Wow! What an incredible ride these past few days have been. One week post-conference and I’m still basking in the joy of being in community. I am overflowing with gratitude and excitement about what will come from all the connections made. Thanks to each and every one of you who made this event such a memorable experience. Together, we forged connections, shared wisdom, and created a warm and inclusive space that aligned with our values at The HERD Institute® of ensuring that everyone feels seen and heard.

One of the coolest things about this conference was the awesome blend of perspectives. We celebrated not just our different backgrounds, but also the diverse ideas and experiences we brought to the table. I am so grateful to all our speakers for sharing their love and passion for their work, and for stimulating such interesting conversations. And it wasn’t only that our speakers were rock stars, but it was YOU, the attendees, who really brought the house down. Your questions, insights, and stories were the secret sauce that made this conference sizzle. Every chat, every panel discussion, it was all powered by YOUR willingness to lean in with curiosity and openness. In planning this conference, our aim was to foster an environment where we could challenge the status quo and bring more diverse perspectives to the forefront of our field. From our Oasis space to conference facilities, we were all about making this event a place where everyone felt not just welcomed but embraced. And the feedback and buzz on social media has certainly been a testament to that.

I know that many of our community were unable to attend the conference. I know that it’s not possible to recreate the feel of the conference for you, but I’m hoping that you’ll be able to share in the love, nonetheless. We are currently working on the conference recordings of the key presentations so that we can share those with you. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of that. In the meantime, we’ll be inviting all attendees and HERD members to our next virtual HERD Gathering to debrief and share their experiences of the conference, ask questions about anything that was left over, and most importantly, continue our connections.

As part of the closing ceremony at the conference, we created a collaborative poem. In sharing our insights, experiences, and hopes from the conference, we were able to weave together our journey:

Sharing The Love of The HERD

The journey builds community. Start together.
Sharing wisdom through relationship –

Horse-centered relationships with common purpose

Belonging in this group and being felt

lets us destroy the colonialism we were dealt.
Stronger together with infinite potential
our minds expand as we contemplate the possibilities…

while shoveling shit

Leadership is knowing when to pivot

and when to stay steady

for the sake of your herd
Inspire heart-felt transformation and being embodied badass,
9 people came together and agreed why is collaboration hard,

it’s the vulnerability of generosity and authenticity.

Drop the mic.

Holding space for one another is validating.
Our connections revitalize our spirit and purpose

A sense of belonging is the heartbeat of The HERD!

My hope is that the connections we made will continue: collaborate on projects, stay in touch, and support each other’s ventures. Let’s carry the spirit of inclusivity, diversity, and belonging forward. With hearts full of thanks, we’re excited to see what amazing things will come from this shared adventure.

With love and gratitude,

Executive Director

We’re thrilled to announce that the big day is approaching fast – just ONE MONTH until the Sharing Space with The HERD Conference, and we couldn’t be more excited! It feels like we’ve been assembling an enormous jigsaw puzzle, and you, our amazing attendees, are the missing pieces that will complete the picture, each of you adding your unique perspectives to the vibrant landscape of our industry. We can’t wait to witness this collective brilliance come to life!

We’ve spent months gathering folks from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and modalities to present at the conference. Like individual puzzle pieces, each presenter will bring their expertise, passion, and wisdom to our gathering. From our keynote speakers to our industry panel experts, they will be the core of our conference; inspiring, challenging, educating, and igniting transformative dialogues.

Throughout the journey of planning this event, we’ve witnessed the edges of our jigsaw come together, forming the perfect container for our conference. Our venue, vendors, staff, and volunteers have passionately worked together to fit all the pieces together, ensuring that we hold space in a way that cherishes the beauty of diversity and celebrates our HERD Institute culture. As we approach the big day, we’re meticulously discovering the last pieces of our puzzle. The final touches and details are always the most exciting part of event planning! From our HERD Gatherings and Meet the Author table to our Denim or Diamonds HERD Banquet – we’ve got something for everyone.

So, if you haven’t registered yet, consider this your personal invitation to join us in piecing together this unique event of learning, connection, and growth. Whether you’re attending in person or online, we can’t wait to connect with you soon!

Get ready to be a part of our collaborative jigsaw, where you can contribute to a beautiful picture of inspiration and knowledge.

