It Takes The Herd — The Power of Connection

The Mane Intent

Sometimes it takes the herd to invite connection and growth. When I met Stan and Susie, I could tell they were both eager to step into a new role as equine-assisted wellness facilitators. So are their humans, Tom and Victoria Fraser. This dynamic duo will soon work together to support a new equine-assisted wellness offering planned for launch in Nova Scotia in 2022: It Takes The Herd. I can’t wait to hear about all of their wonderful offerings.

I met Susie, a Gypsy Vanner mare, and Stan, an Apaloosa gelding, as part of my Fall 2021 travels in Nova Scotia. I first met Victoria and Tom in 2016 when my hubby Chris and I spent a weekend participating in a Central Ontario Draft Horse Workshop.   I wrote a blog about the workshop here

At that time, The Mane Intent was going into its third season.  Both Tom and Victoria were serving in the military. As the weekend unfolded, I shared my experience with The Mane Intent. In particular, I talked about our work with those in active military service, first responders and veterans and the profound impact that work had on my professional life. (It ultimately influenced my decision to return to school to complete the Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology and to become a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying)).

Victoria noted that working with horses was something that she had wanted to do for some time, but her own professional path had taken her in a different direction.  In 2016, she was working as a Senior Military Officer at National Defence Headquarters and was 6 years into a PhD in Management.  After our weekend together, Victoria and I stayed in touch through social media.

As our friendship developed and our programming at The Mane Intent expanded, Victoria’s interest in equine-assisted learning grew. She realized that she too could embark on a similar professional journey. Occasionally she would reach out for input and peer support.  I appreciated the opportunity to talk to another who appreciated the struggle of starting a new business and to share my own experiences.

Sometimes life intervenes. Such was the case for Victoria and Tom. Both left the military in 2019 to return to Nova Scotia for personal and professional reasons. Victoria is completing a PhD in Management (organizational behaviour at the micro (individual) level. Her thesis is about how mixed gender couples make decisions regarding family and work, exploring the role of high pressure organizations on couple decision-making. The thesis will result in three papers for publication in academic journals, with the last paper planned to be a narrative of how gender is experienced within a male dominated organization.  She also presented a conference paper to an academic forum in Germany on equality, diversity and inclusion in 2015.

Victoria serves as a volunteer board member on the Nova Scotia Advisory Council for the Status of Women. This is a three year term ending in 2023. She is currently on faculty at Mount Allison University in the Department of Commerce.  She teaches organizational behaviour, change management, strategic management, introduction to business, and organizational theory.  

Both Tom and Victoria are now putting their full professional efforts into building their equine facilitated wellness endeavour. More recently Victoria began her Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology. Tom has also returned to school to complete a diploma in Social Services Worker.

When Stan and Susie found their way to their four acre back yard in beautiful Pictou, Nova Scotia, Victoria shares “we built a farm around them, meaning the horses came first and we built our farm buildings after they arrived.”  In 2021, both Victoria and Tom will begin training in equine-assisted learning. Tom is enrolled in FEEL™ (Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning) and Victoria is enrolled in ProEFW.

“My last decade in the military made me realize that there is a profound need for this type of work for both serving military members and for veterans, as well as a need for more private mental health professionals,” shares Victoria. “My personal areas of interest are PTSD, Operational Stress Injuries and addiction, all of which have their roots in trauma. Trauma impacts most of our lives, and in this geographic area in particular, there does not seem to be sufficient numbers of professionals to meet the needs of the community.”

Congratulations to Stan, Susie, Victoria and Tom (and all of your professional affiliates) on your new venture – It Takes the Herd — and the journey ahead. I’m confident that many in Nova Scotia will benefit from your experience, wisdom and professionalism.  Never under estimate the power of connection and conversation to influence those around you. Follow their story @ittakestheherd on Instagram.

About the Author: Jennifer Garland is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) and the Owner/Program Director at The Mane Intent, offering individual psychotherapy,  equine-assisted therapy, teambuilding and leadership development, and health and wellness workshops. Jennifer’s intent is to bring horses, donkeys and humans together in nature to explore new possibilities and find new meaning in lived experience.