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Why Having a Mentor is Essential for Being a Good Equine Facilitated Practitioner

24 October 2017


"Mentoring others is something I find hugely enjoyable and I thrive on seeing other's grow and blossom in their own practice"

Finding a more experienced practitioner to work-shadow, assist and be mentored by is one of the most essential, helpful and ethical things for a newly qualified or inexperienced practitioner of this work to do. Yet, it is also one of the most overlooked parts of being a good facilitator.

This is particularly in the current condition of this rapidly growing field, where it is possible to undertake a certification course of just a few brief days - which is wholly inadequate to properly prepare people for stepping into the enormous responsibility of both working in an inter-species partnership, and holding other peoples' healing process in your hands; neither of which should ever be approached lightly.

Please note, supervision is also essential, in my opinion, but this should have a different focus than mentoring or work-shadowing. I always recommend that all practitioners employ both; post-qualification and throughout their career. (Some mentors also do supervision and vice versa).

Speaking to; having formal mentoring sessions; work-shadowing and assisting other more experienced facilitators is vital to your professional and personal development.

Here are some of the main reasons why:

  • You get to witness and gain experience from a more seasoned professional who has fully embodied this work first-hand
  • You get to benefit from their learned wisdom from their many years of experience
  • You get to add to the training you have just undertaken, absorbing another person’s perspective and approach
  • You see in action, not just in training, how to safely facilitate others with the assistance of horses. This is particularly important if you wish to run group sessions and workshops, no end of work-shadowing and assisting in this area can help as this is complex undertaking
  • You are nestled and held in their experienced arms, this builds both self-confidence and knowledge, both of which are essential growing points post-qualification
  • You get to be guided and supported as you explore your new-found professional role rather than taking the step from being a trainee to a fully-fledged professional in one giant leap
  • You keep your ego in-check. It is not uncommon for the ego to feel a huge sense of achievement and potential inflation on completing a course. This can lead to unwise or hasty decisions, being too bold and running before you can properly walk in the eagerness to “now practice”. This alone is an essential part of your personal/professional growth as it can lead to rash moves which set you back later down the line
  • In turn your true confidence in yourself and your work will grow more steadily under the supportive eye of a more experienced professional, resulting in you feeling more secure in your ability to serve others
  • You get the opportunity to ask a myriad of practical, ethical and intuitive questions of your mentor. Preventing you reinventing the wheel and wasting valuable time and possibly money in the process
  • You will be likely to have access to resources, information and contacts that, on your own, could take months or years to find
  • Again, keeping your ego in-check, through practicing humility and respect for others who have walked this path many years ago, when this work was unknown and not understood. They were the trail-blazers and so likely to have encountered many more difficulties and challenges along the way. Through being willing to learn from their experiences, you place yourself in the humble role of mentee and remind your ego that a certificate is just the starting point; now is when the learning happens…

Practical Guidance to Finding a Mentor:

So, how do you go about finding a mentor? Well, nowadays with social media networking and groups and websites, it couldn’t be easier.

Here are some tips: 

  • Do your research and ask others, including your trainers. (By the way, having one of your own trainers is fine of course, but you will undoubtedly experience more variety if you step outside of your training model or particular trainers’ approach, so be brave and explore the field)
  • Speaking of the field, there are a number of online practitioner networks, so again, join these and ask for recommendations for more experienced practitioners and mentors in this field
  • Research on the Internet and read people's bios on their websites – check their training, background and length of experience. Trust your gut and give them a call to explore further with them. (By the way: If they don't list their formal training in this work on the website or it isn't in this field directly, then please give them a wide-berth!)
  • Contact the main training bodies and ask them for recommendations
  • Read key books in this field and contact any of the authors you particularly resonate with, they may not have time or availability, but you never know, it may still be worth contacting them and asking about their mentoring support, or opportunities to work-shadow them/assist on workshops.

During my own journey I did all of the above. In particular, immediately after completing my Eponaquest® training I employed a supervisor to guide and support me through the initial months, where I was literally finding my way. I then also had the opportunity to support and work-shadow a more experienced Eponaquest® facilitator during a number of workshops over the first two years of my career. Since then, I have maintained a supervisor, and regularly undertaken mentoring and coaching sessions with more experienced facilitators.

Now, with 13 years experience I offer supervision, mentoring sessions and professional coaching sessions to both newly qualified and more experienced facilitators via Skype, telephone or in-person when possible.

From time to time I also offer work-shadowing opportunities on workshops and training courses in the role of horse-handler and sometimes there will be opportunities to support in a facilitator role too to hone your skills and gain experience of group work.

To find out more about me, you can read my bio and background here and you can find some more Good Practice Guides and Articles here.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me to explore any of this further.

©Angela Dunning, 24 October 2017

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