What Carly the Cat Taught Me

February signals the month of love with Valentine’s Day. Whether you subscribe to this tradition or not, it’s hard to miss the flowers, chocolates, and heart shaped balloons on display everywhere you go. For this month’s missive, I’d intended to write about a rabbit hole I went down about the irony of Black History Month being in the same month as Valentine’s Day, and how one month, or one day, couldn’t possibly capture the full meaning behind what both these events are meant to symbolize, and more importantly, what it says about the society we live in that we have to have these dates. Does Black History disappear from our awareness at the end of the month? Is Love only celebrated on Valentine’s Day? I’d intended to dig deep into this and share my perspective of all this, but it seems that the universe wanted to lead me down a different path.

On February 17th last year, our beloved dog, Alfie, crossed the rainbow bridge. He was just shy of his 14th birthday and had been fighting an aggressive cancer. His death, and my grieving process, permeated my whole being. I feel his absence in every waking moment as a constant ache in my core. As his first anniversary loomed, I had wanted to give space to celebrate the love he brought into our lives and honor him in some way. Instead, we were presented with an extra dose of grief.

On February 17th, 2023, we found our beautiful barn cat, Carly, lying motionless in our car port. We think she’d been bitten by a snake and had just crossed the rainbow bridge when we found her, as I’d been where she was laying only a few minutes prior. Her body was still soft and warm when we picked her up to lay her in her final resting place. HERD members who have been to our in-person trainings both here in Florida, and previously in Ohio, will remember Carly’s constant presence as part of their training experiences. She was the friendliest cat I’ve ever met, and my clients dubbed her a “Cog” – part cat, part dog – due to the way she would run up to greet visitors, excited for attention and love. She would frequently insert herself into our circles during practice sessions, join in class discussions by taking up an empty seat in the barn, and occasionally cause havoc by bringing us her hunting gifts. The joy and comfort that she brought to our space was so much a part of our everyday lives, and the farm feels startlingly emptier without her.

What happens to love as we grieve? How do we open our hearts to new relationships when we are heartbroken? As animal lovers, we experience this circle of life all too often, and we tell ourselves that grief is the price we pay for the love we’ve received from our beloved companions. Alfie was our first dog. Carly was our first cat. I don’t know if these “firsts” have hit harder than subsequent losses yet to come. I do know that my grief is deep and any words that I type right now feel insubstantial, inadequate, and incomplete in my description of what I’m feeling. I’m grateful that both with Alfie last year, and with Carly this year, I am teaching in the immediate aftermath and am with people who understand this particular type of grief. Grieving as a community for the love we held with Alfie, Carly, and all our animal companions by sharing stories of their impact on our lives is a balm to my soul. I wanted to extend this support to those of you outside of our training space this week. If you have lost a beloved animal companion and want to share your story with us, we are here. Join us to honor those we have loved so that the love you feel stays alive. Feel free to email us at [email protected] and send us a photo of your friends across the rainbow bridge.

To our sweet Carly: Thank you for being a part of our lives for the past 7 years; for entertaining us, comforting us, loving us, and being with us so wholeheartedly. I will miss walking with you to open the gate every morning, and having you twirl around my legs as I do my chores. Thank you for making your way home to us so we didn’t have to wonder what happened. Rest well, Carly cat.

With gratitude,

Executive Director

I’ve just returned from a quick trip to California to teach at my alma mater. It was an interesting experience to introduce so many students to the world of animal assisted services, while also recognizing how far I’ve come in my own journey. Being immersed in the industry, it’s easy to forget that this field is still unknown to many mainstream mental health practitioners. I’m familiar with grappling with the detailed, nuanced, and complex terminologies and methodologies within the industry, so I felt a degree with surprise to be in a psychology setting where everything I said was received as novel. My felt sense of being a part of the community but also separated from it is familiar to me, conditioned into the core of my being is the skill of simultaneously navigating separate worlds, so I received this awareness with curiosity.

