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Learning About Self in the Round Pen

“This isn’t easy. This isn’t a game. It isn’t a feel good seminar that you remember for a day and a half and you’re done. This is something you carry with you for the rest of your life. It really put what we are doing into a visible perspective.”

So what is “this”? This was the in person practicum of the level one training that our staff is doing for Natural Lifemanship! The best people to help others overcome trauma are those who have overcome trauma themselves. People with big hearts who know the road, have traversed the valleys, climbed the mountains, and come out on the other side and are now willing to reach out to help others.

As such, Dawn hired a farm manager with near to zero horse experience: the only experience Chris had with horses was a very negative one. Yet when Dawn was managing the farm by herself in the winter, Chris showed up and demanded to help her (while working a full time job elsewhere). After arguing whether he would be paid for his work (with Chris saying absolutely not, and Dawn saying yes— guess who won 😜) and then working part time for months, we both took the leap of faith to full time resident manager for Chris. A year later Chris knows a lot more about horses, a lot more about Natural Lifemanship, and the herd hasn’t been happier.


Yet in spite of these months of working and learning, Chris felt wholly unqualified in the NL training at Soulful Prairies. He felt he wasn’t good enough and didn’t belong. This was a feeling Dawn could fully understand, remembering back to her first in person training. We train alongside counselors with years of experience, others with years of experience with horses, teachers, and other professionals from all walks of life. She tried to assure him he belonged as the manager of That’s the Dream and NL equine professional in training. He was training to be the best dang manager of our farm that he could be!

Chris decided he has good experience using the Natural Lifemanship principals in our herd. Focusing on this positive experience he overcame his performance anxiety and got in the round pen with the micro mini donkey. With the tension he was carrying he quickly blew past the donkey’s window of tolerance and the effort to connect did not go well. After this emotional blow, Chris moped around the rest of the day, watching others and feeling not good enough.

He met Tim Dippon, a military vet from Illinois also in training. Tim tried to encourage Chris to get back in the round pen to no avail. That evening they joined together with Gabby Remole, one of the NL instructors and a clinical therapist, around a bonfire. As they swapped life stories, Chris got the viewpoint of someone struggling with addiction and hurt by the addiction of others. The conversation caused Chris to reflect on his relationship with his own father, the traumas of his childhood, and on forgiveness.


While watching the flames of the fire, Gabby observed that Chris had stopped doing round pen work after working with the mini donkey. Chris shared with her how he felt he did not have enough qualifications and didn’t belong with this group in training. Gabby pointed to his strengths, his work with Tim Jobe, his previous successes, and his experience with the herd at That’s The Dream Farm.


Gabby encouraged Chris to focus on his strengths, at what he does have, and to not compare himself to others as we all are in different places. We all can benefit from doing the same.


Be watching for part 2 to hear more about Chris’s experiences at the training and how he and Tim deepened their connection.


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