TALES FROM THE TRAILS
Sarah Palmer is passionate about horses, about her work and about helping people. She has lived and worked in six different countries on three different continents. Two years ago, she and her husband found an 11-acre farm on F Road in Loxahatchee Groves. Dovecot Farm officially opened in June 2017.
“The property was in distress,” Sarah recalled. “It had been badly neglected and needed love. We took it over and started from scratch. We completely renovated the house, redid the barn, and poured in a lot of love, attention and positive vibes.”
Sarah is a life coach who believes that coaching is not about reaching a destination; it’s a journey. She specializes in personal growth, relationship and career coaching, and works with a broad spectrum of clients, offering private sessions and retreats, as well as group and family programs.
Sarah’s specialty is equine-facilitated learning and coaching, a unique way of coaching clients who interact with horses, exploring new ways of working and creating a harmonious way of living. The programs are non-riding, hands-on sessions with an equine partner.
“Horses play a significant part in my life,” Sarah said. “My three mares are my coaching partners. They’re healers, teachers and guides, and each one brings a different perspective and plays a different role. They’re co-collaborators in the process.”
Sarah describes Lacey, a brown Quarter Horse, as a real love, super sweet and a true healer. Pocahontas, a Paint/Arab cross, is the alpha mare and very expressive. Montana, an Appaloosa, is a rescue and engages with everyone.
With small groups or individuals, much of the work is done in the round pen. Larger groups work under the trees on the grounds, in the ring or in a pasture. Sarah said the work can be more reflective or more active, depending upon the client’s needs and wants. The sessions are highly personalized to build on strengths and attain personal growth.
Some of the areas covered include personal growth, professional development, relationship coaching, communication skills, confidence, personal power, inner peace, achieving balance, organization and productivity.
“Dovecot stresses these corporate values,” Sarah said. “First, compassion. There’s a great need for more compassion in the world. Second, authenticity. Horses are great at teaching this. You have to be self-aware and honest around horses, or they’ll ignore you. Third, integrity. Learn to live it, not just mouth the words. Last, collaboration. Embrace change in order to succeed.”
Last summer, a group of 30 teenagers from the Youth Empowerment Center in Riviera Beach spent a day at Dovecot.
“They all thought they were going to ride,” Sarah recalled. “We quickly disabused them of that notion. We discussed their expectations and decided on some basic rules, like don’t hit the horse, and be respectful of others. They all committed to make the most of the experience and enjoy each moment. They even gave up their phones for the day. We divided them into three groups, and they rotated through three stations, watched us work with the horses, then discussed what was happening. They all wrote in their journals. They especially connected with Montana, the rescue horse, and her backstory of abuse. They really enjoyed the yoga and meditation session. At the end, they got their phones back and got to pet the horses and take photos. Everyone got a lot out of it.”
Sessions typically start with an initial assessment called the Personality Diversity Indicator Tool to clearly define short-term and long-term goals. It’s used as a foundation to create a strategy to attain objectives. Dovecot offers one-, two- or three-day programs, both weekends and during the week, for individuals and groups. There are no sleeping facilities at the farm.
“We determine each clients’ goals and needs, and explain ways that horses can help them attain them,” Sarah said. “There’s a lot of dialogue and collaboration. You have to embrace change in order to succeed. Horses excel at this, especially in learning about leadership. People who’ve never been around horses can be intimidated by their size. They learn how to engage with them, taking their different personalities into consideration. Not all horses are easy to catch or lead. These lessons translate well into corporate and private real-world scenarios.”
Sarah explained that these experiences help clients identify and reframe their thoughts and attitudes. It can also help break negative habits, acquire new methods of identification and help achieve maximum potential. It can help make a job more gratifying, expand personal relationships, resolve ongoing negative behaviors, and improve overall health and spiritual growth.
“In the end, compassion is paramount,” Sarah said. “Question I often ask clients are, ‘What do you want your legacy to be? What do you want people to remember about you? What can you add to the world?’ My goals are to help clients self-discover this awareness, and it’s something easily learned from horses. They embrace their world and live in it, and collaborate with others, both humans and horses. If you can learn to be a follow-worthy leader in the horse world, you can apply those same principals to the other aspects of your life.”
Sarah wants her legacy to be giving people the tools to be able to do things differently, to meet their challenges with confidence and success, to reach for their potential and attain personal growth. “I want to make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.