Tracking Retreat: Margaret Allende

Synchronicity led me to the tracking retreat in April of this year. I wasn’t looking for it. One webinar featuring Diane Hunter talking about horses led to a link that announced the tracking retreat she was offering which led to recorded interviews with the retreat leaders. Along the way, I felt drawn to it as if it were one of those hot-apple-pie-cooling-on-the-window-sill aroma waves I saw in cartoons when I was a kid.

Two of the leaders were coming from South Africa where they worked together to capture and pass on the art of tracking as it existed in ancient hunter and gatherer days – as a way of life and survival. The third leader was a woman from the USA who in addition to being a tracker of animals was also a tracker of medicinal herbs.

In case you’re wondering, there were no guns. Our purpose of tracking was to learn how animals move through nature, how they communicate; how they live, love and think. The nature walk tracking medicinal herbs included time spent sitting on large rocks in a stream; an experience that was like stepping into a time long ago when women would gather at a stream to talk and work. Our work that day was to extract fiber from a plant leaf and make bracelets.

To me, this “doing” part of the retreat was inseparable from the “being” part. I say that because I saw and felt so much love for and coming from all who attended; none of whom I had met before. It was a tiny peek into the possibility of a world where people are willing to work together toward a common goal, speak from a place deep within their hearts and allow theirselves to feel and express both their tears and their laughter.

What I took home was a renewed belief in the possibility of a humanity that respects all living things; a world where cooperation replaces competition and where love is chosen over fear. When our two male leaders from South Africa, one white and one black, talked about all that had to change for them to work and travel together, to get to know each other’s families and to learn how to truly love and respect one another, I can’t help but see possibilities everywhere I look. The trick is to never stop looking.

Since returning from this tracking experience, I am aware of having a fuller appreciation for all forms of life and a deeper felt connection to nature and Her daily rhythms. In the process of playing with the concept of tracking, I’ve been observing things like my thoughts, my reactions, my moments of being present and those of being distracted. When I think of tracking as a form of stalking; an urge to familiarize myself with habits and patterns, then I ask, “ Why not track my own habits, patterns, repetitive actions and choices?” Then I could stalk myself into a loving place where I wake up each new day a better person than I was the day before. There is just no end to the many uses of tracking!

Equus Client: Victoria Prozan, Brand + Creativity Coach

The universe is always conspiring in our favor – even when it doesn’t feel like it. Working with Diane felt every bit as pre-ordained as I’ve experienced in a mighty long time. It was the perfect connection at the perfect time. I suspect Diane hears that from a lot of folks. She’s a powerful magnet.

They showed me where I was blocking my own energy and keeping myself penned up and frustrated. In just the few weeks since our coaching, there has been a profound shift in my daily life. An awareness that I have the power to affect change within me and around me. Magical is the word I come back to again and again. Me, Diane, the horses, life itself – we’re all magical when we open our eyes and hearts.

What I learned from both her and the horses will guide me and ground me for many, many years to come. I’m very blessed to have had the opportunity to experience her heart and wisdom. If you feel called or pulled to work with Diane, honor your intuition. The future you will be so grateful!

Equus Client: Diane Mangels

It was quite a thrill to be in that pen with Danny Boy. I received and opened myself to love with the bonus of respect and boundaries, ah joy!!! My time with Danny Boy was magical, joyful, and left me aware, focused, awestruck and wanting more, a very intense two hours for me. I felt so young and playful.

Your support, demeanor and words are so soothing to me as I find my way through that feeling of darkness and isolation and anxiety. And time in the round pen showed me my path in an even more enhanced experience. After my time with Danny I was at peace, calm, content and felt physically and emotionally better than I have in YEARS. Yep, that’s right, I said YEARS and when I truly take the time, close my eyes and relive that experience, those same feelings flow and anxiety is gone.

Thank you for one of the most amazing times of my life.

Equus Client: Missy, Mother of Four, London, UK

I’m always trying to manage the chaos around my kids.  And I learned that it’s likely chaos much of the time, I am that frenetic energy, not them. And when they are also charged, rather than up my energy, I need to be calm.

Now this part I have ‘known’ for a long time.  But I’ve never been able to actually ‘do’ it. Until I worked with Diane and the horses.

Diane has a true gift.  I now believe she knew exactly what was going on for me before I even stepped in the ring, after only speaking with me for about 4 minutes!

While with the horse, Diane guided me so beautifully, and then she offered me her magic message:

Sit down. So simple!

Literally, sit down wherever I am, whatever I am in the midst of.

And for the first time, I was actually able to physically and emotionally ‘do’ what I’ve been trying to ‘do’ for years with my kids.

This morning, my daughter was in a frenzy about putting her cardigan on, and rather than chase her when she ran screaming out of the entry way into the living room, I immediately sat down right in the middle of the foyer.

