First Stage Familiarization

This stage involves familiarization with the facilitating environment (the work area) on the ranch, and with the horses. Group members are taught the horse's body language, and how to recognize how/when the horse reacts. Group members are taught the basics of "leading" and riding a horse. The initial direct contact with the horse produces anxiety in members and the fear that they might not succeed in mounting the horse, and that they might lose control. The success of some group members gives encouragement to the others to make the attempt. Some openly express their fears, while others experience this in an indirect manner, such as by asking: "Are you sure that I'm not too heavy for the horse?"

At this stage, a gradual process of familiarization takes place, with the unfolding of patterns of behavior relating to new situations. Group members are self-absorbed and their link with the group is weak. Only at the end of this stage is more attention paid to the group-as-a-whole, probably due to a greater feeling of confidence with the horse.

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