Have you seen the show Naked and Afraid? It’s a reality show where a pair of total strangers have to survive for 21 days together with no clothes and supplies, exposed to the dangers of extreme environments. There are 15 seasons of this show, so clearly that says something about us as viewers and our lust for witnessing others’ vulnerabilities. I’m curious about whether we’re driven to watch these shows to experience something vicariously (the danger, resilience, fear), or for the satisfaction in rooting for a team (or not). What does that say about our own capacity for vulnerability, danger, and fear of the unknown? I can’t quite imagine what it must be like to feel quite so utterly exposed.

Except that maybe I can.

I just completed my manuscript for book number 3. The title is “Obviously I’m not from here: Embodying a sense of belonging with the help of horses”.  The manuscript is with the copyeditor and I’m in the process of collecting reviews from some respected colleagues in the equine assisted services industry. I’m noticing how different I feel with this book compared to the first two. I remember feeling huge waves of imposter syndrome when my first book was published. I’d published plenty of academic journal articles up until that point, but a book felt more…permanent. Like, what if I change my mind about how I conceptualize something in the future? It’ll be written in stone, and I’ll be held responsible for it until my dying day. My imposter syndrome was telling me that I wasn’t ready for such responsibility. In contrast, for my second book, released during the pandemic in 2020, I felt excited and eager to offer a more accessible and relatable volume of work. I knew that the case studies and theoretical concepts would help students in creating programs and sessions that aligned with The HERD Model™. While it offered plenty of personal stories and insights, they were mostly focused on how I conceptualize the work that we do.

Book 3 is different. This book isn’t so much about what I do or how I conceptualize our work. It’s…who I am. I’m noticing a theme in the words reviewers are using to describe this book: personal, challenging, and vulnerable. I’m so grateful for the endorsements given and humbled by my reviewers’ excitement about the upcoming publication, but to be honest, I feel naked and afraid! This book is about increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the equine industry and is full of reflections of my personal struggles of feeling that I don’t belong and how horses have helped me find myself amid all that is unknown. My feelings of being exposed and vulnerable have manifested my own personal version of the show, Naked and Afraid, through nightmares of running naked down a platform after a departing train and trying to lasso horses that have escaped through accidentally opened gates while simultaneously being chased by dragons. Clearly, my subconscious is telling me in no uncertain terms that there’s no point in shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

And it’s bolted for sure. My publishers told me that we have record numbers of pre-orders after only 2 weeks. The release date of the book is set for September 15, 2023 – conveniently coinciding with our Sharing Space with The HERD Conference. We’ll have copies of the book available for purchase then. By then, I’m hoping I’ll have recovered from my nightmares enough to host an author meet and greet and sign some copies. For now, I’m taking comfort in the fact that I am surrounded by love and support while I’m feeling all the feels. I’m honored that the book has several chapter contributions from our HERD faculty, graduates, and students – all of whom have courageously shared their work and personal experiences of finding a sense of belonging with the help of horses. When I hold on to that, I feel less afraid. Comes back full circle, I guess, to the core message in the book that there’s safety in the herd, and with acceptance of differences, we can all find more inclusive ways of sharing space with others.

With gratitude to our HERD,

Veronica
Executive Director