I wondered about the experience of novelty and how we engage with it, or not. I wondered how often we seek new frontiers, or not. I’m aware of how the transition from one year to the next calls us to make resolutions, set intentions, do things differently, pulling us to offer the world newer, brighter, better versions of ourselves. I’m curious about how that cycle of transformation impacts us individually and collectively.

At The HERD Institute®, we teach students the importance of zooming in and out between levels of awareness in self, other, and environment. Learning, growth, and healing comes from finding balance within us and in our relationships. My experience teaching outside of the equine facilitated space reminded me of the importance of being able to see the forest and not only the trees. I chuckled at this reminder as it felt so timely in my own process. After the two consecutive hurricanes last year, there was so much debris around the farm. I’d been zooming in on the details more than the bigger picture, noticing the fallen trees and branches creating trip hazards in the pastures, broken fence posts around the perimeter, and overgrown vegetation creating drainage blocks. So, all I wanted for Christmas was a chainsaw. I wanted to clear the path, remove obstacles, and replace the old.

My chainsaw comes with a manual that outlines safety precautions, recommended protective wear, and cutting techniques. It comes with a danger warning of the inherent risks of operating a power tool. In my process of clearing debris, I created a giant burn pile and waited for the perfect day to set it alight. As I watched the bonfire come to life, I recognized the symbolism of the process in relation to this time in my life and what I feel called to offer our community.

How can I protect what we have co-created in this community, while continuing to forge a path for others? What systems and structures do we need to trim, replace, or simply burn down? What risks do we intentionally take to create that space? When we adjust for the detail, what impact does that have for the wider landscape? What benefits might the bonfire provide? In my mind, it’s in those fireside chats where we’ll find the warmth, connections, and nourishment that we need to feel a sense of belonging. I want to name the privilege (and power) I hold in wielding the chainsaw to help create an intentionally inclusive space and, as always, extend an invitation for you to join us around the fire. Systemic change can only happen if we all contribute to the fire in some way so that the individual becomes the collective, and for the whole to become greater than the sum of its parts.

Join us in conversation this year as we gather for our first in-person conference. Keep an eye out for more information coming your way as we prepare our summit line-up and conference schedule. For now, save the date: September 15-17, 2023, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Twinsburg, Ohio.

Here’s to a wonderful year of continued connections!

With gratitude,

Executive Director

We’re at that time of the year where the holiday season looms large. I experience a shift in focus towards completion of projects for the year, an intentional closing of one chapter while holding space for what is yet to be. My social media feed is full of photos of Christmas trees and holiday wreaths, mixed in with the creativity of those who have been burdened by the Elf on the shelf tradition, and beautiful family portraits to round out the year. It would be easy to feel like everyone is on board the holiday train with buckets of festive good cheer, singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”.

But is it though? As a mental health practitioner, I know that underneath the gloss of holiday spirit, the holiday season is often stressful and painful. Family dynamics and old patterns rear their heads and relationships become strained under the pressure to get everything done in time. Reminders to be intentional with self-care are often dismissed as something that takes up too much time. Every year, I find myself wondering about whose expectations we are all trying to meet. Every year, I come back to the realization that we all need support.

I’m so grateful for the space that we have created at The HERD, and for each and every one of our staff, instructors, and community members. As always, this year has been a wild ride and not without challenges, but we have weathered the storms and come out more seasoned and resilient for whatever comes next. I am so proud of the way that we have supported each other, celebrating our successes and grieving our losses together in community. We have some exciting plans for the year ahead and I’m looking forward to where this adventure will take us. I’m also aware of how precious and precarious this all feels because we can never really predict what is to come.

Last Christmas, our dog groomer gave us the most incredible gift. She made a Christmas bauble with some of the fur that she’d shaved off our pups. It’s a transparent bauble, so I can see the fur inside. This gift came with perfect timing as we lost our beloved pup, Alfie, not long after. Every fiber of my being wants to crack open the bauble so that I can sniff his fur, but I’ve resisted, knowing that it wouldn’t be the same as burying my head in his neck like I used to do. Each time I look at the ornament, I am reminded simultaneously of the joy that Alfie brought us, and the gut-wrenching grief I still feel.

