The Power of Peggy

by Gretchen Dietz, 5th grade teacher at Seattle Girls School.

Peggy would tell you it's the horses. Peggy would tell you that girls have an emotional connection to horses because they are both – horses and girls – intuitive. Peggy would tell you it's the horse that shows the girls how to be leaders, the horse that helps the girls feel their inner confidence, horses that teach the girls to trust their inner voice.

The horses help, but really, it's Peggy Gilmer who makes the experience at her farm about leadership, poise, and intention. Sure, she uses the horses and her knowledge about them to guide the experience and oh, what amazing teachers horses are, but behind it all is this amazing woman who believes in the beauty of each girl, sees the potential of each girl, and ultimately asks of each one of them to be present, be authentic, be connected, and move through their lives with intention.

The 5th grade class of SGS has been extremely fortunate that Peggy Gilmer (Horse As Coach facilitator and owner of Silk Purse Farm where we spent last Friday) has committed herself to working with our students. The day we spend with Peggy is worth a thousands days in our classroom.

When Peggy approached us last year, offering to work with our students as her gift to SGS, we knew we were in for quite an experience the second we met her. Talk about genuine. Peggy has chosen to devote her life not only to her horses, but also to helping women (and girls) realize their potential as leaders.

"Our model for leadership has been defined by men," says Peggy. "Women have a different leadership style. It's different than a man's, but just as valuable. Now, more than ever, our world needs the kind of leadership women can provide."

For Peggy, the work with our girls is her contribution to helping create powerful and effective world women leaders. And what a job she does.

Peggy's message to the girls last week was simple, but powerful. If you want to be seen as a leader, you must present yourself to the world (and to the horse) as one. This not only means standing tall and claiming your space, but it also means finding the leader's voice inside.

For some students, that voice is hidden under self-consciousness, embarrassment, insecurity, and doubt. Horses don't like doubt. As pack animals, they are deeply aware of the world around them. They follow the pack leader who is going to protect and provide for them. They follow a leader who knows where she's going, who is confident of the world around her, who has goals and a plan.

In the ring, Peggy asked each girl to connect with the horse, be present in the moment, and most importantly, practice being the powerful leader the horse needs.

We could try to describe how amazing this experience is, how transformational it is to watch each girl connect with her inner leader, but it's really impossible to document the changes each girl demonstrated the more she worked with the horses and with Peggy.

Our experience last week at Silk Purse Farm is our springboard for the rest of the year. While we are not Peggy, we plan to summon her spirit and her words again and again, be it in math, art, or in issues of friendship or confidence or goal-setting. When we go back in the spring, we know the girls will be excited to work with the horses again, but we know they'll be equally excited to see and work with Peggy Gilmer.