Equine Experiences: How We Use the Power of Horses to Help You Grow
Working with horses to help people heal, grow, and evolve traces back thousands of years. At Untethered, we are continuing these powerful modalities guided by modern research to help executives and entrepreneurs tackle the most pressing challenges within their business and their everyday world. Read on to learn more about how these majestic animals transform lives.
Equine Experiences: Why We Partner
If you’re wondering how a horse can truly help you grow as a leader, you’re not alone! We invite skeptics and those curious alike to open their minds to the possibility that horses can be outstanding teachers and guides.
We’re excited to add to the body of research showing significant promise in partnering with horses as a form of therapy and, now, as a mechanism for accelerated growth in leadership. A study published in the Journal of Management Development found that equine experiences have been reported to improve several key leadership skills, such as fostering deep levels of self-awareness and significant advances in emotional intelligence.
I have seen these transformations in real-time during our growth intensives. As clients work side-by-side with these beautiful animals, they discover deep and intimate reconnections with a part of their soul that their busy minds have clouded for too long. They rediscover their purpose, body intelligence, and intuition – the key to leading with love rather than command and control.
Each equine experience is unique and custom-fit to meet specific needs of our clients. Clients have the opportunity to work with just one horse or even the entire herd. From guided groundwork in the arena, grooming, and walking meditations, each lesson is an opportunity to identify patterns, thoughts, and emotions that are blocking attempts at change.
Equine Experiences: Inside a Horse’s Mind (and Body)
So what is so magical about horses, anyway? How is working with a horse different from working with any other animal? Well, for one thing, horses are incredible biofeedback teachers. What does this mean? They sense and provide instant feedback on the emotions and sensations their human companion is experiencing at the moment, even if the human does not recognize it themselves.
In a recent study published by the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, researchers found horses’ behavior and heart rate changed in response to stationary humans who were either calm, afraid, or physically stressed by a recent event. This type of instant and intuitive communication helps bring to the surface emotional and belief patterns (often hidden) within our clients.
The connection horses can make with humans is a small example of a much larger phenomenon: horses are fully awake to the world around them and their own bodies. They are in a constant state of smelling, feeling, listening, and engaging. As prey animals, their ability to sense and respond to threats is critical to survival. If you’ve ever seen a herd of horses in the wild, you’ve likely seen this keen ability in action. When horses sense danger, they do so through the sensations in their body – and communicate it to the rest of the herd.
This “sensing ability” may seem elusive to you – and that’s ok. As humans and as leaders, we’ve been conditioned to ignore our bodies in favor of our minds, which is why we have so much to learn from these beautiful animals. We call it “embodied knowing,” and by mirroring our feelings in real-time with complete nonjudgment, horses open the door for us to experience this intelligence of the body.
Imagine this scenario:
You are standing in a middle of a round pen with a 1,500 lb horse calmly waiting at the pen’s edge. As the horse approaches you, it witnesses a surge of fear rush through your body. The horse halts instantly – in this moment, the horse is mirroring and magnifying your own emotions – teaching you how to keenly notice and listen to what your body is telling you.
Like the horse does with its own environment, it teaches you how to attune to your body’s intelligence. This is an exercise in recognizing the power of our body’s cues and emotions. Our feelings and sensations play a vital role in successfully leading today’s world despite what mainstream beliefs believe otherwise.
Combatting Self-Limiting Convention
Western society treats reason in opposition to emotion (the “heart vs. head” argument). We are often encouraged to silence our feelings and felt knowing in favor of the mind’s knowing. The mind is regarded as our primary source of intelligence, and we are taught our body’s sensations are nothing more than flittering nonsense.
When we spend so much time analyzing, categorizing, reasoning, deducing, and anticipating our lives, we ignore the very element that has allowed the human race to endure for so long: our instincts. What if we could harness these sensations for growth? The concept, known simply as embodiment, is gaining traction in leadership literature and practice. Horses are natural geniuses in this regard, which makes them the perfect teachers.
Becoming attuned to our body’s sensations is a new concept for many of us, especially when it comes to leadership. Our fast-paced business world has made it easy to fall in step with automation and procedures. Unfortunately, this way of living leaves very little room for authenticity.
It is natural to put on a mask at work, hide behind said procedures, and conceal parts of ourselves in an effort not to be judged. The thing about horses is, you can’t hide from them! Horses rely on authenticity because it means your inner world match what you present outwardly. This is critical to their survival.
For instance, imagine we are working with a client who is known to feign confidence at work to make it through a task. Then, they try the same tactic with a horse. The horse will immediately reflect their actual emotional and subconscious belief and, most likely, not cooperate with the client despite repeated attempts. The horse senses the incongruence of the client’s inner and outer emotions and actions and perceives mixed messages as a threat.
This immediate feedback is invaluable for pushing past stubborn roadblocks that inhibit growth. Because to achieve harmony with the horse, the client does not need to change their emotions to become congruent; they simply have to acknowledge what they are feeling. This is true congruency and, thus, authenticity. These practices show our clients tangible outcomes of what happens when they live authentically.
Equine Experiences: Teaching Us How to Lead with Love
When a horse invites us into its space, it is imperative to be present (and tough not to be, considering its large stature!) In its presence, we can journey into our subconscious and navigate the world of intangibles. Doing this work allows us to rediscover our hearts, emotions, and intuition, and we can reflect these inner workings externally in our leadership style.
I genuinely believe horses are here to help us evolve by bringing us back to our roots. Humans (and leaders) are not born tough and aggressive with an innate desire for command and control – such traits are learned from the corporate environment society has contrived. A horse’s success is found in its quiet strength and wisdom, empathy, and intuitive presence. These elements come from the heart – and this is how they teach us to lead with love.
Are you a high-achieving executive or entrepreneur who needs to quickly break through your most stubborn and persistent roadblocks, which stand in the way of your most important goals and highest potential? Learn more about our equine-facilitated coaching growth intensive and commit to creating a life of leadership that you most desire.