We spent our last Christmas season nursing our old boy. We slowed down and hibernated on the farm, focusing on Alfie’s well-being, and treasuring every moment we had with him. While the world around us bustled and rushed around checking their lists, we sat vigil and took deep breaths. We allowed ourselves to feel our impending loss, navigated the brief relief when he had a few weeks of reprieve from his symptoms, and prepared ourselves for what would be the biggest shift in our family dynamics in almost 14 years. I was grateful for every moment.

Alfie was the reason that I entered the world of animal assisted interventions. He taught me that love is present when we are present, and that presence is the only gift we need. So, this holiday season, I will return to the lesson that he offered up to his very last breath: slow down, breathe, get present, and know that you are loved.

May this season bring you the gift that you need.

With gratitude,

Executive Director

What a whirlwind few weeks it’s been! We closed out last month with hosting our Level 2 EFL Certification and our EFP Relational HERD™ workshops. This was followed by a quick trip to St. Louis to present at the Opening Panel of the PATH International Annual Conference, attend my first Board of Trustees meeting, meet and greet our Share in The HERD Scholarship recipients, and reconnect with folks at PATH for the first time in-person since 2018.

After a few days back in Orlando, I flew to the UK and spent a day with some of our HERD members there, before meeting up with some friends, and then headed south to visit family for a few days. I landed back in Orlando feeling exhausted and exhilarated in equal measure, simultaneously happy to be back “home” on the farm and “homesick” for my connections to the land and people in England. I’m also eternally grateful for my community Stateside for holding down the fort through the second hurricane of the season. While I returned to flooding and some minor storm damage, I am hugely relieved that we were once again spared anything more devastating.

As we head into the holiday season, I’m always pulled to reflect on what my growing edges and learning have been throughout the year. Themes of community, belonging, and inclusion are always present as part of the work that we do at The HERD, but what has been highlighted for me over the past month is the importance of in-person connections. The past couple of years has shown us that the world can adapt to digital and virtual connections when needed, and it has certainly been more convenient to do so in some contexts.

I’ve been a huge advocate of virtual connections over the years – social media was a lifesaver when we first moved to the States, without which it would’ve been so much more isolating and difficult to stay in touch with friends and family back home. After the heartwarming connections I’ve had over the past few weeks though, even the introvert in me is recognizing that I need the embodied impact of in-person connections, and much as it exhausts me, it can also be invigorating. As with all things, it’s not all or nothing, but both/and. With that said, watch this space as we work behind the scenes to make these in-person connections more of a priority for 2023!

Meanwhile, for HERD members, we hosted our 3rd Annual Virtual Homecoming event this past Monday, November 21st. We started this during the pandemic when we couldn’t host in-person events and Sarah Morehouse and I were missing our HERD community members. So, we got dressed up as cheerleaders (because I grew up watching US movies about Homecoming and always wanted to be a cheerleader), and we hosted a virtual homecoming where we shared recipes and traditions leading up to the holiday season as our way of reconnecting with folks. Thanks to those of you who joined us in community this year to share your dreams and successes. I attended with a heart full of gratitude for all of you.

If you are not currently a HERD Member and would like to be, click here to join us!

With gratitude,

Executive Director

Thank you to all of you who contacted me before, during, and after the recent hurricane that swept through our lives. Hurricane Ian was a beast of a storm. As the forecasts developed throughout the week prior to it making landfall, we were bracing ourselves in Central Florida for a minimum of a Category 1 direct hit, with the potential of it increasing back up to a Category 3. Severe flooding from the predicted 20” of rain posed the biggest risk to us in East Orlando, which was a terrifying prospect given that we were already flooded from summer storms.

