Coaching with horses
The horse as an animal species has existed for more than 50 million years. This says something about the efficiency in their way of life to survive for so long as prey. To survive for so long, horses have developed survival strategies that we as people can learn from:
- Horses are masters of non-verbal communication, and they react with particular sensitivity to signals. In coaching with horses, the coachee receives a very clear indication of what they communicate non-verbally and what effects this has;
- Horses live in the here-and-now as part of their survival strategy. This allows them, at any moment, to be in tune with their environment, and to react accordingly. This makes horses non-judgmental, without prejudice, so that in coaching with horses the horse can sense the state of mind of the coachee within a few seconds. They will mirror those authentic feelings in their own behaviour, again and again. Even when for the coachee these feelings are subconscious or are not recognised. For coachees this will mostly be experienced as a feeling of safety;
- Horses in nature live as part of a herd, giving it individually the best chance for survival. In coaching with horses, the coachee together with the horse form a herd in the ring. With groups this can involve more than one horse and/or participants;
- By nature, horses are animals that will follow another horse, they are dependent on the leaders of the herd. So they will follow the leader, because this makes them feel safe. If there is no leader they need to take charge for survival. In the ring the horse will provide direct feedback to the way the coachee acts as leader for themselves and to the environment;
- Horses offer the possibility for the coachee to practise new behaviour and will provide immediate feedback on the effectiveness of this new behaviour. With this, it is possible to fine-tune behaviour before the coachee puts the new behaviour in practice outside the sessions.
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The coach functions as an intermediary between the horse and the coachee; the behaviour that the horse displays is translated by the coach to the coachee.
This method of coaching is a worthy component to reach the centre of the issue at hand. Coaching with horses makes it easier to establish a connection between the rational and feelings/emotions and this will almost always be achieved.