Tag Archive for: community

I don’t know about you all, but 2024 has me exhausted already! I feel like I’m constantly running late, trying to catch up with my never ending to-do list, while spinning in circles to put out the fires I see every which way I turn.

This feeling isn’t new to me. I know that it’s my nervous system dysregulation staying on high alert because I’m so used to being in a state of crisis response that I forget that there’s an alternative way to be. And while it feels like this is happening 100% of the time I’m awake, I also know that it’s not true, that I do have moments where I feel at peace and settled. It’s just that those moments seem to be fewer and further apart. This was highly evident last week when our senior dog, Tyson, was sick with a GI issue and needed to be let out every 2 hours throughout the night. While my husband was able to take him out and fall asleep within minutes of coming back inside, it took me at least an hour each time to fall back asleep, my mind spinning with worry over Tyson.

So, when I woke up the other morning to find a comment on our Facebook page questioning our trauma-informed, social justice lens as to why we are discriminating against white folks in rural areas who want to access training with us by only offering scholarships and discounts to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), I felt my entire body respond on high alert. This is what Resmaa Menakem and other scholars refer to as a racial trauma response. I know it well and I have learned to navigate these instinctive reactions with mindful breathing, movement, and reaching out for support to ensure that I respond from a place of solidity rather than reactivity. I also knew that because this was in a public forum, many of our HERD Community members from marginalized spaces would likely be experiencing the same nervous system dysregulation in reading the comments. Not only did I now need to find support for myself, I also needed to hold space for others. As the comments thread grew throughout the day, I found myself expending emotional labor, time, and energy that was drawn from a rapidly draining well to attend to the conversation as it unfolded. It was a long day that was hijacked by one social media comment.

While the original comment was later edited to say that it was an innocent question to invite discussion, as the author felt “taken aback by the backlash” as others chimed in, I’m left wondering what impact they were hoping for? If the question was asked in innocence, it would suggest an expectation that it’s up to us to educate them about power differentials and the myth of reverse racism, or at the very least that we owe them an explanation of our admissions policies. Despite the fact that the comment was made in response to a post that outlined all the different discounts that we make available to increase accessibility – that they were actually eligible for – they focused on our BIPOC discounts. Did they want clarity on why that exists? If so, they came to the right place.

Because I’m not broadcasting this to elicit additional responses to the original thread. Nor am I sharing this as a “woe is me” narrative. I’m here to say that at The HERD Institute, we are firmly committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion, and we offer discounts and various scholarships to make training more accessible to meet this goal. For us, being trauma informed also means being social justice informed and that means working within a framework of cultural competency, which necessitates us all to look at our own perspectives and how we came to them. We are aware that this is a point of discomfort for some and we are open to sitting in that discomfort with people if they are willing to engage in that process. There are many training providers in this field and we encourage people to find a provider that fits with their values. We are not here to persuade you to see things our way. Our aim is to support our students who have chosen to train with us because of our values, to question how we know what we think we know, and how that impacts the world around us, specifically in the context of horse and human connections.

As the day unfolded, I noticed something magical. While holding space for our community, I received numerous messages from members checking in to ask how I was doing, effectively holding space for me. It was in this mutuality that my nervous system began to regulate, calm, and settle. I felt connected in the midst of the storm. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Gestalt therapists, Erv and Miriam Polster*, that in these moments connection “can only happen between separate beings…I am no longer only me, but me and thee make we”. As I exhaled, I realized that the only way to attend to my self-care is to recognize that it cannot be done in isolation. Healing happens in community through shared experiences, a sense of belonging and solidarity. I am proud of our HERD Community for leaning in, embracing our Commitment of Belonging, and putting it into action. It’s only when we can acknowledge that we are all connected, and that what happens to one of us, happens to all of us, that we can begin to challenge, change, and create a more inclusive way of being in the world.

With this in mind, I am thrilled to announce that our 2024 HERD CAMP: Journey to Alignment is now open for registration for HERD students, graduates, and General Members. CAMP stands for Compassionate Attuned Mentored Practice. We’ll be digging deep on how to take our Commitment of Belonging into Action during our time together. Look out for information coming your way on how to sign up!

With a grateful heart,

Veronica
Executive Director

In honor of Leap Day, we’re taking a leap of faith to let the secret out about what we’ve been planning for you all! The HERD team has been working hard since our inaugural in-person Sharing Space with The HERD Conference to create our next offering to meet the requests from our HERD community. Over the years, you’ve all been telling us that you LOVE that our in-person trainings are conducted in small groups. You’ve told us that you want more time to connect, more time to practice, and more time to reflect on your skills and growth. Above all, you’ve told us repeatedly that you want more discussions to stimulate and challenge the status quo of what it means to do the work we do with horses. I’m hoping that this announcement will meet these goals.

SAVE THE DATE FOR HERD CAMP!

Our next in-person conference isn’t going to be a conference. Instead, we are creating an intimate space for discussions, practice, and reflections. We’ll be hosted by Green Chimneys, a residential, educational, and therapeutic animal assisted center in Brewster, NY.  I’m looking forward to introducing you to their phenomenal team including my dear friends, Michael Kaufmann (Vice President) and Miyako Kinoshita (Farm Education Program Manager), who have been huge supporters of The HERD Institute over the years. I’m even more excited that you’ll get to interact with an incredibly diverse menagerie including camels, alpacas, goats, birds of prey – and, of course, their beautiful herd of horses.

We’re calling this event HERD CAMP to focus on the Compassionate, Attuned, Mentored Practice (see what we did there?) sessions that we’ll be offering, as well as to create the sense of belonging and togetherness of overnight camps. We have so many fun sessions planned for you all – complete with fire pits and s’mores – I can’t wait!!

We’ll share more information as we finalize our plans, but HERDsters, please make sure to save the date for now: September 20-22, 2024. Our camp theme will be Journey to Alignment. This has been a theme for us behind the scenes at The HERD through some significant shifts in our team dynamics and we want to share this process with you. We want to support your journey to find that which aligns with your values, your horses, your human team, and your natural environment. We’re hoping that your experience with us will help you to realign your practice for the mutual benefit of both humans and animals, reignite your passion for the work, and recharge your batteries by being in the company of aligned practitioners.

In order to curate the intimate small group experiences that you’ve all asked for, aside from our invited guest speakers, this event will be for HERD students, graduates, and Members only. We have very limited spaces available so keep your eyes open for registration information coming your way soon.

I’m looking forward to sharing space with you again soon.

Veronica
Executive Director