One of Sharon Crabbe’s most profound insights was that we don’t ever need fixing because we can never be broken. She now applies this understanding in her work with children, adults, and horses and recognizes that our strength often lies in our willingness to be vulnerable.
Sharon Crabbe is a coach, mentor and educator.
She is a Certified iheart Facilitator delivering the iheart curriculum in schools and 1-2-1 or small group tutoring, and is also a Natural Horsemanship trainer of horses and humans.
You can find Sharon Crabbe at SharonJCrabbe.com and on Instagram @sharonjcrabbe.
- Learning about the inside-out understanding and bringing that into equine therapy
- How we can’t be fixed because we’re not broken
- How ‘acting out’ behaviour is a sign of our resilience
- How urgency and anxiety can turn us into human doings rather than human beings
- How so much of life comes down to the quality of our relationships, even when it comes to working with horses
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Get Sharon’s free ebook Lessen Your Stress here and uncover an entirely new perspective on stress: what causes it and what to do about it.
- The Jack Prasky book Sharon mentions is Somebody Should Have Told Us
- The iHeart program for young people
- The Viva event in Spain
Transcript of Interview with Sharon Crabbe
Alexandra: Sharon Crabbe, welcome to Unbroken.
Sharon: Hello. It’s really lovely to be here. I’m very happy to be here.
Alexandra: I’m so pleased to have you. Thank you so much for coming.
Tell us about your background and how you came to find the 3 Principles.
Sharon: The common thread running throughout my whole life has been horses. I’ve done lots of other things, always as a last resort because I needed to earn some more money. But the horses have been the main thread really.
About 20 years ago, more than that, I got into natural horsemanship, because before that I’d been very traditionally trained with the British Horse Society. I ended up going to the States and spending about two years out there studying with the cowboys, actually. Which was wonderful.
That was a big change, because I went out there one person and came back somebody else completely. It was a huge transformation, quite late in life, because I was already in my 40s. But it was the beginning of me becoming more self-aware, I think. I saw a whole new way of what being with horses and working with horses.
The big thing that happened was I realized that in order to be a good horsewoman, I had to change myself and it was nothing to do with changing the horses really. So that was really huge. And it’s a long story. So I’ll cut it short. I got interested in kind of in people. That took me into equine therapy. So assisted therapy, and that was pretty amazing. I started working with vulnerable, young, mostly young people.
Throughout all this things were pretty good. But I always had a bit of a dark side, I had a problem with depression and anxiety. And I used to have these episodes which were really quite extreme.
I put a brave face on it. So nobody really knew. But I did have some pretty bad times. And then out of the blue one day, one of my horsemanship clients posted something on Facebook about a program that she’d done to help with anxiety and depression. And I was curious, I guess so I asked her what it was. And it was a program by Nicola Bird. And that was back in 2017.
That was my introduction to the 3P’s really. I did a 12 week program. And I kind of got fixed I thought.
Alexandra: Okay, cliffhanger.
Sharon: Yes. Yeah, but that was that was how I came across the three principles.
Alexandra: Okay, so tell us about that cliffhanger.
Sharon: I’ve been ill, physically ill, quite seriously in and out of hospital and life threatening it all so and, and when I came across Nicola, it was a time where I was really, I was better physically, but mentally, not. Anyway, as I say, it fixed me.
I got back into my crazy life. And I’ve had a great time. I’ve had lots of adventures, and I started some new ones. We went off and cycled across Costa Rica in aid of charity. And I felt great. That was kind of 2018 2019. And then after that, it started creeping back, the low mood, the depression. And I’d forgotten all about the three principles.
I’d come across Michael Neill a little bit. I’d read some of his books, but I kind of put it down. So I suddenly had this thought I know I must do, I must look up that program again, because that fixed me last time, so I probably need to do it again. I engaged again when Nicola did another little program, but this time, something was different, I saw something different. And I just got hooked if you like. Things look different. And I wanted to continue.
So I carried on exploring. I started reading everybody; the Jack Pransky book is my favorite book. And then I started to see things that I was doing with the equine therapy and realizing that this was the missing bit, if you like, I still hadn’t quite had the major kind of insight, but it just felt like there was something it was like putting together bits of a jigsaw.
I got more involved in reading more. And I did some more courses, I can’t remember which ones but my style of teaching and everything started changing; my relationship with my family and my husband improved. I couldn’t really tell you how, but it was different.
And then I got involved with iHeart. I heard about iHeart, which is a charity that works, particularly with a program aimed at helping young people. And this just felt like the next bit of the puzzle if you like, so I decided to do that training. I’m coming back to the cliffhanger now.
During that training, there was an exercise we did to do with it was partly I think it was during the week talking about bullying. And there was this exercise that we did that I was being trained to deliver. But we were actually taking part in it. I suddenly had this massive moment when I realized that I hadn’t been fixed at all, because I wasn’t broken.
That was that was the big difference. And then I started to see that the work I was doing with the with the youngsters with the horse with everything had always been through. I’d always come at everything as a fixer.
Alexandra: And then you weren’t.