During our Diversifying The HERD 2022 Virtual Summit last month, HERD Instructor-in-Training, Jennifer Baker commented that “I need community. I need help!” Nothing could’ve been more accurate over the past 10 days as our community geared up for Hurricane Ian and its aftermath. Watching the catastrophic impact on TV is distressing enough. Bearing witness in real life to the losses of friends, family, and community is overwhelming.

Many of us lucky enough to escape the worst of the storm are reeling with survivor’s guilt. My heart goes out to all those whose lives and homes have been devastated by this storm. I am enormously grateful to our team behind the scenes who worked tirelessly to keep things running smoothly on the business end while I focused on executing our disaster preparedness plan. I am thankful for the detailed training that I’ve received through Equi-First Aid in how to mitigate risks for all the humans and animals on our farm, depending on the severity of the threat.

We survived with minimal damage of trees and fences downed and significant flooding in our pastures and classroom. House and barn remained dry and intact, and all animals were unscathed. The chickens rode out the storm in the horse trailer and Carly the cat was sequestered in the classroom. The horses stayed relatively dry in the open barn and dispelled my fears of them getting spooked and running through the fencing. The hours spent preparing for the storm morphed into hours of cleaning up in the aftermath. As the fear and anxiety about what might happen transitioned into relief and exhaustion, I became even more aware of how precious and precarious life can be.

In the aftermath of the storm, we have been experiencing the most glorious dry and mild weather in Central Florida. The cool fresh breeze normally reserved for winter months has helped to dry out the floods. As our community returns to “normal”, I’m reminded yet again of my privilege. While the storm did not discriminate in its destructive path, we were not all in the same boat to begin with. As with the global pandemic in the past couple of years, we are bearing witness to social inequality in the aftermath where the most vulnerable populations and communities are being hit the hardest. FEMA will only cover flood damage for those with flood insurance, which many in the most devastated areas don’t have.

Pre-hurricane, folks were advised to withdraw cash in case power outages led to electronic payment methods being out of service, but many low-income households didn’t have the means to make withdrawals that could tide them over. With public transportation unavailable in many areas, people are unable to access relief efforts that are set up in more affluent neighborhoods. Added to this, poor communities and communities of color are often physically more vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, with historically less investment in infrastructure, resulting in more severe damages in climate crises. All these factors result in increasing food insecurity and homelessness.

So, while I’m exhaling with relief for my return to pre-storm conditions, safe and dry on my farm, I want to urge us all to think about supporting hurricane relief efforts. Every little bit counts.

With gratitude,

Executive Director

I’m still basking in the joy of connection post-summit. Deep gratitude to all of you who joined us for our Diversifying The HERD 2022 Virtual Summit! As always, in the lead up to these events, I am so focused on the details and tasks that go into creating these spaces that I sometimes forget to embrace the joy that these events bring. In our commitment to challenging our field to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and create a community of belonging for our HERD members, we are constantly reminded of the hard work required behind the scenes in any organization to transform DEI from acronym to action. Occasionally, I’m also reminded of how important it is to stop grinding, look up, and take in the beauty of what we’ve created. This is one of those moments.

I felt so much joy to be in community with the next generation of leaders in our field. Our keynote speakers, Abriana Johnson and Brittney Chambers, offered a sensational session on how to decolonize equine programs. This dynamic duo are inspirational, thought provoking powerhouses, and I couldn’t be more grateful for their presence.

It was also wonderful to see the familiar faces of our HERD members in the audience, as well as folks who came from outside of our community. Coming together with all our various approaches is the essence of diversity, and I really appreciated the different perspectives you all offered.

We are living in interesting times. The endemic nature of COVID has created so much uncertainty and has taken its toll on many of us working in the helping professions. When my dear friend and colleague, Elizabeth McCorvey, and I first talked about creating a summit that centered on the work and experiences of marginalized folks, our motivation came from constantly seeing a lack of representation in this space. All those conferences and summits that we’d attended where we were often the only people of color, and where speaker line-ups were a sea of white faces. Yet, we knew that there were a ton of practitioners of color, LGBTQ+ folks, and other historically marginalized individuals in the field who are doing some incredible work in their communities. Our hope is that by increasing representation, we can encourage a new generation of practitioners to enter the field and actively increase diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Within The HERD Institute®, I am incredibly proud of our team’s efforts in diversifying our HERD community. Part of our DEI strategy was creating our Commitment of Belonging, that declares proudly and loudly to everyone interested in our programs, the values that we hold as an organization. This commitment is now part of our organizational DNA. Potential students applying to our programs receive this as part of their application process.

