The EAGALA method of equine assisted learning is based on the emergence of metaphor to raise and refine meaning and understanding. I just finished my second trip through the initial training. In one session, we were asked to work in small groups of four to practice and experience the role of both client and facilitator. During my turn as client, an unplanned metaphor emerged related to an issue of mine in dealing with conflict. Common to all of us was the unplanned nature of what we would do or what would emerge. Also common is the additional meaning that continues to bubble up later as the experience settles into the fabric of our understanding.
I chose a horse to work with based in part on its location in the arena – away from others offering a degree of privacy. By the time I approached, he had moved into the middle of activity. It seemed to me my first step would be to move him back to an area with a greater degree of privacy. Unfortunately, my four-legged partner didn’t share my plan – he simply stood there. I put my hand on his head in an attempt to move him forward. Something about the imbalance of strength that said loud and clear I wasn’t going to move him if he didn’t want to move. I’m not sure how it happened, but drawing on my limited understanding of horses, I stood next to him, my feet just behind his front feet and began to walk. To my surprise he walked with me and continued to walk in rhythm alongside me even as we passed multiple distractions. He’d occasionally stop. I stopped. I began walking again and he came along. We slowly circled the perimeter of the arena until I stepped away to let him go on his own. The equine specialists on my team shared the observation that his ears were in motion – maintaining a constant vigilance of where I was and what I was doing. For a good part of the walk, they noticed our stride was in unison – wasn’t my conscious doing.
So many places to hold this metaphor.
- To connect to the classroom – It is my job to have a teaching plan in place, but will only get my students there when we walk alongside each other allowing them to lead, but continually uses all our senses to know where they are and where they are going. Keeping our ‘ears’ in movement, the formative data we are able to gather will help nudge them along the way to success.
- To connect with relationships – it is not within my ability to move a relationship along from a position of power. It is only when we agree to walk in unison alongside each other, stopping now and then to check in, that we can realize the fullness that relationship offers.
- To connect with life – I know generally where I want to go, but grabbing on and pulling hard isn’t going to get me there. It is only through stepping in close and walking alongside, stride for stride, reassessing as I go – open to the unexpected – will I be able to grow
This EAGALA work is fascinating work