Last year Rupert and I presented in Germany at the German Kuratorium for therapeutic riding in Fuerstenau. I was asked to translate for a lovely couple from Japan who signed up for this German conference struggling to understand German. We spend a couple of hours together, and the very appreciative couple left after watching our presentation and demo.

Little did we know...

that this was the key to interesting developments and collaboration between New Trails Learning System and Japan.

A short while after I got back from Germany I received an email with the inquiry if Rupert and I would be willing to come to Japan to present. After many organizational steps, we found ourselves on the plane from Frankfurt to Tokyo, still a little in disbelieve and huge excitement to be able to spread the word in such international fashion.

What an adventure starting with the bathrooms at the airport. All of them have privacy setting with waterfall noises to allow for anybody to do their business without others ‘listening in’, heated seats, and many more high tech features- which you will have to explore when you go visit.

After a two hour bus ride through the beautiful countryside of Japan, we were greeted by Misato, our contact who had been diligently organizing and planning this entire trip. Her welcome was friendly and she ensured that we had everything we needed before starting the next day with our 5 day intensive training and demoing seminar for Movement Method and Horse Boy. Our dinners were usually little “lunch boxes” that made you think you were back in elementary school again- but not to be mistaken for the quality of food it presented. The flavorful healthy unique cuisine will be greatly missed when leaving.

The first day was as stunning and amazing as when we first arrived. Just seeing your bio in Japanese is kind of mind blowing and eye opening to the challenges people face when they are unable to read any information at all. We were grateful to have three interpreters available, one with a Ph.D in science to support our neuro- science and medical translation, one high level international rider and an international judge and educator who supported our translation needs for the equine and education translations. We would have been lost without them.

Lovely ponies were available to us to play and teach. Most of the mornings were spend working through theory and the afternoons usually supported those efforts by hands on experiences of Movement Method and Horse Training.

We had about 25 folks join us from various areas, including the head of the national horse association in Japan, science professors from multiple universities, members of the racing association, riders, therapists, educators, and students. It was a diverse group who seemed outstandingly open minded and the type of folks who would use the mformation we presented to maximum effectiveness to help others. Hugely motivated by this prospect, Rupert showed his absolutely best teaching and storytelling practices and spend hours answering individual questions long after workshop hours.

The facility was lovingly planned and prepared to support our teaching in every way possible and the family who organized it all was one of the most loving, caring families you will ever meet. Their program started very small not too long ago and is now at a place where they do therapy, but also have folks with challenges employed, and even own a few apartments and transportation for them to be able to be as independent as possible- it was mind blowing to see their work and experience their humbleness!

One day we were blessed to experience one of their indoor facilities which is located about 40 min from the main venue. Lovely rolling hills, warm sunshine, and an absolute perfect environment fed our souls and ensured ideal training conditions- plus, the ponies really liked the fresh spring grass they got to much on while Rupert taught long lining positions without the horses, just walking in the fields. A true treat for all of us.

While practicing ‘silly walks’ to help children with neuro diversity be guided out of dangerous situations without having to say ‘no’ or set them in a panic mode, we walked the neighborhood, only for Rupert to find a non- bias judge in a local who was enjoying the first spring sunshine in front of his Japanese home- little did he know what a crazy bunch we were. Rupert had our translater ask if he would judge our ‘silly walk’ competition on the country road in front of his house- we were surprised to see this gentleman very enthusiastically jumping in and playing his part- it made all our days- but I am pretty sure it was a lifetime memory for him...

But all good things must come to an end, and before we knew it the last day was there. Sensory work ensured that participants realized they needed to take care of themselves and a fun game session finished this incredible experience with new friends, lots of laughter, and ambitious goals to spread this work for more acceptance and resources for those who are more vulnerable. A huge thank you to our friends in Japan!