We ask them to read and sign this commitment before we even consider their application. Our DEI strategy has also meant that we offer an automatic 20% discount to BIPOC folks, and we’ve offered scholarships to individuals we especially want to support through our programs. While this may seem like a short-term measure, my eye is on the bigger picture in the long term. I see Step 1 as increasing the diversity within our student population. Step 2 is in identifying students who show potential as instructors, so that we can also bring more diversity into our faculty team. This bottom-up approach helps us to identify gaps in our DEI strategy, policies, and practices. Getting feedback from our students is especially important in identifying these gaps. A small shift can make a big difference.

Since implementing our DEI strategy, our student demographics have shifted from being only 9% of black, indigenous, and people of color, and/or openly LGBTQ+ folks to almost 25% in the last 3 years. In one workshop recently, 50% of the cohort were people of color and/or openly LGBTQ+. This significant increase represents the undeniable impact of centering diversity, equity, and inclusion in our enrollment strategy, and is a step towards honoring our vision of making our trainings accessible to those who are historically under-served. By offering a safer and more inclusive experience for folks who have traditionally felt unwelcomed into this space, we can support practitioners to serve their communities from within their cultural contexts. This is what it means to turn DEI from an acronym into action. These are the themes that we explored during the summit.

If you were unable to attend the summit on the day, and this has piqued your interest, please go to our summit website, and join us in community. The summit is now available to purchase with lifetime access so you can take your time to digest the materials. Watch how our presenters and panelists navigated difficult conversations, created opportunities for connection, and ask important questions about what comes next.

To all our presenters, panelists, attendees, and all of you who are committed to doing this hard work – thank you for being part of the journey with The HERD, and I look forward to our continued connections!


Executive Director

Not gonna lie – the past three weeks have been a struggle for us here at The HERD! Due to unforeseen circumstances, we found ourselves short staffed during our busiest time of year. Leading an organization through a rough patch without putting undue expectations and burdens on staff members who are already working at capacity is a juggling act. I’m grateful to our team behind the scenes who were willing to step up and flex with changes. It’s at times like these that I really feel the complexities of running an organization and recognize the importance of communications within our community. And while there will always be bumps in the road, our commitment to our core values of creating an intentionally inclusive learning environment through a lens of cultural humility remains front and center.

Amid our scrambling to find a staffing solution, I was momentarily persuaded to consider outsourcing our requirements offshore. My friends who work in corporate environments encouraged me to explore hiring a virtual assistant through an agency that contracts workers in India and the Philippines. They gave me solid business (i.e. financial) reasons why this would be suitable for my needs while allowing me to get tasks completed, suggesting that I needed someone to fill the gap so why not try this as an interim arrangement. There were so many logical reasons why this was a good idea: cheaper, more efficient, task-focused workers who would be paid an hourly rate above what they would get locally for similar roles, so surely there was no ethical dilemma? “These people are grateful for these jobs and the level of pay, and they work really hard”, I was told.

Maybe. Maybe not. With my business lens, I could absolutely see how this might be beneficial to me. With my ethical lens, I could not justify this colonial perspective. But I dithered and was persuaded to try it under the guise of no harm, no foul – and I was desperate for help.

Ultimately, after one day, I realized that I had gaslit myself. Every fiber of my being was rejecting the dynamics of the situation, so I put a stop to the process. This was not okay. It did not align with our values as an organization; it did not feel authentic or relational; and I felt I had compromised my core beliefs. The shame that came with this realization was enormous and yet I am grateful for this experience. Now, I know how easy it can be to choose convenience over actually walking the walk. Now, I know that at times of struggle and moments of desperation, I will make mistakes but will also have the courage to correct them. Now, I know with certainty, that my actions speak louder than words and that if I am truly committed to doing the work required to dismantle systems of oppression, I need to pay attention to ways our society condones these systems by couching them in business efficiency. It’s also yet another reminder to listen to my gut.

With that said, I can proudly announce that we are open for registrations for our 2nd Diversifying The HERD Virtual Summit, which will be held on Saturday, September 10, 2022 from 9am – 6pm EST. This year, we are focusing on the intersectionalities in discussions on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our keynote speakers, Abriana Johnson and Brittney Chambers, will present on how to decolonize your equine programs. We’ll be bringing back panelists Kathy Alm, CEO, PATH International, and Michael Kaufmann, from Green Chimneys, and introducing Nahshon Cook and Patricia Jackson, in a discussion on how to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion to all levels of your organization. We’ll be exploring what inclusion feels like and reflecting on what has changed in the 18 months since our first Diversifying The HERD Virtual Summit. Join us to learn in community, acknowledging what we don’t know, and the mistakes we make along the way, so that we can take intentional action to continue to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the equine facilitated industry.

I know I still have a lot to learn. I look forward to connecting with you all on Saturday, September, 10!


Executive Director

This year, I celebrated my first Independence Day as a US citizen. I hold deep gratitude for this land of the free and home of the brave that has become my adopted home. There’s so much that I love about this great nation. The opportunities that have come my way that have allowed me to create a business doing what I love could be seen as the epitome of the American Dream.

Hard work pays off, right? This belief that if you work hard, persevere, and focus on manifesting your dreams, meritocracy will reward you for your efforts, and anyone and everyone is capable of achieving upward mobility, success, and independence.

So, I got my head down and studied hard. I completed my PhD in 3 years (because I couldn’t pass up the bargain of flat rate tuition per semester rather than per credit hour – thanks to my Chinese value-for-money instincts, that nearly killed me). I was offered a publishing deal for my first book on my graduation day, established a training institute 3 months later, published my second book during the pandemic, and am now being honored by the American Psychological Association, Society for Humanistic Psychology, with an Early Career Award for Outstanding Contributions and Innovative Applications to Psychology.


It appears that I’m the first woman of color to receive this recognition, an award given to someone within ten years of completing a doctoral program. To say that I am overwhelmed would be an understatement. I am honored and grateful to the Awards Committee for this recognition, and as always, deeply moved by my mentor, Dr. Louis Hoffman’s, faith in my development and for nominating me for the award.

Now, for me to claim credit for this award as an independent achievement would be to collude with this fantasy that the American Dream is available to all. I did not achieve any of this on my own – nor would I have wanted to or have any desire to claim to. I was able to complete my doctoral program without the need for overwhelming student loans due to my family’s support; I absorbed by osmosis astute financial acumen from a family of entrepreneurs; mentors connected me with publishers that they had published through, and I had role models who encouraged and supported me every step of the way.

The reality is that I have lived an enormously privileged life and the opportunities that have come my way were borne out of these privileges, and unlikely to have landed in my lap were it not for these privileges. Of course, I also exist in the intersections of being a person of color and have other experiences that are less privileged, but that’s also why I’m engaging with this topic here. As equine facilitated practitioners, we pride ourselves on meeting our clients and horses where they’re at, which necessitates a deep dive into our own implicit biases so that we can show up and engage with them without doing additional harm.

My focus over the past few years has been to create a soft place to land for black, indigenous, and people of color in the equine facilitated industry, as well as for other marginalized folks who have always been part of the horse world but rarely acknowledged or seen for their contributions. It’s been scary to put myself out there as an agitator in our industry and while there’s definitely
been pushback on my message for the need to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the equine industry, I’ve also been supported by a number of people who understand the need to challenge the status quo.

