One of my goals for this blog is to hear others’ thoughts on the concepts of adventure and always moving forward. I was fortunate to be able to sit down with Lynn Petr, Executive Director of Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding (STAR), in Lenoir City. STAR uses horses to serve individuals with disabilities, whether it be through riding or other interactions. Lynn is also my boss, and I’m forever grateful for her giving me the opportunity to work at STAR as one of their instructors. It was great to have some time to catch up and listen to someone who I have a lot of respect and appreciation for.Lynn’s journey with STAR started with a moment of presence. She was a camp counselor and watched a tough kid become completely undone and vulnerable by simply being with a horse. The girl’s true and honest presence came through and it was beautiful. If you’re ever at STAR it’s worth hearing the whole story from Lynn herself. The (very) shortened version is that this spark led Lynn to pursue a field that was really unknown at the time. STAR was her Masters thesis project, and what started as a program with five riders, one horse, three volunteers and one employee (Lynn) has now grown to a nationally accredited program with approximately 200 participants, 400 volunteers, and, with a new location in South Knoxville, 2 facilities.
It’s an impressive journey and I truly admire Lynn for all she has accomplished. She is one of the trailblazers for an industry that is now internationally recognized. When talking to her I loved how her focus on adventure and moving forward parallels with why horses are so therapeutic. For her, it’s about being present and growing where you are.
Me: What are your thoughts on the concept of always moving forward?
Lynn: I’m not a seeker of always moving forward. I’m a dreamer, into the rhythm of the world…you don’t necessarily have to move for there to be movement. I think sometimes people get in such a hurry to get to the next thing that they lose sight of what’s all around them…when you rush past what’s around you, you miss the value of what’s already in your grasp.
You can get out of bed, you have a brain, you have 2 legs, 2 hands. You have everything God gave you to be a good human being. If you only seek ‘bigger, better, best’ and leave everything else in the dust you are doing yourself a disservice. You have to experience things and be secure enough to move on.
There are all kinds of worlds that are moving in the same plane as you, and every single one of them is beautiful and wonderful and helpful to you. Sometimes if you move too quickly you don’t have the base and the building blocks to let you be successful in the future.
Me: I think I’m continuously learning there’s something to be said for finding movement in stillness. I always used to define adventure as going places and having experiences, but am learning that for me, deeper movement happens when I process experiences as opposed to jumping from one to the other.
Lynn: Movement and growth can be in your brain, and in your heart, and in your soul. That naturally leads to other progressions. Things will tend to gravitate to you instead of you forcing yourself on others. If you take the time to be grounded and know what you know and work with everything around you, and surround yourself with other wonderful people and things….it’s inertia.
Me: Would you say movement is more about being present than something tangible like going places?
Lynn: Yeah….for a horse term you’re living every moment. You’re not always seeking something else. There’s also a difference between stagnation and growing where you’re planted.
Sometimes people want to force things to happen and sometimes you have to just allow. When you allow the forces around you to affect you, miraculous things can happen. But if you ignore…you just become your own isolated block of wood that’s pushing a wedge through the rest of the world because you want to get where you want to get.
Me: I consider you an adventurer…what are your thoughts on that?
Lynn: You see, I have never considered myself an adventurer. I’m more stubborn than bold I think.
Me: If not adventurer, what words would you use to describe yourself?
Lynn: Dreamer…creator…I’m a questioner.
Me: I consider all of those things to be qualities an adventurer has. Maybe we can define it as growth… growing who you are and where you are might be more valuable than growing the list of things you have done.
Lynn: Exactly. Exactly. I think adventure is moving outside your comfort zone…I also consider every day as an adventure…you walk out and look at something new or different. I can make stories for everything I see.
Me: What does growth look like for you at STAR?
Lynn: There’s the business growth…budget and finance and number of students. But there can be penalties for too much growth and we have to be aware of that. Quality can go out the window. Growth to me is the growth of the students that we serve. As long as they’re able to do more than they or their family ever thought possible then we are in a positive growth mode. Growing the mission more than the numbers…being the best we can possibly be for the people we serve.
Me: What are your current dreams for STAR with the new location in South Knoxville?
Lynn: Expansion into other areas of working with kids and stimulating people to either learn, which could be with more sensory activities, or learn to relax and find themselves in the quiet. Things like sitting on a dock and being calm and peaceful…or sitting around a fire pit…that could be time with a therapist. I’m very non-traditional, and in that way I’m adventuresome.
Me: Is there anyone you’ve looked up to as an adventurer?
Lynn: I don’t have a big role model that sticks out. Because I was always so different there was never anyone already blazing my path. Probably intellectually Mother Teresa because she stepped so far out to help others. She stuck to her beliefs.
Me: What’s a question you would ask other adventurers or dreamers?
Lynn: What is motivating them to do what it is they are doing? There are a lot of reasons why people go on adventures. Some of it is escapism, some of it’s unsettledness, some of it’s seeking and some of it’s following a purpose.
Me: What motivates you at STAR?
Lynn: I thrive on people and being around people. When I can sit back and watch the people effect the change that I started…that trips my trigger.
Me: So you get to see the movement and motion that you sparked. That’s pretty cool.
Lynn: Yes it is.
(a few tears ensued)
I loved this time and conversation! I think if I could sum up a message from Lynn it would be to find movement in stillness and being present, and to seek adventure in the process of growing where you’re planted. Experience isn’t always meant to be sought out. it can simply be about being aware of, and not losing sight of, the beauty of your surroundings.
Thanks for reading!
For more information about STAR’s programs and how to get involved click Here.
All photos courtesy of Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding.