Submitted by David McCorkle, Sanctuary Institute Faculty
I have been doing Five Day Trainings since the beginning of the Sanctuary Institute. One of the riches of the trainings in the beginning was working with a team of trainers. We had different training styles and learned from each other. Over the years, we have paired down the number of trainers in the interest of efficiency. In October, at The Crossnore School in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, I again co facilitated a Training with a team of trainers but only two were human, the other four trainers were Dakotah, Goldie, Rock Star and Willow. They are horses and a part of the Equine Therapy Stable at Crossnore. The other two people were the Sanctuary Co-ordinator, Kelly Smith and the Equine Therapist, Melissa Parlier. The three of us had decided to utilize the learning power that we had observed with the Crossnore children in Equine Therapy. We decided to use the horses in the Organizational Culture and Barriers and Obstacles segments of our training. We would not use bridles or a lead rope. It was a first and not only was I nervous about working with the horses, I wasn’t sure that they would agree to follow the training agenda.
The horses did agree to train us but in their way. We gathered in a standing circle for the beginning of our afternoon training. When we went back to our chairs, the horses were standing in or around our chairs. They clearly were ready to start teaching us. What they taught was that you have to speak clearly and gently and your posture must show love, respect and trust. The second we were dishonest or tensed up, they wouldn’t budge. When we relaxed into respecting each other, they led us through the Sanctuary Seven Commitments and SELF as we participated in the exercises. When we felt Safe, they were safe. When we worked on managing our Emotions, they were helpful. When we worked through our Losses of being in control , they trusted us. They practiced Future by showing us how feelings influence others and how our fears can be barriers to creating a new climate of mutual trust. They also showed us that our ways of overcoming obstacles can be very limited and unimaginative. Some stepped over the barriers while others simply decided to walk around the barriers. Others just decided to dismantle the barriers in a very strategic way. One gentle push of a hoof and the barriers came tumbling down. And all of this was done safely and side by side with us. The Evaluations of our training day were filled with comments that the trainees learned so much about Sanctuary by getting help from our horse trainers. Almost everyone, requested that every future training include the equine trainer team. The horse trainers deeply and completely taught us that we learn most fully not just by talking but by experiencing.