A MAGICAL JOURNEY TO ARIZONA FOR HORSEPLAY WITH HEART
On May 6, about 25 people took a virtual journey to Scottsdale, Arizona with The Conscious Conversation Collection to visit Hunkapi Farms for a unique adventure involving the healing power of horses, how to handle our emotions, and a Vietnamese Pot-bellied pig named Patrick.
Called Horseplay with Heart, this was the third Conscious Conversation Collection call created by The Divine Destination Collection co-founders Deb Niven and Allison Frame, and the first to take participants on a real-time adventure outside their living rooms.
“We had visited Hunkapi Farms on our 2013 trip to Arizona. It’s an amazing 10-acre non-profit farm that explores how the bond we form with horses can help us understand our behaviours, get in touch with ourselves, and create positive growth,” says Allison.
“Unfortunately we can’t physically visit Hunkapi right now, so we thought the next best thing would be to create a live Zoom event where we could interact directly with executive director Terra Schaad and go on a guided journey through the farm.”
Hunkapi Farms’ roots go back to Arizona State University research that found horseback riding had a positive effect on children with attention deficit disorder and autism. This led to the development of a therapeutic riding program and the creation of an independent nonprofit organization called Hunkapi, the Lakota word for “we are all related.”
Since then, Hunkapi Farms has expanded to include innovative horse programs to help adults and children deal with everything from emotional regulation to post traumatic stress disorder – as well as fun experiences where everyone can benefit from interacting with horses.
Even though Arizona was in the middle of a heat wave with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit – Terra was waiting for the group at the entrance to Hunkapi Farms when the Zoom call started. She started the tour by introducing us to a few of the 30 chickens that live near the entrance to the farm.
“They really have a nice way of regulating people,” explained Terra. “Automatically what happens to your body is that you lower down and your hands begin to soften. Even children have this awareness of needing to hold something gently.
“Especially if they are coming in with a lot of anger or dysregulation or impulsivity – we put them in here with the chickens so they can learn to soften their hands – and they do it without us having to tell them.”
The chickens, like most of the animals on the farm, are rescue animals, including Patrick, a 200-lb Vietnamese Pot-bellied pig, who has the run of the property when he’s not lazing around in his bed.
There is also an orchard, and the farm is filled with herbs and flowers, including Plumeria from Hawaii, where Terra was born.
As the group toured the farm, Terra explained how all the farm buildings have been renovated and repaired with repurposed items for sustainability purposes and also to preserve the integrity of the original buildings.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT, ALFIE?
The showcase of the farm is the new horse arena, where Alfie, a tall, 24-year-old Swiss Warmblood and retired Grand Prix Jumper from Encinitas, California was waiting.
From their front row seats the group was able to get up close and personal with Alfie, and then watch as Terra led Bev, one of Hunkapi’s volunteers, through an exercise to bond with Alfie and recognize her as his leader.
Using a tool called a Carrot Stick, Bev hit the ground lightly but with as much intensity as needed to get Alfie’s attention and lead him around the arena. At first Alfie didn’t pay attention, but after Bev relaxed her body he let out a big exhale and started to follow her, even changing his direction when prompted.
Horses pay close attention to body language, Terra explained, so Bev needed to get rid of the barriers that were preventing Alfie from bonding with her. That meant relaxing, being in the moment, and trusting herself.
The horse can actually be a metaphor for whatever you are searching for in your life, said Terra. By opening your heart, and understanding how you are reacting, you can remove barriers that stand in your way.
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL JOURNEYS
“Our trip to Hunkapi Farms not only took us to Arizona in real-time, we had the chance to gain greater clarity into what is going on inside of ourselves – which is one of the aims of The Conscious Conversation Collection,” says Allison.
Based on the overwhelming response to the Horseplay with Heart trip, plans are currently underway to transform The Conscious Conversation Collection into a year-round subscription service full of enlightening journeys that inform, entertain, and inspire.
On May 20, the Divine-by-Design Travel Advisory Board held their own Conscious Conversation to discuss some of the virtual trips under consideration, such as a visit to B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest that would feature video footage of bears and orcas in their natural environments, along with a virtual forest bathing experience.
Other Canadian trips could include special access to a secluded area of Algonquin Park to walk with a naturalist, learning from First Nations Elders in Muskoka, seeing the totem poles in Haida Gwaii, viewing the Northern Lights in Nunavik, visiting a biosphere reserve for monarch butterflies, and kayaking up to icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland.
Venturing further abroad, there is the possibility of hosting a virtual Spanish wine tasting with Sue Kenney, Camino Pilgrim, Coach, author and guide for the Divine Destination Collection trip to El Camino last year. Sue will offer life lessons from the many times she has walked the Camino, including some barefoot, as the participants sip on specially curated Spanish wines.
And to celebrate an upcoming Divine Destination Collection trip to South Africa once travelling is safe again, future virtual events could include a live jam session from local musicians’ living rooms, a cocktail party with the iconic Table Mountain in the background, a pre-recorded safari and live interaction with rangers, live Victoria Falls experience from the air and from the edge at Devil’s Pool, and a chat with Nelson Mandela’s former personal assistant.
“We want to make sure we continue to connect to our community and provide extraordinary experiences that bring comfort, adventure, and spirituality into our homes until we can travel again,” says Allison.
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