She came running right to me, sat in my lap and cried.  I gave her a cuddle, and then we both got up and put her cardigan on.


I’m looking forward to continuing this practice in my life, and I have so much gratitude for Diane and the gift she gave me — the gift of sitting still.

Equus Client: Nora Villagrán

Thank you, Diane, for your kindness and insights that made the Equus experience at Los Gatos Farms such a healing event for me. A while ago, I’d suffered a terrible loss and was stuck in hopelessness and despair. Yet part of me must’ve been searching for a reason to not just exist but to live, because I thought of Joan Baez (my first journalism interview) and her quote: “Action is the antidote to despair.”

So I sought help online, which led me to you, someone who’s learned life lessons of her own and is now helping others. I read about your Equus Workshop and, sensing a lifeline, I signed up. When you arrived, there was something truly authentic about you, an openness that invites trust and authenticity, in return. That’s why I raised my hand to join you and the horse in the round pen. I wanted to participate, to make my being there count for something.

Touching the horse, I felt a rush of hyper-alertness in my first gentle stroke of his neck. Time seemed to stop in a moment so real, it felt surreal. I was acutely aware of the texture and warmth of his coat, his breath in and breath out. I felt connected to the conscious being inside this beautiful, trusting creature.

Suddenly, a sharp bolt of emotional lightning went through me, sending the heavy pain I’ve been carrying, weighing me down, to rise right out of me in a sob. Flooded with tears, I listened to your soothing words and felt your non-judgmental acceptance. Your presence radiated light, substance, goodwill. And for the first time in a long while, something opened up in me.

I had no idea this unique combination of touching a horse and being touched by your wisdom would have such a profound effect on me: to question my damaging belief that I was unworthy. I was so beaten down by the bitter, angry criticism and hostile rejection by someone I loved that I’d allowed their definition of me to define me. Their contempt for me had become my self-contempt.

Your asking me to name examples of when I’d been a good, helpful person to them was akin to expecting me to drag my feet through thick, heavy mud, the very mud I was completely, irretrievably, stuck in. Thus, my coming up with any example of my goodness seemed impossible. My immediate reaction to your request was a resistant “I can’t.”

But you gently persisted. I didn’t want to fail you. So I didn’t give up, and memories of a lifetime of having been there for this person came flooding back. And, in this way, a most difficult task became a most significant realization — helping me know what I once knew to be true. And in that instant, my perception shifted. I was unstuck. I felt free.

After leaving Los Gatos Farms, instead of driving home, I stopped in Los Gatos and did something I hadn’t done in a long time: I treated myself to lunch in a restaurant. A small thing for others, but for me, it was a triumph. Free to re-define myself, I was now also free to be good to myself.

That evening, I recounted to my sweet husband my gratitude for you, the horse and the work we did. His face glowed, as if reflecting the emerging revival of my inner spirit.

With appreciation and love in my heart,
Nora Villagrán

UPDATE a few weeks later: I have asked of myself to do as you wisely urged: to move beyond a life situation and to pay attention to my life. In addition to the healing power of your Equus workshop, I’m paying attention to what’s real — and it’s been good, Diane. I’m taking creative writing classes at Stanford University and I bought myself a bicycle. At 62, I’m riding around town in the sunshine, feeling the stirring of light-heartedness again.

Equus Client: CJ Blaquera, Founder, CJ Coaches Weight Loss

I was absolutely fascinated with the idea of equus coaching and found Diane. I’m so glad I did. The experience was extraordinary and life changing. It started even before we got in the round pen. From being in the stables choosing the first horse that I would work with to approaching the gate of the pen and actually moving into action. Just those first minutes showed me my own mind and ways in which I hold myself back and fears that stop me from taking action and moving forward in my everyday life.

Working with the horses was such a visceral experience. The horses work on a pure energy level so their response was pure useful, valuable, priceless information. In the pen, I saw myself behaving the same way I do in my business (and personal life) – which is to say in a way that is HOLDING ME BACK. Diane articulated that the good news is that “I” am holding me back so “I” can change that.

The feedback I got from the horses was valuable because it was so pure and truthful. My mind isn’t arguing with it. It was utterly clear, and I am forever changed.

There was a moment at the end where it was so beautiful, unexpected, and amazing. I was leading the horse, clearly asking for what I wanted, and completely relaxed. It was such a gorgeous moment, and I had achieved (through much trial and error and equus feedback) what I had imagined. When all of that culminated, I burst into tears. That moment showed me what is possible, and what I am capable of and how good it feels to actually align with and manifest my desire. And I had a real live, 3-D, unforgettable, 360 degree, deeply visceral and saturating experience of that in the round pen.

More, please!

I can’t wait to do it again.