I’ve just returned from Europe on a trip with friends to London and Paris. Aside from the joy of being able to spend time with people I love, it was also the first time that I’ve been a “tourist” in London since I was about 7 years old. I’d been looking forward to this trip for the better part of a year and felt so proud to be able to share my love of all things British with my friends. As a seasoned traveler, I knew that this trip would be unique as I would be guiding a group of people who were unaccustomed to navigating the unfamiliar sights, sounds, food, and bright lights of big cities; this group being mostly Ohio born and bred and had rarely (if ever) ventured beyond their country of residence.

It hadn’t occurred to me that being a seasoned traveler means that I have become less attuned to the wonder and awe of novel experiences. I consider myself an inquisitive person; curious about the world around me and am prone to marveling at details that others don’t seem to notice. But traversing London with novice travelers opened my eyes to all the things that I take for granted. What was so familiar to me was so alien to the rest of the group. And they questioned EVERYTHING! It was amazing. What a privilege it was to experience the city through their eyes – from all the different modes of public transport (I also never realized how much of a transport nerd I am), to the customs and traditions of my homeland, to the food adventures along the way, I felt like I had time traveled back to my 7 year old self, feeling the magic and awe of each new experience. From the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, to the archway of Chinatown, and revisiting childhood neighborhoods, my body tingled with the aliveness of it all.

As an educator and therapist, my inclination is always to support and encourage others to stretch their wings; to experience the new – throw out that which no longer serves and adopt new and healthier ways of being in the world. What a joy it was to watch my friends gain confidence in navigating their new world, stretching way beyond their comfort zones and reveling in the adventure. By the time we got to Paris midway through our trip, I was able to step back and let others take the lead in navigating what was less familiar to me.

All this got me thinking about the work that we do within an equine-facilitated setting. How often do we enter into a session resting on what we think we already know? How might we support ourselves to look anew at a client, horse, colleague, or organization and see them through a new lens? What questions might we ask ourselves, or them, if we take away the apparent familiarity of the situation? Most importantly, how much don’t I know about them still? Because the questions that my friends asked weren’t complex, deep, philosophical questions. They were basic facts (e,g, how fast does the tube go? How do you make clotted cream? How did they build the tunnel under the sea? What is a Scotch egg?). The point wasn’t whether I knew the answers to these questions, but that they were asking them – their curiosity allowed mine to spark, which led to more questions,, and it was then in the joint discovery of the answers that brought connection. And as I think about those sessions with my students and clients that feel the most energizing and satisfying, I realize that that’s precisely what makes it so – unearthing the answers to questions that emerge spontaneously in connection.

I’m so grateful for this experience with my friends and I’m now ready for whatever 2024 has in store. I know that I’m in good company with my team at The HERD Institute® to stay curious, ask questions, and go looking for answers together. I hope you’ll all join me in this quest!

Executive Director