In 2020 the NL team got together on Zoom for a Christmas party. One of our trainers, Courtney White, guided us in a very robust and super competitive scavenger hunt. I’ll spare you most of the details, but, basically, The Jobe family won. Just sayin’ *shrug shoulders*. I’m fairly certain we left our friendly competition in the dust when we were the first to find “poop” in our house. As it turns out, Cooper had coprolite in his bathroom. Petrified poop won the game! It really was fun. Truly. Since we couldn’t be in-person. At Interconnected 2020, our first online conference, we connected through movement and music at the beginning of each day and through Fireside Chats (with an actual fire on our end) each evening. Each of us made nature mandalas in our little part of the world and shared pictures of them with each other. Our entire community went to great lengths to connect through the distance. It really was amazing. Since we couldn’t be together in-person. In 2021, at our Love and Grief conference, which was also online, I remember several powerful moments of intense connection, where with tears in our eyes, we felt deep in our bones that we were attended to. We knew that we were not alone. We held grief in one hand and love in the other, and we were changed. It, truly, was beautiful. Since we couldn’t be together in-person. Fast forward to 2023, our most recent in-person experience, the NL Sacred Landscapes conference. Imagine 75 people walking silently at dusk, some with lanterns, some with drums, some sprinkling cornmeal and tobacco or anointing oil as they moved. Our intention was to christen our community in our new home at the NL Headquarters and to bless the land that holds us. We began by listening to Mary Oliver play the kalimba – a sound we not only heard but felt vibrate throughout our entire body. A vibration that can’t be felt online, and that has been shown to have all kinds of physical and emotional benefits.
As we walked, we could hear each other’s steps, breath, the rhythmic friction of our clothes. The science of biological entrainment tells us that our hearts began to beat in rhythm with one another. Our brain waves began to dance in tandem. We certainly didn’t need science to tell us about the powerful energy exchange occurring, but science does happen to support our experience. It was palpable – it was powerfully felt and no words were needed.Because we were together in person. As we came upon the Back Forty at the NL Headquarters, the sun was setting as we watched the silhouette of our horses running across the top of the hill. We all stopped and watched in silence – a thin moment I will never forget. Never. My words don’t do it justice. The pictures don’t even come close to capturing what that moment was like, but those who were there feel it now. We were changed.Because we were together in person.
That moment was transcendent and transformative – it is a moment I will continue to come back to throughout my life. We were connected. With each other. To the ground on which we walked. With the sky. The trees. The horses. This kind of connection changes us. It just does. There is a lot of science to support what happened in that moment, but we didn’t need an explanation because we had an experience. At the top of the hill we did a calling of the directions to set up a sacred space (within us and around us) to do sacred work. We took a moment to look at each other – mirror neurons firing, co-regulation creating a tremendous amount of safety and nurture, our social neural networks lit up like crazy (if we must employ a bit of science to explain the magic of the moment) – we took a moment to really see our tribe, our people, the people doing this world-changing, legacy building work. My body is still buzzing as I recall our time together, in person.
As we walked the rest of the way home, I could hear people sniffling or openly weeping. We were together. Research suggests what we already know to be true – being physically together simply can’t be replaced online. It just can’t. Our physical bodies need each other to survive, to grow, and to heal. My heart needs your heart – literally – and yours needs mine. Research shows that if we are within 6 feet of each other our hearts will start to beat in rhythm. My eyes need your eyes. When we are physically together, eye contact affects our pupils and field of vision which affects our nervous system. My nervous system needs your nervous system, the electromagnetic field of your body, to regulate. It’s how our bodies work. My brain needs your brain. When we are within about 6 feet of each other, our brain waves begin to entrain. Mirror neurons fire like mad when we communicate face-to-face – it’s not the same online. In a very physical sense, we need each other. I am so thankful for zoom and online learning. Truly. It has made NL so much more accessible. It has provided a way for us to disseminate so much more information, but research shows that it can’t replace face-to-face interactions. It CAN powerfully augment them. It is certainly a powerful alternative when in-person experiences are not possible. Online learning has made it more feasible for us to focus on the experience you get when you take the time to be with us, because you have already learned foundational information online. I love and deeply appreciate online learning, and I believe we can embody what we learn online. Embodied online learning is a practice. That said, most of the time some in-person experiences are necessary to move beyond practice to embodiment – we must all wisely choose which experiences we will do while being held by the energy of place and person. Nowadays, we CAN be physically together. Place matters. We prepared a place for you. People matter. We are thrilled to serve you, be with you, and walk with you. This year we want to make it possible for you to be with us, in person, at your NL home. When you register before December 31st at midnight for an in-person training in 2024, onsite lodging at the NL HomePlace Inn will be included in your registration fee. We hope to be with you in 2024. Welcome Home.
