Learning with horses is worlds away from the typical learning experience of sitting in a conference room staring at PowerPoint slides and listening to a speaker drone on. It is more spontaneous, more engaging … and more effective.
Despite their size, horses are prey animals. In the wild, they survive mainly by running away. As a result, they are fearful and constantly hyper-aware. No movement, no intention, no change in their immediate environment will go unnoticed. Their sensitivity and quick reactions require you to become holistically aware of your own behaviour when dealing with them.
If the horse brings uncertainty, agitation and turbulence, we must learn to summon calm, strength, focus, respect and trust.
This ability is essential to working with horses – and also to personal relationships and leadership.
Horses use our body language to decode our intentions and our emotions. If our feelings and our actions are not aligned, they become uneasy and will often walk away from us. Once we remove this “mask”, they will display calm and peace, and will often move towards us. This provides us with immediate feedback about our feelings, thoughts and actions.
As herd animals, horses interact through a model of cooperation that is established immediately on first contact. As soon as you enter a horse’s realm, you are treated as a member of its herd. The horse expects clear and genuine communication from you, coherent behaviour and, above all, a safe relationship it can trust.
A horse is around ten times your weight and size. Its response to your body language is honest and direct: it will either cooperate or it won’t. The horse cannot be manipulated through sheer force, nor is it swayed by your professional or social status, your name or your wealth.
You will need to find a deeper, more honest form of leadership to form a working relationship with it.
Horses provide powerful experiential learning experiences. They are natural teachers of self-awareness. They offer immediate feedback about your presence, emotional intelligence and body language. Learning to lead horses will help you to deal with intimidating and challenging situations at work and in life.
Interacting with a horse is a uniquely honest and intense experience. It will force you to come out of your rational comfort zone. Your spontaneous behaviour will allow you to identify your “true way of acting”, your strengths and your weaknesses. You will become more aware of what you project and of how you are perceived by others – without a word being spoken.
You will find it easy to accept the feedback the horse is giving you, because you understand instinctively that it is natural and authentic. The point is not to complete a set exercise “well” or “badly”, or to be judged on how you do it. The focus is on your interaction with the horse and your own self-awareness arising from it. You will lead yourself to develop new attitudes and new patterns of behaviour that advance your personal growth.