The HERD Institute It is with a heavy heart that we share the news that one of our beloved HERD members lost her battle with cancer last month. Kris Miner was a HERD EFL graduate and was working towards completing her EFP Certification when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of blood cancer. In life, Kris embodied love, grace, compassion, and courage. Building community and fostering connections was her passion. She was a leading voice in the Restorative Justice circles and was an active member of our HERD community. The world has lost a beautiful soul whose healing presence was felt by many and I am holding her family and our community with love as we grieve together.

When I think of the humans and animals I have known and loved who have passed, I am acutely aware of how deeply I want to hold onto those connections. I’d give anything to be able to sniff the head our beloved dog, Alfie, just one more time. To breathe in his scent and feel the softness of his fur in my face. I think of my grandma, the paper-thin skin of her hand in mine, and yearn to know how she feels about where my life has taken me. And I think of Kris, whose connections to the Wase Wapka community inspired me from the moment we met to work in collaboration with indigenous peoples to decolonize the work that we do in those communities. I want to feel her presence and continue to share our journeys as we did when she was alive. The idea of communicating with the dead deeply appeals to me. To know with certainty that there is life beyond this Earthly existence, find proof of it, and stay connected to those in the beyond brings solace and joy in tandem with an ever-present saudade. And I know that this certainty may not be possible.

I was watching the new Netflix show, Life After Death with Tyler Henry recently. It’s based on Tyler’s ability to communicate with those who have passed on. It’s beautiful and poignant. Tyler leans into the work that he does with grace and compassion, and I found the show fascinating and comforting. But it also got me thinking about what I believe in, what evidence I seek for those beliefs, and how I know if I can trust that evidence. It’s a deep dive into some rabbit holes!

Faith is to believe in something without objective evidence. Whether we are talking about religious or spiritual faith, holistic practices that science is yet to fathom, or the healing potential of horses, we all subscribe to a philosophical framework that is influenced by the culture and context of our experiences. My ancestors prayed to their ancestors for centuries until a couple of generations ago when the missionaries came, and then they were taught to pray to a different God. I wonder what that means and what may have been lost. I wonder what led them to subscribe to a wholly different set of beliefs. I see how my family have simultaneously upheld some traditional Chinese superstitions and beliefs in tandem with Christian doctrines. Do we simply pick and choose what fits in the moment? Hedge our bets with both? What prompts us to dive in the deep end and embrace a new creed and culture? Does that happen overnight or is it a process of incremental loss of our original foundations? Did those changes come about willingly or were they coerced? How does this connect to our sense of integrity? And in the context of the work that we do in the equine facilitated industry, what are the parallels of this process? See what I mean by rabbit holes?

My penchant for questioning everything is both a blessing and a curse. I was that child that asked questions incessantly. I was never content with any authoritarian “It just is” response. Things are never “just the way they are” and questioning why things are the way they are is essential to progress. In our industry, how we work with horses is based on what we were taught, situated within our belief systems and cultures. It’s important for us to question what we believe about the way our equine partners communicate and what we think they need to thrive. It’s essential to honor our horses’ experiences in a way that isn’t based on an acceptance of “it’s just the way it is”, because what if that “way” is based on assumptions and generalizations that are now out of date, or on belief systems that are not aligned with our own?

Inevitably, once we start questioning, it will lead to more questions. This endless curiosity requires a degree of stamina for not knowing, sitting with the discomfort of that, and a willingness to dig deep. The results may be unimagined revelations or frustrating dead-ends, or more often, segues into more avenues of inquiry. If you’re so inclined, come join us at The HERD. I’d love to know what rabbit holes you end up following.

Warmly,

Veronica
Executive Director