With gratitude,

Executive Director

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,

Executive Director

I just got back from an incredible week of reconnecting with friends and family in the UK. England is stunning this time of year and I was able to fill my senses with the beauty of our green and pleasant land. Lying on the grass in the middle of a field full of buttercups, inhaling the distinct smell of sweet British summer meadows in the Derbyshire Dales, surrounded by birdsong and the sound of the bubbling creek nearby is where I long to be. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to reconnect with some of our HERD students and graduates too. We spent a fabulous day nerding out, practicing facilitation skills, and hanging with a wonderful herd.

Time seemed to slow down in these moments of connection: dinner with colleagues at a local pub that was straight out of Faulty Towers; an evening spa date with a dear friend; dim sum with my nephew as an early birthday treat; a quick coffee with a friend and colleague en route to an impromptu meeting with another friend whom I haven’t seen for 8 years who also happened to be in town; and family dinners that stretch into the early hours while we catch up on each other’s lives in ways that aren’t available via Zoom or Facetime. It’s in these moments that I find myself drinking in the love and laughter, greedily gulping it down with hopes of filling my cup with more, knowing that these moments will help sustain me through the inevitable homesickness that will hit me when it’s all over.

While I am deeply grateful for the life we have built in the States, and I’m more American now than British in some ways (so I’m told when I go home to the UK), that yearning for the feeling of home is always with me. The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of home linger for a while before being replaced by the heat and humidity of the Floridian summer, complete with daily thunderstorms and the threats of hurricane season. There are additional risks too these days inherent in international travel. My husband just tested positive this morning for Covid-19 (again), no doubt from the 9 hour transatlantic flight. So far, I’m negative but I’ll be amazed if that lasts.

All this got me thinking about the risks that we take to build connection. It’s a vulnerable state of being when we open ourselves to others. We risk putting ourselves in harm’s way, be it from disease or the unbearable knowledge that disconnection will follow. It’s worth it though, isn’t it? To be seen and heard is terrifying sometimes, but when we are met in that space and embraced for all that we are, it can feel like coming home.

That’s the feeling that we want to cultivate in our HERD Community. Take the risk and join us in person at our conference in September. I know I’ll get the post-conference blues, but I’m so looking forward to connecting with you all!

Executive Director

Find Your Growth Opportunity Here

I’ve been on a crazy, wild ride these past 14 weeks. Last September, I applied for a scholarship to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program and was accepted in the Spring Cohort. The program is like a mini-MBA, with a grueling schedule of about 20 hours a week studying, geared towards creating a “5 Year Growth Plan” to be pitched to Goldman Sachs executives and fellow scholars at the end of the process. It was a LOT. I was thrown back into the corporate world that I had intentionally left behind many moons ago, and I questioned my competence, capacity, and capability every step of the way. Not to mention my sanity for embarking on this journey voluntarily. I found myself doing a deep dive into my motivations for growing The HERD and what I really wanted to offer. Underneath it all, I discovered that the catalyst and “why” for doing what I do was all too familiar.

I’d been struggling with something that I didn’t realize many small business owners face. Despite surrounding myself with a team of trusted colleagues and creating a community of like-minded folks, running your own business can be a lonely experience. By inviting my friends to work with me, I’d introduced a new dynamic in our relationships where I need to set clear boundaries. I can no longer go to them with my struggles and frustrations in the same way, particularly if it’s related to how I’m feeling about team dynamics and/or management challenges. I’m also spending more time on the daily to-do lists of running a business rather than focusing on what sets my soul on fire in client work, teaching, and writing.

The outcome of the whole Goldman Sachs process was to produce an investor pitch that would talk about scaling my business, exploring growth opportunities to increase revenue and gross profit, and provide evidence of competitor advantage. After all, we exist in a capitalist system of scarcity that has primed us to view our peers as competitors. While I learned a lot and developed skills that I never thought I could, it also confirmed for me that my abundance mindset and collaborative spirit means that I’m not “in it to win it”. In turn, this means that my growth opportunity will look very different to the intended outcome.

For me, personal and organizational growth occurs when our personal and professional values are aligned. Arnold Beisser, a renowned Gestalt therapist, talked about the paradoxical theory of change, wherein change occurs when we become more of who are and not through attempts to become who we think we should be (I’m paraphrasing). My growth opportunities are abundantly clear: to find ways to collaborate more with leaders in the field to create more opportunities for learning for all. My hope is that we can also support each other as business owners so that we don’t feel so alone. The good news is that we are already doing this through our upcoming Sharing Space with The HERD Conference.