Check out our winter and spring 2024 calendar here.
I have a close, yet at times conflicted relationship with the creative process, as I suppose many of us do.
My ambiguity goes way back to family dynamics, sibling rivalry, and all kinds of messages about my artistic ability that I internalized and then generalized to include all things creative. Some of these messages were somewhat inevitable – I mean, my ability to do the things that people typically think of when they think of artistic ability is severely compromised and, if you will, underdeveloped. I mean, really, it’s bad. Even my stick figures could use some serious help.
In my twenties I had legitimate panic attacks related to the need to draw anything. Anything at all. And if said drawing would result in any sort of assessment, the terror was even worse.
When I was getting my masters degree in counseling we were asked to draw a horse, a tree, and a person during an assessments class. In previous classes I had always managed to be absent on the “art therapy” day, but given that this was a summer class I could not exactly miss the entire day. AND I didn’t know it was coming.
I found myself in the bathroom hyperventilating, and feeling ridiculously foolish. . . and shamed. Later that evening, I told my roommate, who is absolutely the best artist I know (in the traditional sense), about my “horse, tree, person meltdown.” With gusto, I explained to her that I am NOT creative! She calmly and in a very matter of fact manner said something along these lines, “What do you mean you’re not creative? Of course you are. You are made in the image of a Creator – creativity is the very essence of the Divine.”
It’s been a process, but I believe now that in that moment with my sweet friend I began to find myself and embrace what I was created to do. I truly believe that we are ALL created TO CREATE – each of us in different ways. When we lose our ability to create, or when it is taken from us, we begin to lose our humanity.
The creative process is the process whereby we find life and meaning and purpose. It is the process whereby an idea is born, grows, develops, gets squashed, gets repaired, changed, or reinvented, and then somewhere along the way comes to fruition through a progression of thoughts, feelings, and actions, and then ultimately it is something we let go of. We share it with others. Sometimes this process is quite personal, but most of the time it requires relationship and collaboration with others.
The creative process is inherently part of experiential therapy and learning. The art of walking alongside people on their healing journey while holding space, holding the frame, gently guiding, supporting, and co-creating. I am definitely an artist, and I get to work with all of you – fellow artists, each of us refining our craft every day.
There are at least 5 key stages of the creative process:
Preparation, Inspiration, or Brainstorming;
Incubation, absorbing, or processing;
Illumination – the “AHA moment” where it all comes together;
Evaluation – deciding if it is worth doing;
Elaboration – bringing your idea to life; and
A step I added – share it, release it, let it go.
The depth to which I love this process is matched by the depth to which I hate it. Truly. I get to create a lot through Natural Lifemanship – webinars, websites, blogs, programs, etc. BUT, my absolutely favorite creative endeavor is the NL Conferences. It’s also the thing I hate the most, truth be told. I think this community probably doesn’t need me to expand on this much, but the creative process can be just gut-wrenching at times. Those of us with a drive and passion to make a difference in the world, know all about the blood, sweat, and tears that go into our work. The labor of birthing anything is, at times, painful – pain beyond what we ever thought possible. Of course, the elation, connection, and love deeper than you ever imagined is what makes it all worth it.
Creativity is not just the work of artists, musicians, writers and designers. It’s an inherent part of the human experience, one that manifests in our daily lives as well as our work with clients and horses. At its core, creativity is our ability to envision new possibilities and create meaningful experiences that deeply resonate, which is exactly what we got to do when creating the Sunrise Summit and Sacred Landscapes conferences for you.
Here’s a deeper look at the creative process that went into designing this year’s NL Conferences and how we have infused every aspect of the conferences with meaningful experiences that you can’t get anywhere else.
Phase 1: Brainstorming
I LOVE brainstorming and dreaming. I have learned that some people in my life really enjoy this too, and others are annoyed because VERY little in the brainstorming phase ever really comes to fruition. I have learned that some people want to move straight into the evaluation stage, and so I feel like they are poopooing on my ideas, so it’s best to engage these types when I’m ready to evaluate if the idea is really worth doing.
This phase requires absolutely no commitment, so it’s my comfort zone for sure. Also, it’s a very important part of the creative process because it is where we find inspiration. During the planning for our upcoming conference we found inspiration in the natural world and in the many ways that we are nature. We found so much inspiration as we explored ideas about inner and outer landscapes, and how our horse and human herds live within these spaces.
Mary Reyolds Thompson has explored many of these concepts for much of her life – I almost cried when she agreed to do the online keynote for Sunrise Summit, opening our entire conference. By the way, if you missed the Sunrise Summit, you can still access recordings.
However, I gain the most inspiration for our conferences from relationship with our students – there always seems to be something we are collectively grappling with. NL has brainstorming documents planning themes, presentations, and flow for many more conferences to come. Have I mentioned how much I love this stage?
Phase 2: Incubation
This is the phase where you just set it all aside, and don’t purposely think about your idea. I do my best incubating during the rhythm of making dinner for my family. I have to keep my computer in the kitchen for this very reason, because it’s when my thoughts are incubating that my best ideas come. I take notes, I keep brainstorming, and it is inevitable that during one of my periods of incubation, it will magically all just come together. AHA – that’s it!
The NL Headquarters has been under all kinds of construction, and like many construction projects it has taken way longer than planned. This has given us a little forced incubation time. Incubation is typically not my jam – that’s why it happens when cooking, folding laundry, or in the shower. What I can say, without a doubt, is that unless I walk away and sit on it for a while, the next stage never really happens.
Phase 3: Illumination
Usually, all the preparation, inspiration, and incubation sets the stage for a clear moment of illumination. This moment happened during a call with one of our students as we were talking about feeling a bit lost and displaced as our digital community has grown.
I sense deep in my soul that our wider community is grappling with an innate desire for place.
Since 2020 our world has become more and more digital. It has allowed all of us to expand in powerful ways, but it is also the great paradox in the human services professions, because our field is one of connection, relationship, and hands-on experience. In this digital landscape, especially one in which most of our students have trained only online with us, to have a place that our NL Family can call home is simply magical. In this stage (which I circled back to later) I felt a strong sense that this conference would be all about introducing our community to their home with us.
Phase 4: Evaluation
Very few ideas actually make it past the evaluation stage. This isn’t always my favorite part because I feel like some of my best ideas die here because of practical things like money. Damn!
This is where we put pen to paper, do surveys, collaborate more, and try really hard not to get defensive when others think our idea isn’t worth doing. It’s here that you decide if you are going to forge ahead or go back to the drawing board.
Stage 5: Elaboration
Elaboration is all about bringing your idea to life. The active work of creating, destroying because you hate what you created, starting over, making mistakes, crying, cussing, and all the feels. Sometimes LOTS of cussing, but once we’re into this stage we don’t quit, because we know that it matters. It is important and worth doing. Even when we begin to doubt that it was the right decision we remind ourselves of the journey we went on to get here.
Stage 5.5: Illumination Take Two During Elaboration
The blood, sweat, and tears happen in the elaboration phase, and sometimes the thing you are creating takes on a life of its own. I love when this happens because it means I get an extra dose of illumination! Illumination feeds my soul and keeps me going when we’re in the trenches of the thing that matters. This also helps me prepare to let it go, because I begin to realize that it was never really mine.
This year as we were planning Sacred Landscapes, I found myself focusing on the experience we are creating more than ever – the experience continued to draw my attention and my heart. This conference is all about the EXPERIENCE!
We have planned how we will walk together (we discussed this a bit in this webinar), how we will move together, and how we will transition from one thing to the next. How we will be together has become of the utmost importance as we plan. I have attached the NL Principle of the Circle which will guide our time.
You will get to explore and move throughout our NL Home to find all kinds of treasures – literally, we’ve been shopping for and planning a treasure hunt for you. Walking, moving, exploring, and finding little gifts left just for you. We have thought deeply about how you might spend your time between sessions.
Mary Oliver and I have spent an enormous amount of time in prayer, meditation, and thought as we plan the community property blessing that will take place the first night, and as we prepare for how we will come together as a community in preparation for each day and as we integrate all we have learned at the day’s end.
Each evening two food trucks will arrive so that you can linger on property for a bit longer. One ice cream truck and a taco truck called “The Raging Taco” who tells us to “Surround yourself with tacos, not negativity.” Yes please and thank you I say! Thank you NL Conference for telling us what you need! Of course you needed tacos and ice cream!
The Darling Daughters will play their folk music rife with sweet harmonies and healing stories during our Family Dinner the first night and at our opening and closing ceremonies for the online conference. Terri Schanen with the Darling Daughters is a NL certification student and she reached out to us because she has written songs inspired by previous conferences. Experience, experience, experience! Yep, this conference has taken on a life of its own.
Each evening you can go home and rest or you can pick your flavor. . . at the ice cream truck and then from among a litany of activities to quiet your mind and your body, or energize it in a way that intentionally creates space for incubation and integration. There will be sound healing, drumming, meditation, story telling, and cowboy poetry, allowing us to connect with each other in new ways.
The teaching at this conference will be mind-blowingly good. We’ve told you all about the presentations on Facebook, and you can see the detailed schedule for Sacred Landscapes here, complete with all presentation descriptions. We know they’ll be good, which is why this year we are allowing NL certification students to apply conference attendance toward parts of Basic and Advanced NL Certification requirements (details can be found in your email).
This conference is about experience in every single sense of the word – even the tacos matter!
“It’s a practice of giving oneself to what can be learned or gained through experience and not just ideas of the mind. Once this embodiment takes shape and begins to live within you, the mind often has no choice but to let go and to adapt. You move with, cry with, and laugh with the story and the song of who you walk with. There is no turning back to what were only ideas.”
This, my friends and my NL family, is what our conference is all about. It’s a practice that we engage in together. I promise you it will be worth your very precious resources – all of them.
Stage 6: Share it, Release it, Let it go
I added this stage because this one is often the hardest for me. To officially be finished and share it with the world can feel so vulnerable. I have been frozen by perfection many a time at this stage – I’m ready to let it move from my hands to yours, but have just one more thing to change. . . and then another. . . and then another. . . and on and on. I must admit that solid deadlines do wonders for this struggle. The conference is coming y’all!
This conference will soon be yours. It will belong to all of us. We will create together. I have butterflies in my stomach as I adjust just one more thing and trust that what the NL team has created will be exactly what it is supposed to be. Registration closes on Thursday, October 19th, and we come together on November 8th. I hope you can join us!
One of our dedicated Natural Lifemanship practitioners, Sarah Willeman Doran, recently authored a chapter in the new book, Integrating Horses into Healing that details her transformational healing journey with horses and specifically, her transformational experience with Natural Lifemanship.
As a Dually Advanced Certified NL Practitioner and Equine Professional (Advanced NLC-P,EP), Sarah embodies our mission at Natural Lifemanship and we’re excited to share a brief recap of what she shared about NL. To read the full chapter and other life changing stories of healing and transformation, get the book here: Integrating Horses into Healing.
A Fallen Star
Sarah’s relationship with horses begins in the competitive world of showjumping. At a young age, she was competing at the Grand Prix level and was seen as a rising star in the sport. She knew how to get the most out of her horses and saw great success early on. There was no telling how far she could go.
But behind the scenes, Sarah had faced abuse from one of her coaches. She’d suppressed her trauma to continue to perform in the sport she loved, and didn’trealize until far later how damaging this was.
Sarah’s meteoric rise in Grand Prix jumping would come to an abrupt end following traumatic riding injuries. She would eventually recover to win an intercollegiate individual national championship riding for Stanford University, but would never be able to return to a Grand Prix jumping level, and stepped out of competitive horse jumping.
But her journey with horses would eventually take a new path. .
A New Beginning
Following early retirement from competitive riding, Sarah shifted herfocus todeveloping young horses. At the same time, she was also walking the path of personal growth and deep healing.
When Sarah came across the Fundamentals of NL and the Fundamentals Practicum, her relationship with trauma was changed forever. She found a new understanding of how trauma affects the nervous system, opening the way to greater self-compassion and healing.
“The NL model gave me a chance to work through nervous-system activation ‘in the field,’ which can create a more embodied and deeper experience than an office setting provides,” Sarah writes.
Finding early success with the Fundamentals of NL, Sarah went on to do a series of therapy intensives with her Natural Lifemanship therapist, each lasting three to four days.
“We processed a series of traumatic memories, and I truly felt my sense of them shift. It’s not that I’ve forgotten any of what happened, but now I can think of those things without feeling a jolt through my body,” Sarah explains.
Sarah’s third intensive session was her breakthrough moment, which she described as “coming out of a fog.” Finally able to process her trauma and have a deeper connection with her inner being, she gainedthe strength and wisdom to make positive changes in her life.
The Natural Lifemanship Institute offers Transformative Training
As Sarah continued to take NL courses for her own growth and her work with clients, she explained, “For me, at the trainings, some of my most powerful growth experiences were not even about the work with the horses. Rather, certain interpersonal moments were what the field of psychology calls ‘corrective emotional experiences.’ These were moments when I felt truly seen and cared for, when trainers recognized my needs and practiced one of the core NL principles: making sure not to take away the other’s sense of choice.”The following story is about one of these moments at an Intensive Practicum.
Sarah describes working with the paint horse she’d been partnered with:“It felt satisfying, as we practiced various ways of moving together in the pen and went on to haltering with connection. I later learned the owner said he was head shy, but at the time, our connection had evolved enough that he would move his nose toward the halter and stay relaxed as I brought it over his ears.” It was in one of these moments of quiet connection that a sudden burst of wind and rain swept through the arena. In a split second the horse lost awareness of Sarah, and she narrowly dodged him as he swung his head and took off.
When Sarah returned to the horse, he was agitated, running from one side of the pento the other, unable to calm down. When she asked for his attention, he would buck and kick at her, at close range.
“I was still focused enough on performing well and pleasing others that I persisted in the pen to a point of complete exhaustion, trying in vain to raise my energy and bring the horse’s attention back to me, to help him connect and calm down,” Sarah said.“By the time I told one of the trainers that I was too exhausted to make any progress, I was in a state of nervous-system freeze that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. It felt familiar. . . I was afraid to tell anyone the extent of what I was feeling, and as usual, I looked basically fine from the outside. I had learned, through many years, how to keep going through these things and not reveal what was happening inside.”
Sarah was worriedabout going back to training the next day. With her nervous system in overwhelm, she didn’t feel she’d be able towork with the horse safely if he was still dysregulated and aggressive.
“When I arrived, I asked one of the trainers if we could speak privately. When westepped aside from the group, I couldn’t stop the tears, and I felt ashamed. I told her what I was going through, and also that I was worried about letting the trainers down. What happened next felt like a miracle to me: she listened with total kindness and without judgment; she expressed the trainers’ full confidence in my abilities with the horses; and she said I did not have to work with the horse if it didn’t feel safe.”
Sarah tried to work with the horse again, but he was still in an agitated state, and Sarah was still triggered. She was used to being the tough horsewoman from her competitive days and tried to persist at first, but was quickly faced with a fork in the road. Should she continue to hang on to this persistence that made her successful in the competitive world, or was it time to let go and do what was best for her well-being?
Sarah, with the help of her NL trainer, decided to let go.
“This was an empowering turning point. At the time, in my evolution as a person, what I needed most was to choose to put my well-being first. Not only to choose that but to be supported in that choice. To see and feel that my safety mattered, that taking care of myself was not a cause for rejection or abuse of any kind, but rather led to an experience of safety,” Sarah said.“This is what the NL trainer provided that day. She sat with me beside the pen, supporting me in my decision. . . this was a transformative experience of expressing a boundary around my safety and well-being and having it honored.”
Sarah learned more than just how to let go that day. As someone who’d experienced multiple forms of trauma in her youth, it had been difficult for her to express and uphold boundaries. She had been in relationships where boundaries wereviolated, and hadn’t known how to break the cycle.
At that moment, she was able to make a new choice.
“As we heal, the choices in relationships become much clearer. If we express our boundaries clearly and repeatedly and someone still can’t honor them, the relationship isn’t healthy,” Sarah explains. “At that point, we can either attempt stronger ways to make our request, or we can choose to end the relationship.”That day, Sarah chose to end the relationship knowing that it wasn’t healthy to push herself to work with this horse.
She called this moment a fundamental shift and a vital one for her own healing journey.
The ripple effect of healing
“Learning and practicing Natural Lifemanship changes the way we live. When we improve our relationships, the healing effect ripples outward through those around us. The more we heal ourselves, the more powerfully we can help clients,” she said.
Like many healing journeys, Sarah’s has been long and painful. However, it has also been deeply rewarding. With the transformation she experienced through her Natural Lifemanship training and therapy, Sarah has seen long-term tangible benefits in her life.
With a healthier and renewed nervous system, her baseline state has transformed from stress into wellness. She no longer lives with chronic pain, she feels at home in her own body, and she’s able to build the kind of healthy, connected relationships that bring the greatest sense of meaning in her life.
Sarah is now a certified life coach and a mindfulness meditation teacher.She isbuilding her own Natural Lifemanship practice in Colorado, with plans to open a retreat center in the mountains.
Sarah is also an author, and you are sure to enjoy her writing. Here are some articles that focus on NL specifically:
We couldn’t be more grateful to Sarah for sharing her journey of transformation with Natural Lifemanship. The beginning of Sarah’s journey is like so many for our NL community – it all begins with the Fundamentals of Natural Lifemanship.
If you’re ready to learn the principles of Natural Lifemanship, join us for this life-changing training.
We are beyond thrilled to share an amazing new resource for the field edited by Cheryl Meola. We had the honor of contributing severals chapters to this book. When she approached us about contributing chapters, Cheryl said she wanted this book to be a resource for people newly entering the field of equine-assisted services. We were asked to write in a “newbie”-friendly way. That said, we believe this book is equally valuable for seasoned professionals and for those new to the field.
Here is a list of the book’s chapters with the titles we contributed in blue:
Natural therapeutic aspects of horses by Cheryl Meola and Malaika King Albrecht
The evolution of equine-assisted services (EAS): horses are good for people by Lorrie Renker, Octavia Brown and Pebbles Turbeville
Horse Speak and Partnership by Sharon Wilsie and Laura Wilsie
Relational Equine-Partnered Counseling (REPC) by Hallie Sheade
An in-depth approach to relational work with equines: Natural Lifemanship by Bettina Shultz-Jobe and Kathleen Choe
Breathing into relationships: the HERD Institute approach to equine-facilitated psychotherapy by Veronica Lac
Side-to-side astride: the benefits and challenges of equine mounted work in trauma processing by Susanne Haseman
Blended therapy modalities in equine-assisted psychotherapy: integrating equine-engaged internal family systems (EE-IFS) and equine-connected eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EC-EMDR) by Jenn Pagone and Kathleen Choe
Medical therapy (OT, PT, SLP) enhanced with hippotherapy by Joann Benjamin, Ruth Dismuke-Blakely and Karen Gardner
The Equus Effect: a road to regulation through equine-assisted learning by Jane Strong, David Sonatore and Elizabeth E. Lloyd-Richardson
Serving those who served…and still serve by Tara Mahoney
Beyond mind and body: spiritual connections in equine-assisted services by Kathleen Choe and Laura McFarland
Be the Horse’s Advocate by C. Mike Tomlinson
Enhancing the horses voice: incorporating Horse Speak into psychotherapy by Susanne Haseman, Sharon Wilsie and Laura Wilsie
Exploring socio-emotional and cognitive development in horses by Tim Jobe, Tanner Jobe and Rebecca J. Hubbard
Not just horsing around: an equine professional’s guiding principles by Malaika King Albrecht
The role of the equine professional in equine-assisted services by Tim Jobe, Tanner Jobe and Reccia Jobe
Heart centered horsemanship: the horse trainer’s perspective in EAS by Stacey Carter
A holistic perspective: My transformative journey through Natural Lifemanship by Sarah Willeman Doran
Are we there yet? The ongoing journey of healing for the healers by Kathleen Choe
Interventions and strategies toward mental health and wellbeing for professionals by Aviva Vincent and Joanna Robson
Starting or restarting an equine-assisted services organization: Don’t put the cart before the horse by Nancy Paschall
The key to a successful non-profit board by John Matthew Kundtz
How do you know it works: Evaluating equine-assisted service programs by Maureen MacNamara
Bridging research and practice in equine-assisted services by Kimberly I. Tumlin
Conclusions and future directions
Each chapter in this book is contributed by an expert in the field and provides an overview of the topic plus concrete examples and helpful resources. We are so proud to have been a part of this effort and cannot recommend this book strongly enough!
Psst…when you order the book through the links in this article, we earn a small affiliate commission. This transparency is important to us, but since we contributed to the book, you know we recommend it whole-heartedly!
This week, we opened registration for the NL Intensive. One of the big questions we always get from our community is how the NL Intensive is different from the Fundamentals of NL.
The simple answer: Fundamentals teaches you a new way of thinking about your relationship with horses, people and yourself. The Intensive teaches you a new way of being.
The Intensive is the point in your learning that represents a complete and total paradigm shift. It’s when the old ways of doing, being and showing up are set aside and the new ways of being take root.
So, how did we come about this way of teaching and embodying the principles of Natural Lifemanship? It all began with my partner in life and in this business, Tim Jobe, in 1986 at West Texas Boys Ranch. Here is a snippet of Tim’s story.
In 1986, Tim was running a 40,000 cattle ranch when he decided to take a new job. There was a 5,000 acre farming ranch in West Texas that needed an experienced horse trainer to work with not only the horses, but also 75 displaced boys who lived and worked on the property.
“The horses were really well trained, but the boys couldn’t ride them at all,” Tim said. “Pretty soon, I realized it wasn’t the kids’ fault.”
Growing up, Tim experienced domination, control, and severe abuse in his family of origin. And like all of us, the nature of our earliest relationships extend to our way of thinking and being in our relationships with others, including those with horses.
“These boys didn’t know how to intimidate the horses the way I could,” Tim said. “But I decided that if I was going to be able to get those boys to ride, I had to find another way to interact with my horses – without power, domination and control. I had to help them learn to do the right thing because it was the right thing to do.”
Change your principles, change your techniques
Working at a boys’ ranch, Tim often went to staff meetings with child psychologists and other specialists. As he listened to the principles the psychologists used when working with the boys, he started to wonder why we don’t use these same human relationship principles when we work with horses.
“We have these patterns in our brain for what works when training horses,” Tim said. “We can consciously think about what would work better, but our bodies fall into old patterns so easily in practice. We can’t just destroy everything we knew before – we have to use all the techniques we know work, but with different underlying principles and a different body state.”
“Before starting on this journey, I would ask a horse to do something and just kept increasing the pressure until they did it,” Tim said. “But to do that, they had to quit thinking, quit feeling and just submit to everything I asked them to do.”
“Now, I understand that resistance is just a search for an answer, so when a horse resists, I keep my energy and my intention the same. I offer more connection.” Tim said. “I don’t want to remove my request because then I teach that the way to get your needs met is to resist. I have to maintain my request in a way that makes it safe for the horse to continue to search for answers, because if I increase my energy or the pressure they will submit, appease, or increase the resistance. This is one example of a small change that has made a big difference. . . and took a ton of personal work.”
Embodying the principles of Natural Lifemanship
This new way of being that Tim pioneered back in 1986 was the foundation for the principles Natural Lifemanship is known for today. Along the way, we have met people like you, who want to live in a world where connection and healthy relationships are seen and felt in everything we do.
To live in that world, we have to build it.
When our relationship with horses and people are built on trust, mutual respect, attunement and connection, the healing principles can transfer seamlessly to healthy human relationships with yourself and your clients.
On Thursday, March 9th, Tim Jobe will be in conversation with Kate Naylor about his discovery nearly 40 years ago, the transformation that took root for him during that season, and the personal journey he took to truly embody the principles of Natural Lifemanship – a journey he’s still on today. We hope you’ll join us for that conversation.
If you’re ready to join us on your own journey of personal transformation – and build the world we want to live in – join us for the NL Intensive.
“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”
We often speak about the breaking down of something old, and the rebuilding of something new. A process of transformation. Of repair. Of renewal.
All of which are essential to healing and growth.All of which sound quite lovely, and maybe even trite. . . unless you’ve experienced the breaking down of something old.Literally or figuratively.
You see, a very important part of our growth journey, as an organization, is the longing for space. A deep and growing desire for a place to call ours. A place to invite others from around the world for healing, learning, connection, guidance, reflection, and ultimately renewal.
This place, which we’ve often constructed in our dreams, is finally being built. Yet in the process of actualizing the space that was gifted to us and that we, in turn, are gifting to others – we first faced destruction.Demolition of that which no longer served us, the horses, or the land.
NL Headquarters, Back Forty
In the physical sense, we first engaged in the demolition of over 100 horse stalls that represented an old relationship with horses, one that departs from the relationship principles that we hold dear.
We tore down worn and tired buildings and fence to birth in their places more uplifting and inspiring spaces. While honoring wise and breathtaking trees, and the land that’s invited us here, we cleared dying brush and paved a road where hope could come, grow, and spread—departing back to its home.
The Destruction was Harder than I Expected
Call me naive, but I had this image of a huge wrecking ball knocking everything down, and WHAM! Just like that, the old is leveled.It wasn’t quite like that.It was much more slow and methodical and painful. Imagine squeaky machinery removing parts of buildings bit by bit.
There were moments of intensity, but taking down the old took much more time than I expected.And there was fallout – unintentional damage was done throughout this process.For example, water lines were busted and days were spent repairing this damage.And the clean-up, so much clean-up. . . This took even longer.
Once buildings were removed, the mark on the land still remained.The scar that shows what once was.Some parts of our land are now ready for healing and growth and the process of creating something new!
NL Headquarters, Back Forty
The Repair and the Creation
Honoring the belief that the land’s ability to offer and support healing is in direct proportion to how much the land itself is healed, we have enacted a plan that involves continual pruning, healing, growth, and creation.
We, as people and living beings, heal in the same way the land heals.Sometimes structures that no longer serve us must be identified, broken down, and removed.And it takes the time it takes.No quick fixes or wrecking balls.
My clients are the most amazing and brave people I know.I love it when they reach out to me because they’re ready to do the hard work of healing, and I often remind them that “hurry up and heal” isn’t really a thing.You can’t rush your healing (a song I recently learned from one of our Rhythmic Riding participants).
I have also recently experienced that there are consequences to rushing the destruction and the clean-up.Destruction that is necessary to make way for creation.
Land is resting and grass is growing.New fences are being built.A new well has been dug.Ponds are being developed to manage erosion.New septics, new windows, drywall, air conditioning units, and on and on.
We are currently in the process of refurbishing the inn, where our guests can rest—and just like caterpillars—prepare for their own metamorphosis. That is, their own destruction and rebuilding.
It is our humble hope that all who enter our gates will experience the safe breaking down of that which no longer serves them and the slow healing and deliberate creation that follows.
People searching for transformation—for themselves and for their clients.
People like you.
Communities like ours.
We look forward to both the demolition and the rebuilding that we will do together as a community.