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Learning About Self in the Round Pen, Part 2!

After Gabby and Tim’s encouragement and support as they sat around the bonfire, Chris started the next day with a new perspective and a new attitude. He got back in the round pen with a new horse. The connection was going much better and Chris found connection through detachment to work best. There was a crowd watching him as he worked in the round pen this time and it didn’t bother him to be watched.

Jenn Pagone, NL instructor, clinical psychotherapist, and developer of Equid-Nexus, worked with him at this round pen. Noticing that he moved to detachment quickly, she asked why he didn’t stay longer in attachment. Chris reflected and replied that “attachment hurts: everyone I attach to leaves.” He didn’t want to build a relationship with this horse that he was then going to have to leave. Jenn shared that she felt that more than he could know, then proceeded to demonstrate connection through attachment and detachment with this horse.

Building on this success and self discovery, Chris continued his work with another horse in another round pen. This horse was Keebler,. With draft lineage Keebler felt huge to Chris. He was scared and intimidated to be enclosed in the round pen with Keebler. Keebler quickly had a strong attachment but then would detach quickly. He didn’t like Chris’s request for connection through detachment, ignoring his efforts. The NL principle if you are being ignored is to gently increase the pressure. Gabby noticed that Chris was having trouble increasing his energy to apply more pressure. She asked about his energy and Chris replied that he had more energy but was afraid of spiraling out of control. He has been the out of control angry person so increasing the energy scared him - his body sensations made him feel like he would lose control with increased energy. Yet as he managed his energy and emotions, he was able to successfully increase pressure without losing control, and Keebler connected to him. Another personal discovery, another success!

While Chris was having success today, Tim had suffered defeat early in the day. Now it was Chris’s time to stand with Tim and encourage and support him. Tim was ready to leave the training, but then he said, “I just can’t hide from it anymore!” Chris made his own recognition and replied, “Ya, I can’t run from it anymore.” Their mutual acknowledgment of what they both were going through helped to strengthen Tim to stay and get back in the round pen. Chris describes Tim as a super receptive person- willing to help everyone, constantly giving words of encouragement. But to truly help others, first we need to deal with our own stuff.

Tim decided to get into the round pen with Euclid. Yet even there he was ready to give up: he did not want to connect. Dawn observed that that neither Tim nor Euclid wanted to connect. No one had had success connecting with Euclid for more than a brief moment all day. Dawn pondered aloud what would happen if Tim decided to stay and work with Euclid as they both seemed to feel the same. She encouraged Tim to express his feelings to Euclid. Beautifully, Euclid responded to Tim’s expression of his feelings and their shared avoidance of connection by connecting with Tim for longer than he had connected with anyone all day. Tim was in tears at this connection. Dawn wasn’t aware of Tim’s struggle through the day but she turned to see several others in tears also. The training team and participants witnessed beautiful growth and connection and were there with love and support to celebrate Tim and his work to overcome!

Victory in the round pen!! It is not about the horses, it is about the person. Yet we are also helping the horses in their ability to connect, to recognize their needs, and to be strong in their relationships (even with other horses). In the round pen we make tremendous discoveries about ourselves and our relationships, about what scares us and about what holds us back. As we are honest with ourselves and with others we learn and grow!

As Chris said, “This isn’t easy. This isn’t a game. It isn’t a feel good [experience] 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.” Come join us in the round pen!

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