I’m grateful to those individuals who have stood as allies in this process, in particular, Kathy Alm, CEO of PATH International, and Shannon Knapp, Founder of Horse Sense of The Carolinas. The advantage in working with horses is that since the power dynamics that are present in human systems of oppression have directly translated into how humans relate to horses, by challenging those dominant ways of being with horses, we are able to help folks see the parallels in the human world. We recently launched our Inclusive HERD™ workshop series which offers mental health practitioners, coaches, and educators an equine facilitated experience while exploring their own understanding of what it means to be inclusive, and the impact this intentional inclusion can have on their clients.

I feel like this Early Career Award is a professional coming-of-age moment, an opportunity to pause and reflect on how far The HERD Institute has come, and to offer gratitude to all of YOU – our students, graduates, members, and faculty team for everything that you contribute towards this incredible community that we are co-creating. For me, Independence Day isn’t about forging ahead, alone and disconnected, but rather the acknowledgment of the power of joining forces towards a common goal and the necessity of being interconnected and knowing that we are all in it together. Independence Day always brings forth a revolutionary spirit and I am so thankful to be fighting the fight for diversity, equity, and inclusion, with all of you. Thank you for being a
part of this community.


Executive Director

What I love about being a therapist is that I have license to be curious about everything that happens between me and my client in the therapy process. I am eternally fascinated by how people assimilate novel experiences, challenge their habitual patterns that no longer serve them, and how in that process we can collaborate to find a new way of being-in-the-world that allows them to live more freely, with purpose and meaning, and raise awareness of those moments when they feel stuck.

While I hold an extensive list of credentials and academic experience, much of what I’ve learned in how to be a therapist, coach, and educator, with or without horses, has come from thousands of hours of practicing what we teach, honing those skills by living and breathing them, rather than reading about them. This embodied way of working is fundamental to the HERD approach and for many of our students, getting in tune with their bodily process is their biggest growing edge.

Many of you will be familiar with our talented faculty member, Alison McCabe, who has been instrumental in the development and delivery of both our Equine Facilitated Learning and Psychotherapy Certification programs. Alison and I have known each other for about ten years now and I am so incredibly grateful and honored to call her a friend and colleague. Over the years, we have become familiar with each other’s ways of being-in-the-world, enjoyed countless conversations that dig deep into our emotional processes, and shared the joys and heartaches in our lives with each other. Through recent conversations with another faculty member, Elizabeth McCorvey, we realized that Alison’s “method” of embodiment needed to be shared with the wider world.

The McCabe Method™ is striking in its “simplicity”. I put quotation marks around that to acknowledge that while the concept is simple, the process is hard! Between Alison, Elizabeth, and I, when the going gets tough, we refer to the need to McCabe it:

Name it. Claim it. Love it. Feel & Move through it.

  1. Name it: What is happening right now? What is the emotion? What is the felt sense of the situation?
  2. Claim it: Whose emotions are these? What belongs to me and what is being placed on me? Can I claim my part in the process? What feelings come up when I claim it? Most importantly, can I claim it and accept it with absolute acknowledgement that it is part of me without distancing myself from it?
  3. Love it: How can I hold compassion for what I have claimed is mine? Especially when it comes with a hint of shame or judgement on myself, am I able to hold a loving attitude towards that part of me?
  4. Feel & Move through it: Where am I feeling that in my body? What happens when I focus on that? Do I need to move my body to allow for more awareness and/or for that feeling to dissipate? Am I able to let it go with the movement? What do I need to let go and what do I need to hold onto? How does this shift impact the relationships I am experiencing with those around me?

What’s happening for you, right now? As you’re reading this, pay attention to your own bodily sensations and notice what comes up. Next time you feel a rush of emotions in response to an interaction or event, allow yourself to McCabe it and see what happens. From experience, I can tell you it’s a game changer. We have tried and tested The McCabe Method™ in countless situations. For me, it’s a great way to remind myself of staying with the 3 Key Principles of The HERD Model: Here and Now, What and How, I and Thou. It’s also an excellent reminder that whatever I’m experiencing, I’m not experiencing it on my own. After all, as we always highlight in our HERD Community, it’s all about relationships, we are all connected, and we all belong.


