitator asked if it was a pattern for me to feel that my needs were a problem, and warm, wet tears of confirmation slid down my cheeks. I have always been hyper-attuned to everyone else and their needs but struggled with believing that mine mattered. The facilitator asked what it would be like to hug the horse, even if he didn’t need a hug, and I said that I could try. In my heart I told the horse I needed a hug and asked if that would that be okay. The horse didn’t move, so I approached, and he let me snuggle in close. And that was it. I carefully navigated out, miraculously managing not to step in poop. People did watch me, I did cry, I didn’t know what to do and seconded guessed myself, but I hadn’t stepped in shit!
Even though my time in the arena was brief and over quickly, that experience continues to stay with me, a visceral learning that has made me braver in the arena of life with sharing my needs and believing it is okay to get them met. I hope you will be courageous and come join us for your own Equine-Facilitated Learning experience soon!
“The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant "To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart."
Over time, this definition has changed, and today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics is important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we've lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we're feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage.
Heroics is often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today's world that's pretty extraordinary.”
-Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
[Picture from The Daring HERD® Courage Workshop]
Lee Ann Hilbrich (she/her) 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 is also certified in Equine-Facilitated Learning. Learning.
Lee Ann Hilbrich, MA, LPC, CDWF, RYT 200
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