Sharon: Yeah. And then suddenly. And it just, it was huge. I remember sobbing actually, not just because it was like taking glasses off and putting and then seeing. It was like new eyes actually. It was so huge. I can still remember the moment it kind of goosebumps a little bit. I was just like, Oh my goodness. I didn’t need to be I wasn’t broken.
Alexandra: A couple of follow up questions then.
Equine guided therapy. Can you explain what that is? Maybe for the listeners who might not be aware.
Sharon: I was trained in a very particular type of Equine Assisted Therapy. And basically, what we would do is work with young people will anybody really, and horses working on the ground, and the particular charity that I trained with it’s not really a therapy, to be honest. It’s more like an intervention. It’s called the horse. And it’s very action based.
It’s not just kind of hanging out with horses, you actually work with horses and the horses are specially trained. And the participants get to these the actual courses about four or five days to two hours, consecutive days, two hours each day, and they play with the horses online. So online means on a rope and play again.
And the horses can do all sorts of cool stuff. So they’ll pop over jumps and go backwards and sideways and stand on pedestals and kick a football and it’s not about making the horse do something it is about playing. In order to be with the horse and play with the horse, you’re basically helping people develop lifestyle skills.
The difference between, let’s say, being assertive and being aggressive. Finding relaxation, being able to really lower your energy and switch off and the horse acts as a mirror. So, and it’s amazing, because we hit sometimes you have the little tiny tots with these great big horses, and the horses, they don’t have an agenda. The horses we work with are all rescued. So it’s kind of fulfilling. It’s doing something in that side of things as well.
Alexandra: Lovely. And so then, when you had that big insight about not being broken, and that it wasn’t your job to fix anybody.
How did that change this work that you were doing with the horses and the kids?
Sharon: Well, yeah, because first of all, it was very personal. It was me, I’m not broken. But then I realized that it was anybody else. I just have me on my mind first, as we do.
So what did it mean? It meant that when I interacted with anybody really, but particularly with the young people I was working with that I was not trying to fix them. I could see the health in their behavior in their actions, as opposed to seeing various coping mechanisms, perhaps as being a problem. Which meant that I was just more relaxed. And that takes the pressure off.
That showed up with the horses, and it showed up with the people and it also showed up with the parents, or the carers, or the rest of the family, because very often and this again, with iHeart even when I’m not doing anything with horses, it’s you see that you can you can work with a young person, but you really need to engage the whole family. Because otherwise the worry, and the stress is coming from the parents really,
But just the fact that I was not worried about whatever was showing up, just took that edge off it, I think.
Alexandra: You said something that really piqued my interest there, too: you didn’t say these words, but if a teenager is acting out, or behaving badly, that’s a sign of their health.
It’s not just a coping mechanism, it’s actually a sign of their resilience. Can you say more about that?
Sharon: It’s how life looks to them in that moment. So it makes perfect sense. And it’s quite hard. I have to be honest, I do find it hard sometimes to put things to articulate that and to try and explain it sometimes. But, it just makes more sense when you know that they’re not broken, and whatever is showing up makes complete sense given the way they see the world in that moment.
The other thing is when you in the some of the young people I’ve worked with are really worried about their condition or their label. Yeah. You know, because they think that there is something wrong with them. And it just perpetuates that stress and that suffering.
Alexandra: Wow. I hadn’t really thought about it that way. How much a label would do to the person who’s receiving it.
This might seem like a weird question.
After you had that insight about not being there to fix anybody, and as you learn more about your own innate well-being, did you notice any change in the way the horses behaved around you?
Sharon: Yeah, the horses have been my greatest teacher, without a doubt. And even before I came across the three principles my horses taught me about being and not doing. If you’re a horse person, and you meet another horse person traditionally the first thing they’ll say to you, is, what do you do with your horse? I used to say that and there’s kind of, there’s an emphasis and a pressure to do something, you know.
I see my life is before the three P’s and after, as lots of people probably see. I was brought up to be busy, to be doing. If anyone ever had suggested that I might be lazy, that would have been a big problem for me. Not doing meant you were being lazy.
I think that brings with it a sense of urgency in your life. I used to run around with a to do list in my head through the day mentally ticking off and I was really into time management. And multitasking, all those efficient practices. And it turns out, they’re not so efficient after all.
Alexandra: I’m curious about iHeart because I actually don’t know much about it. I wonder if you could tell us about that.
Sharon: So iHeart is a charity based in London. It’s run by Terry and Brian Rubinstein and they have trained, I’ll probably get this wrong, but it’s several hundred, I think it’s five, maybe even 600 facilitators to deliver a Resilience Program.
When I first started with them, we were actually going into schools and teaching in the classroom. It’s an 11 week program, each session is about an hour. And it’s, it’s called iHeart because it’s innate health resilience training.
The way I think of it is we’re looking to try and facilitate insight. So, throughout the program, it’s a mix of discussion, looking at video clips, activities, we play with dough, and Jenga bricks and bits of paper, and all sorts of things, and using lots of metaphors to describe the human condition and that we have innate well-being and resilience that can’t be damaged, broken, taken away. But it can be covered up.
It’s aimed at eight years upwards. They have now produced an online program that you can buy, which is six sessions of about an hour, no less than an hour, half an hour, I can’t remember, which is purely online. It’s a digital program, which is available for people to buy. And it’s brilliant. It talks about the hero’s journey. And it uses very, sort of modern concepts computer games and superheroes and this sort of thing to get this message across of innate health and resilience.
I’m not unfortunately working in schools anymore. Mainly because of cost, I think and because they’ve developed the digital program, but we are now working more in small groups and working with individuals. It’s also aimed at the whole family. Accompanying program that the parents or the guardians or whatever can follow along, and they have that as well. So they, because we need to speak a common language.
Alexandra: Thank you for sharing that. I just have never learned much about that program.
One of the things I looked up on your website was that you also did some rewilding training with Angus and Rohini Ross.
Tell us a bit about that and what rewilding means to you.
Sharon: When I first got involved with that, I had no idea what it meant to me or them to be honest. And how did it start? Oh, yes, Rohini offered a free six week program. It must have been last summer, which was called rewilding your practice and I’d listened to their podcast quite a lot and followed on and I just thought that sounds fun. So I joined and I did the six week program.
It was brilliant because for me anyway, it was about being me and it was about stepping outside my – I don’t like the term comfort zone but I can’t think of another way of describing it – but just kind of putting myself out there a little bit you know, going live on Facebook and doing zoom calls and kind of talking and sharing things with other people. It was a wonderful six weeks.
After that they had their guide training which was six months and I just decided I wanted more really. It was I think for me it goes back rewarding for me quite simply is getting in touch with your essential nature and getting back to the young innocent me that’s still in there somewhere you know.
There was something came in my mind and it’s gone up the other side, but it’s to do it’s to do with that just sort of being and I think that actually if I’m going to be really honest, I was also a little bit scared of feelings. When I was depressed, but also kind of all that lovey dovey stuff, as I used to call it, I used to say to Rohini I don’t do all that stuff. I find it quite hard to do that. To be not just a bit physically to but even to be able to talk about it.
I realized that I even found it quite hard to say the word love. So it was a real exploration into all of that. If I could put it into one word, I think it would be being seeing the strength in vulnerability. That wasn’t one word, was it? But you know what I mean?
That was, that was for me. That was what that was all about, I think. Such a gorgeous group of people. I mean, there’s still a community. We sort of kept it going. And I’m actually can’t wait for I think it’s November, isn’t it? I’m going to actually meet Rohini in person because there’s an event in Spain. Speaking at VIVA.
Alexandra: I’m just really fascinated by the intersection between the rewilding work and your understanding of the principles and the horses. And bringing that to the work you do with them.
It occurs to me that rewilding could that could apply to the horses as well, right?
Sharon: Yeah. But it’s actually quite simple, because the common thread running through all of this is relationships. And funnily enough, the work I do now, gradually, I seem to be working more with people, not even with horses, and it’s all about relationship, kind of coaching that sort of thing. That’s that seems to be what I’m doing at the moment.
If I go back to when, I mean, there’s a whole story about how I went from traditional horsemanship into natural horsemanship, and I’d love to tell you about it. But what happened was that the natural horsemanship changed everything because it became about the relationship with the horse. So it was all about building relationship based on trust, communication, understanding, not, as I had been taught previously through a very traditional British horsemanship: be the boss, military traditions, dominance.
I went to one of the best schools when I was 17, to become an instructor. It was run by an army colonel. So I’ve never really asked the right questions about I had this talk pushed into me about how to be dominant and the boss and all the rest of it. And then suddenly, I started to see that you could have a relationship with a horse.
That’s the common thread, I think that runs through all of it. And of course, with the rewilding the especially – Rohini has the podcast and everything – it was very much about relationship coaching and that sort of thing.
Alexandra: When you said that you now have drifted into more work around relationships. So that’s like spousal relationships?
Sharon: Yeah. And that’s come about gradually. Because of the work I’ve been doing also the COVID pandemic, we ended up more on computers and digital working with people over zoom or whatever. So I’ve been amazed at how you can actually really connect with people who aren’t you through like we aren’t. And I really enjoy that.
Some of the people I’ve worked with, some of my one-to-one clients actually ended up coming to visit and spending a day with me with the horses as well, even if it’s just a kind of extra. Yes. And we do some coaching, going for walks and this sort of thing so, yeah.
Alexandra: We’re coming toward the end of our time together.
Is there’s anything we haven’t touched on that you’d like to share?
Sharon: I don’t think so. I’m just I did make some notes. But I think we’ve covered quite a lot, actually.
Alexandra: Well, then, tell us where we can find out more about you and your work.
Sharon: I have a website. It’s my name, SharonJCrabbe.com. I’m not very good at keeping it all up to date. I could spend some time in. I’m also on Facebook, and emails and contact numbers all over there. I’m always happy to have a chat with anyone about anything.
I do work in all sorts of different areas, it seems. But that’s great. I enjoy the variety.
Alexandra: Oh, that must be nice. Well, that’s great. Sharon, thank you so much for chatting with me today. It’s been such a pleasure connecting with you.
Sharon: It’s been a lovely, thank you so much. I really enjoyed it too.
Good. My pleasure. Take care.