There is so much that horses can teach us about life. Horses have been described as “authenticity meters” and in my experience this is so true. They see beyond the mask that we put on and through to the real core of the person. They know when someone is frightened or in need of support, and when someone is overly aggressive. Horses allow, and expect us, to be who we truly are. They will not tolerate the mask that humans so often feel forced to put on in order to protect themselves. I am reminded of an experience with a young lad, we shall call him Tom. Tom had been excluded from school for his aggressive behaviour. The teachers described him as being out of control and he bullied the other children. It took only a few sessions with a horse for Tom to realise that in order to connect with a horse he needed to let go of this mask. He needed to expose the young, frightened lad beneath and know that everything would be alright. Tom learnt it was ok to show his emotions and soon realised that acting tough had not been serving him well.
Horses act as mirrors reflecting back to us what we otherwise choose not to see. We all understand that we have different perspectives on the world and see the same thing in different ways, yet ironically we can only see what we already have in our frame of reference. If we experience the horse as angry and aggressive, it is likely that there are similar emotions that we have running through our lives. Horses allow us the opportunity to experience firsthand what is happening to us and by providing immediate feedback they allow us to change our actions to get a different result. How often does that happen in life? And importantly horses are non-judgemental. They just respond to the energy and intent shown to them. For children, I have found that often when faced with a horse the child’s whole persona can change as the real child that has been hiding behind that conditioned mask emerges. This can be a joyous experience for both children and parents. AHA! Moments occur and the children, and parents, get some real insights into what is happening for them.
So why is Horse Assisted Coaching so powerful? Well the answer lies in the fact that many traditional programmes focus on a verbal, classroom (neo-cortex) approach. Whilst this clearly has a role in society I have found that Horse Assisted Coaching sessions achieve a deeper, more sustainable and faster impact on creating change. This is achieved by doing, what is known as limbic learning, therefore there is no integration required. Examples of limbic learning are riding a bike, learning to walk etc. Once we have learnt to do these we do not forget.
Typically no riding is involved in a Horse Assisted Coaching session. Generally, all the work is done on the ground with the participants leading the horses through a series of exercises that help give them insight into such diverse topics as:
- The importance of being a great leader. If you can’t lead a horse and get him to follow you, how can you expect a team to follow you? Importantly, how can you lead others if you can’t lead yourself
- How body language and voice tonality help you influence others. With no words participants need to influence the horse to move using their own resources and what state you are in definitely influences the outcome.
- Value of teamwork. In this ever-connected society there is a real need for being plugged into the system in order to succeed. Alliances and partnerships will become more commonplace so participants learn how to contribute to a team and work towards a common goal.
- The importance of focus and intent because if you are not clearly focused and know what you are doing then horse will not follow you.
Sessions can be run in a group format or one on one depending on the client’s requirements. Horses can also be used to develop family constellations and these in the past have been shown to be very powerful.