Minding the Herd: Horse Assisted Coaching

“Sebastian was instrumental in helping us find the roadblocks that needed more discussion and planning for our team. Without his intuition, we could have gone on for months being inefficient in our work and losing opportunities in our business. His gentle yet assertive steering helped us figure it out in under an hour. That may have been the most valuable hour of our business this year!” Mary Engel, CEO, The Management Coach

Sebastian takes his job seriously. He enjoys providing his clients with honest, direct feedback. His mere size and presence can push them out of their comfort zone. He’s not afraid to test boundaries. Sebastian is one of a growing number of unlikely coaches. He is a horse and a valuable member of an equine experiential learning program. In this role, Sebastian is helping business leaders and their teams take the lead, while inspiring others to be their best every step of the way. Wisdom horses like Sebastian are ready to share includes the following:

  1. Connections Count: If you want a horse to follow your lead, then you need to create a connection with it. This means being present, taking time to understand its nature and engaging it fully in the desired activity. It means being clear on your intention. Ignore a horse and it will ignore you. Similarly, if you want to lead a team, you need to be clear on your intention. You need to connect with your team members to ensure alignment and agreement on shared goals. Check in with them, ask them how they are doing, how their day is going and what keeps them up at night. Invest time in getting to know each member of your team and what makes them tick, adjusting your style to create a connection based on mutual trust and respect.
  2. Body Language Speaks Volumes: Horses communicate with body language. The position of their ears, head, tail and hind end lets you know when you are welcomed into their personal space – or not. Ignore any of these signals and you might be on the receiving end of a gentle nudge, a body bump or a swift kick. What do your facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch and use of space say about your leadership style? Non-verbal communication accounts for the majority of information transmitted during interpersonal interactions. Is your expression happy or sad? Is your posture open, relaxed and ready to listen or does it suggest you are impatient and emotionally detached?
  3. Boundaries Matter: A boundary helps you claim the personal space you need to feel safe, connected and engaged with a person approaching and interacting with you, says author Linda Kohanov. Horses need personal space just as people do. That space will vary depending on the horse, their background and experience. Giving others the physical or emotional space they need helps them feel respected, allowing their minds to work more effectively, hearing and remembering much more of what you are saying.
  4. Decisions are a Fine Balance of Intellect and Emotion: Horses teach us to appreciate the non-intellectual, as well as intellectual, aspects of evaluation and decision-making. With keen perception and intuition, they teach us to trust our heart and our gut. Psychologist Karl Jung refers to this as the Four Ways of Wisdom – thinking, feeling, sensing and intuiting. All four modalities are important in business – and good leaders know to call upon each and all in balance to make informed decisions.

Author Julia Felton sums up how horses like Sebastian connect us to possibility: “Horses mirror the essential qualities of leadership — trust, authenticity, honesty, intuition, listening, a willingness of spirit and intuition. They have no agenda with us. They simply reflect our strength of character, our heart, our internal congruence and our self-limiting perceptions. Horses help us understand that leadership begins with who we are being. Horses help us close the gap between how we actually present ourselves to others and how we think we are being. Connecting to success and becoming a leader in your own life is always a team sport and horses are master teachers in this journey,” she says.

Sebastian is part of The Mane Intent’s Leading with Intent – Horse Assisted Coaching for Leaders Program. At The Mane Intent, we work with individuals and teams to help you take the lead, honing your interpersonal skills for optimal group performance, innovation, endurance and deep personal and professional satisfaction. Come meet Sebastian and the rest of the herd. Experience the team’s strength and wisdom. Visit www.themaneintent.ca



The Mane Intent

April 29, 2015

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