Is your horse shoe up, down or in the middle? As we stood in a circle we passed around a horse shoe, each group member checking in with the group. “My horse shoe is pointing up because I am excited to be here” one student reported. “My horse show is pointing down because my grandmother died and I am sad.” “My horse shoe is in the middle because my allergies are acting up but I am excited to be here.”
The horses were loose and the students were asked to go “catch them and bring them back.” One student studied the halter and made a plan on how to put it on the horse. As a group they all approached the horses cautiously, some from the outside of the corral and others from the inside. Without talking, the group proceeded and a few students touched the horses, but the horses would promptly walk away.
Eventually all students ended up on the outside of the corral and sat back to watch the interactions between the horses. One female horse, one male horse, and a young male pony had started engaging in a way that none of us would have imagined. The next 15-20 minutes resulted in watching the male horse attempt to make connections with the female horse, only to be challenged and driven away from the smaller, younger pony. When the group returned to the circle they each processed what they had observed and related it to human relationships. These are the observations the students made:
It was like two boys fighting over a girl.
I saw the bigger horse get chased off by the baby horse, it was like when a single mother brings in a step-dad and the child fights for attention.
It was like a girl who has a boyfriend, but then likes a new boy, and the old boyfriend gets jealous.
The baby was attached to the female horse and didn’t want another horse to come over, like when a little brother not wanting his sister to have a boyfriend.
They don’t have very good boundaries, it’s like a married couple fighting.
We then transitioned into an activity called Obstacles of Truth. Students used various items to set up an obstacle course and labeled each station, leading the horse to each station and processing with a staff their thoughts and feelings about each station. Stations were, “how to meet someone for the first time,” “how to deal with conflict, spending quality time with the person, “having empathy for the person, “ and how to respectfully end an unhealthy relationship.”
One student was having difficulty walking the horse through the obstacles because the horse was being distracted by other things When CT mentioned this he stated, “It is a lot like me and my mom, when I lived at home there were a lot of outside distractions and I didn’t listen to her.” Once he made a connection with the horse by having the horse walk in a tight circle two times, the horse did whatever he asked. The student realized that making a connection with the person is important for trust and cooperation.