Train the Trainer
Reflection Paper


by Nikki Kagan, HorseSense, April 2007

As a result of Barbara’s enthusiasm and urging, I opted to participate in the Krebs’ ”Train the Trainer” program in Kröpelin (OT Klein Nienhagen), Germany this week. I think, after 2 years of reading books, articles and websites, meeting many people involved in the industry of combining horses with some type of personal, social, psychological and/or professional development, I found in the Krebs exactly what I’ve been seeking. I found a couple whose passion for horses is as great as their ability to enlighten and enrich the lives of busy, often misguided businesspeople who have a profound need to take a good, long look inside themselves. While every step of my journey along this path has been, and continues to be critical to my ultimate goal, their approach precisely mirrors my perspective on corporate facilitation—and for that reason, I felt completely at home.

From the first evening, I knew I had come across something (and “2 someones”) special. The facility and the Krebs’ lovely Friesians tell a story all by themselves. For the first time in 2 years, I felt minimal anxiety as a participant in the exercises. There were no expectations regarding what we “should” think, and especially, “feel” or even do--- and spoke at length about the importance of letting what will be—be, without passing judgment, and often times, without even commenting. I felt firsthand the role of both participant and trainer—and since our discussion covered both aspects, I gained valuable insights that will enable me to be empathetic to my own clients, as well as guide them through the experience in a manner that will lead to their own self-discoveries as individuals and groups.

The combination of silence, music, theory, discussion, hands-on and writing created an experience that spoke to a wide range of learning styles from academic to kinesthetic. Our small group of 5 contained people with a wide range of backgrounds, including one engineer. All were equally engaged and fully present. I believe that is, in large part, due to Gerhard’s approach of ‘switching gears’ routinely to keep things lively, interesting and relevant. I found myself feeling appreciative that Gerhard and Karin were so willing to share the fruits of their obviously long, hard labor of love in this field…I know that it will boost the speed of my own learning curve tremendously, saving me both time and money.

I was equally impressed by the obvious time and effort devoted to our learning materials. The packets were comprehensive and relevant, attractive and professional. The notebooks served as a very appropriate learning and discussion tool, complete with exercise worksheets that provoked a deeper understanding of, as well as deeper thinking about the topics covered. Particularly because we are a group of trainers ourselves, it was important to see how Gerhard presents his material. I’m hard to impress but impressed I was! From the videotaping to the materials to the content and manner in which the discussions were conducted, it is clear they have tested and retested their model, and have found the true recipe.

The exercises with horses were different from my other experiences both in terms of interaction and my response to them. We participated in leading the horses, both with lead line, as well as with long-lines, and ultimately, with long lines from the back of another horse. Those last two experiences tested me in an entirely new way and I really found myself stretching my own “comfort zone”—moving from feeling totally inadequate to feeling pretty much okay. The experience did, however, honestly reflect my preferred leadership style and gave me much food for thought. We also lunged a horse in the picadero which led to “join up”—another experience I completely enjoyed. I still struggle with having to “perform” in front of others but I’m learning to just be myself without giving too much thought to others’ perspectives. I do continue to be forever aware of how difficult this must be for our own clients and have also become acutely aware of my preference for knowing with whom I am dealing before I begin interacting.

I have found my experiences through AIA and other courses to be far more emotional. It may be because it seems like we were given more opportunity to interact with each horse alone as a result of the way in which the exercises are conducted and this created for me a level of intimacy I did not experience here. At times I missed that in Germany because my style is to first connect, then interact. Other courses I have taken “forced” me to take a good, long look at myself—an experience that was both therapeutic and exhausting In addition, because of the intimate debriefing session, I sometimes felt a heavy emotional burden as I listened to the outpouring of others and supported them as they traveled through their emotional and spiritual journeys, as they did me. From that perspective, this experience was “lighter”, enabling me to absorb and learn in a very different manner. I was better able to consider the process from the perspective of trainer—which was, in fact, what I came to Germany to do! The differences between the two approaches are entirely complimentary, and both, I feel are invaluable to becoming an effective facilitator in this work.

I really enjoyed and learned from watching Gerhard and Karin’s horses interact with one another. They behaviors as individuals and as a “herd” created wonderful “food for thought” in terms of transference to the world of humans—not to mention just the sheer pleasure of watching horses at play. From the Krebs I absorbed so much information about logistics, horse training for this work, operations, administration and even marketing that will go a long way in supplementing the knowledge based I’ve already gained the hard way. From a practical standpoint, this train the trainer course has really boosted my confidence and my practical knowledge.

In summary, I was so impressed by what I acquired during the two days that I promptly signed my self and my partner up for the full certification course in Vienna in October.

In Gerhard and Karin I found new colleagues, true professionals, and perhaps most important, two very, very dear friends. Thank you, Barbara, for guiding me to them.

Nikki Kagan, April 2007