Why horses

Horses have evolved as partners alongside human beings for thousands of years. We no longer need their muscle power to progress as a species. But to manage modern day complexity and volatility, we need their guidance for a more subtle challenge – one of self-mastery, relationship and authenticity.
There are a number of features that make horses exceptionally suited for guiding us in this process.

Some are described below, but if you want a more detailed description, please read our recent article In Chief Learning Officer Magazine, or download the full length article here: Equine Facilitated Learning._ the next frontier of leadership development.

Non-verbal

As much as 93% of human communication can be non-verbal (Mehrabian, 2009). With the horses, we learn how to use our entire body to communicate. Working non-verbally improves emotional and social intelligence, and helps to better navigate relationships – with ourselves and other people.

Head, heart and gut

Working wordlessly with horses takes you into the body, and provokes coordinated use of the body’s main nerve centres or “brains”: the brain, heart and gut. Whereas humans tend to use their heads the most, horses are highly skilled at aligning all three. The exercises with the horses are designed to achieve such alignment. This elevates congruence of body and mind, a crucial aspect of authenticity.

Emotional intelligence

As herd animals, relationship is everything to horses. They have an acute sense for communication, boundaries, authority and energy levels, and transfer this ability and skills to humans who work with them. What’s more, they readily pick up on incongruence or hidden emotions – you cannot “talk your way out of it” with a horse.

Intuition

As human beings, we are often taught not to listen to our instincts, or what our bodies tell us. Though “intuition” is almost a bad word in some settings, it has saved the lives of many a soldier. When we dismiss this vital source of intelligence, we also cut off a portion of who we are, our true self. Horses are not limited this way. They challenge us to come back to who we are, in our bodies.

Mirroring

Most of us are not aware of what we radiate, but horses perfectly make visible our unconscious moods and vibes. They naturally mirror our inner states because as prey animals, they constantly use their bodies as highly tuned sensing devices. What they show us works to heighten our self-awareness.

Free from judgment

Horses give immediate and honest feedback without judgment. Rather than status or position, they follow intention and energy. Your background is irrelevant – it is only the here and now that matters. This gives you total freedom and safety to try new ways of being and doing.

De-stress

Horses are excellent teachers in mindfulness. When you join the herd, they constantly remind you to be fully present; that is how they guarantee safety for one another. Being and working with them provides a powerful release of stress, and touching the horse (if you choose to) is restorative on a neurological level: physical, calm touch of the horse is said to release oxytocin, the “tend and befriend” hormone, which decreases blood pressure and stimulates release of dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter.