Recently, I was watching the inspiring Netflix series Queer Eye, a heartwarming reality show that focuses on supporting people in reconnecting with themselves. This year Queer Eye filmed in my hometown, Austin Texas! Double joy!
Not only did I get to see humans being good to humans, but they were my dear Austin humans!
Imagine my excitement when on episode 7, “Snow White in Central Texas”, the Queer Eye team introduced us to an incredibly selfless woman named Jaime who runs an animal rescue, “Safe in Austin” – and lo and behold, one of the wonderful opportunities presented to her in the episode was a chance to participate in Equine Assisted Learning with a Natural Lifemanship trained professional! Let me explain.
About the cast of Queer Eye
On Queer Eye there are five cast members, each responsible for a different aspect of the makeover process. One of the cast members, Karamo Brown, a former social worker, always helps the guest of honor get in touch with the emotional aspects of the makeover.
In this episode, Karamo took Jaime to a resort called Miraval, for rest and relaxation, as well as an equine experience with the talented Leigh Wright! Leigh has been learning with Natural Lifemanship since 2019 and her understanding of our approach is made clear in her facilitation of Jaime’s session.
A quick recap of what Natural Lifemanship does
At NL, we teach professionals a principle-based approach to Equine Assisted Services, based on the science of relationships, that can be integrated into their work with clients.
At the beginning of her session, Jaime was introduced to several horses and encouraged to feel into choosing which horse she wanted to work with. This is an approach NL advocates for, as it allows a real connection to begin to unfold between horse and human that is fully of their own making. Rather than Leigh choosing a horse for Jaime, Jaime got to experience the emotional process of choosing for herself.
Once chosen, Jaime and her horse entered a round pen in order for both to move freely while the two got to know each other.
Freedom of movement is so important for both the horse’s and Jaime’s regulation, as well as a part of freedom of choice – a fundamental principle of Natural Lifemanship.
Jaime and the horse both needed to be able to move into and out of proximity of one another in order to take care of themselves, regulate, and make choices. Jaime described how in her life she cared for everyone else, often putting herself last. Leigh encouraged Jaime to practice “making a request”.
What makes this unique to NL?
In Natural Lifemanship, making a request is the crux of the work. While it is enjoyable and often soothing to be near a horse and ask for very little (except perhaps allowing petting!), it is when we decide to make a clear request that vulnerability enters the equation. This is when we begin to really feel the sensations and emotions of what it means to be in a relationship.
When we ask for something, we are allowing the other to have an impact on us, we are communicating a need, and have to wait for the response. To do so, without assuming control of the whole dynamic, can feel daunting and bring up powerful feelings.
As I watched Jaime navigate this truth for herself, I was struck by how impactful this moment can be. Leigh offered kind and empathic support, while also observing Jaime’s difficulties to bring them into her awareness. As they continued, Leigh also suggested that Jaime might try asking for space – using the word “detachment”. Considering what I learned earlier in the episode about Jaime taking on the weight of the world and leaving her own care at the absolute bottom of her list – I thought this was another powerful insight from Leigh.
Diving deeper into “connected detachment”
Jaime really did not want to ask for “detachment” – the word coined by Natural Lifemanship to describe the aspect of a relationship that requires some structure and separation, while still maintaining an internal sense of connection (rather than constant nurture and physical closeness).
Detachment is often difficult for people (and horses!) because when we create space between us, we have to trust that our connection can still be strong. Jaime bravely practiced this in her session, and with Leigh’s warm support, she was able to ask for space and still maintain a connection! Confidence lit a smile on Jaime’s face afterwards!
In this small amount of time together, Jaime felt, in her body, what it meant to make a request of others and ask for space when needed – all without hurting the relationship she had begun with her horse. It was eye-opening for her. A beginning, of course, but a good beginning!
While Leigh has studied other models and uses her own blend of approaches, her integration of Natural Lifemanship principles into her work was a pleasure to see.
Way to go, Leigh!!!
You can integrate the NL approach into your life and practice
What we teach at NL is not a specific series of techniques or activities or interventions. Learning Natural Lifemanship means learning principles and the science of relationships so that you can integrate it into your practice in the way that best serves you and your clients.
Want to learn more about Natural Lifemanship and the principles used in Queer Eye? We would love to connect with you! Registration for the Fundamentals of Natural Lifemanship opens soon!
Thank you, Leigh, for your poignant demonstration of an Equine Assisted Learning session!
Thank you, Queer Eye, for bringing the power of Equine Assisted Activities to the public!
Want to support the incredible work of Safe in Austin?
Please visit their donations page.