Executive Director

May was Mental Health Awareness Month. It was also Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Additionally, folks have also celebrated May Day, Star Wars Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Mother’s Day. Aside from Star Wars Day, when I feel compelled to respond to every meme and greeting of “May the Fourth be with you” with “May the Horse be with you”, each of these events and highlighted issues feel complex to me in how we honor and/or celebrate them. I’m aware of conflicting emotions around how I might identify, or not, with the issue and my struggle to be intentional in how I engage.

As a therapist, of course I want to bring awareness to mental health issues. I want to challenge the stigma that is so often associated with needing mental health support. I want to humanize rather than pathologize those with mental health diagnoses. I want to highlight the discrepancies in levels of care and the obstacles to treatment for those in marginalized groups. Most of all, I want folks to understand that there is hope and a way out of the darkness of the depression, isolation, and shame that they might be experiencing.

But mental health isn’t only about medical diagnoses. It’s about recognizing our own limitations and the expectations that we set ourselves, while also knowing that the ability to attend to self-care is a privilege many do not have. It’s about acknowledging that we are not superhuman and that the 40-hour work week was never designed for us to do it on our own, and that the system is skewed by patriarchal values to leave many women with the larger burden of care while chasing after the myth of a work-life balance. Mental health awareness is in understanding that the American Dream is built on the backs of those who disproportionately do not have access to mental health care and are often also those who need it the most.

As an Asian woman in the United States, and as a newly sworn in citizen, this is the first time that I am celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month as an Asian American. That terminology feels both familiar and alien to me. Am I American now? I have an American passport so legally and technically I am, and I have lived in the United States for over a decade now, but I am also aware that I do not share the experiences of many Asian Americans, their struggles, their identities, or their history. I’m conscious of not co-opting the experience of Asian Americans with my British Chinese way of being in the world, which is an entirely different heritage. This nuanced awareness and intention of not engaging in cultural appropriation also showed up in my lack of desire to celebrate May Day and Cinco de Mayo. For me, the history and heritage of these celebrations are sacred and not a vehicle for commercialization.

All of these dates are celebrated and commemorated in different ways within the cultural communities that honor them and yet so often become co-opted by mainstream culture into a commercial venture without acknowledgment of the meaning behind the celebration. How many people know the heritage and meaning behind Cinco de Mayo? How many of us have participated in celebrations with drinking and festivities without thought to what we are celebrating? Or joined in with May Day celebrations without awareness of the cultural differences this day represents? Are we reveling in the start of the summer season or are we revolting against the tyranny of capitalism? Are we celebrating Mother Earth from a Pagan tradition or honoring those who fought valiantly against unjust labor laws?

I happened to be in Europe on May 1st this year and was reminded that May Day is a public holiday, akin to Labor Day in the States. I had forgotten the significance of May Day and it was a great reminder of how easy it is to become centered within one’s culture/environment/nation perspective to the exclusion of a more global view. I’m thankful for the privilege of experiencing different perspectives.

I was moved to tears when a friend sent me a text on Mother’s Day. Knowing that this day is always accompanied by grief for me, she wanted me to know that in her mind, the definition of a mother is an important female figure in the origin and early history of something who shapes and changes the lives of those in her care, and for that reason she wanted to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day on behalf of all those I have cared for as a human educator and therapist, and guardian of my non-human children. This shift in perspective feels so precious to me and allows me to hold both grief and gratitude simultaneously.

So, as we transition into a new season, I’m attending to this process of (re)evaluation. What and who do I identify with and/or want to be aligned with? How do my values and beliefs show up in my actions? How might a shift in perspective help me to understand another’s experience? What actions can I take to challenge the status quo to help dismantle systems of oppression? What am I moving towards and who am I journeying with? And, how can I take care of myself while doing all that? I invite you to join me in this quest to increase awareness, alignment, and alliance to what matters most to you.


Executive Director