Industry leaders from the various training providers of equine assisted services will be joining us for panel discussions and presentations: Lynn Thomas from Arenas for Change (ARCH), Bettina Shultz-Jobe from Natural Lifemanship, Kathy Alm from PATH International, and Leif Hallberg, creator of the Embodied Awareness in Action™ program, and myself will be sharing the stage to discuss what collaboration looks like between us and what growth opportunities are available to us all. I am grateful for each of these incredible leaders and practitioners for supporting and sponsoring this conference. I am looking forward to connecting more deeply in this space.

Register Here: Payment Options Now Available

Join us and discover what your growth opportunities are. What are you waiting for? Register now!

Executive Director

Four years ago, HERD Operations Executive, Sarah Morehouse, and I started dreaming about creating an in-person conference for our community. We wanted this to be a space of collective celebration of the work of our students and graduates, their commitment to their communities, and acknowledge the gift of our equine partners in these endeavors. Then, of course, the pandemic hit us and everything that we had planned was put on hold. Now, finally, the time has come for us to gather in-person to create this space. I cannot even begin to tell you all how excited I am.

Our team has been working hard behind the scenes to get things prepped for this in person conference. The theme is Sharing Space with The HERD. We want to offer a space of co-created experiences that focus on collaboration. Our vision statement proclaims that we “offer an inclusive environment that embraces an attitude of abundance to honor the potential of all our members”. This means that we need to challenge existing practices, change our mindset, and create a culture of collaboration over competition, moving away from the historical landscape of conflict and lean into cooperation, acknowledging our shared desires to make equine facilitated services more available to those who need it most.

To this end, our Sharing Space with The HERD Conference will include industry leaders from the various training providers of equine assisted services. Lynn Thomas from Arenas for Change (ARCH), Bettina Shultz-Jobe from Natural Lifemanship, Kathy Alm from PATH International, and Leif Hallberg, creator of the Embodied Awareness in Action™ program, and myself will be sharing the stage to discuss what collaboration looks like between us. I am grateful for each of these incredible leaders and practitioners for supporting and sponsoring this conference. I am looking forward to connecting more deeply in this space.

General Registration is Now Open – Click Here to Register!

Our conference line-up can be found on our registration page. Among our speaker list, you’ll find educators from academic institutions that incorporate animal-assisted concentrations in their programs, equine professionals and veterinarians, and equine facilitated practitioners working with diverse client populations. I am delighted to be able to showcase so many of our HERD graduates and the work that they are doing as agents of change in their communities. With over 30 different presentations on offer, I’m already wishing that I could attend multiple sessions at the same time!

What are you waiting for? Register now!

Hope to see you there!

Executive Director

It’s been a busy few weeks at HERD HQ! There’s something about Spring that always sends me into overdrive: new connections, new student cohorts, new programing, new learning, new growth. I love the sensation of forward movement at the start of the year and seeing what I’ve imagined come to life. It appears that I’m not alone in this pattern as we enter into Spring conference season. I was thrilled to have been invited to the Living with Horses conference at Eastern Kentucky University to deliver a keynote to the most inter-disciplinary audience of psychologists, anthropologists, ethologists, and zoologists convening to place equine welfare at the center of human-equine interactions. I also just returned from New Mexico for the Society for Humanistic Psychology conference. It was the first in-person conference since 2019, as our 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic. This gathering has always been one of the highlights on my annual conference rounds and this one did not disappoint.

Arriving at the conference in Albuquerque, I was overwhelmed with emotion at seeing the familiar faces of many friends and colleagues. Each greeting, each embrace, and each warm smile offered and received felt like a soothing balm to my soul. I felt myself sinking into the collective exhale, a deep release from the years of yearning to be together again. In that process, I recognized that this was the community from which The HERD Institute came into being, with the support, love, and mentorship of so many, and through whose values I had found alignment with to spur me onto create a similar community. Humanistic values of authentic relational process as a vehicle towards fostering a sense of collective purpose and belonging run deep in my veins. I exhaled with each joyful embrace into a feeling of coming home to a place I feel seen and loved.

I am energized, revitalized, and inspired by these interactions. In thinking about our own in-person conference in September, I feel even more committed to creating a space where we can share our knowledge, skills, and wisdom, connect with one another on a deeper level, and find a place to stay awhile. Sharing Space with The HERD Conference is NOW OPEN FOR REGISTRATION for HERD Members only on a pre-sale discounted rate. We will have limited spaces for this conference so we wanted to prioritize our community members before opening for general admission. Come and join us as we gather in community to deepen relationships within our HERD.

Executive Director

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