The eternal quest for leadership, team-bonding, communication, confidence, empathy, self-control… all of this, and much, much more can be learnt from coaching with horses and applied to the world of business. Horses and coaching has become one of the most exciting and quickest ways to acquire skills and resources to develop better leadership.
To talk of leadership in the business world is to talk of emotional intelligence, empathetic leaders with social skills capable of motivating and managing teams of great capital: human capital.
A capital difficult to manage, especially in the business environment. Perhaps the answer lies far from our technologically advanced world and can be found outside our comfort zone, by returning to contact with nature and one of our most beautiful and noble creatures. The horse.
The “Methodology of Assisted Education by Horses” was born using them as a useful ‘tool’ for coaching, as these noble beasts in the wild live in herds and follow a leader. The horse is highly sociable, feels safe and sound living in a group and has a perfectly established hierarchical order. This structure functions as a pair of animals or a large herd, an organization very similar to virtually any company anywhere.
The horse that leads the herd is at the apex of ‘team work’ where cohesion is fundamental for the survival of the group and therefore it is vital that this leader emanates security and confidence in itself, their movements and energy constitute a vital message for the herd.
”The feedback from the horse is clear, immediate, honest and objective because a horse doesn’t judge; it observes, perceives and interacts”
The great sensibility of the horse enables us to capture those same feelings for people and react in accordance with what is perceived, providing very valuable feed-back. The relationship with these animals means gaining their trust with huge slices of patience, presence, empathy and using effective communication, all indispensable qualities for exercising leadership and being successful in dealing with people in business.
“In an experience with horses, it matters not who you are, but what you feel and how you communicate”
The horse becomes a companion who helps us to discover how we are, we manage, relate to each other, handle stress and confront new challenges. A mirror in which our strengths and weaknesses are reflected back, but thanks to the innate nobility of our equine friend our defects and virtues are shown without hurting nor humiliating us. The reaction of the animal is not conditioned by convention and where experience is much more valuable than the opinion of an expert.
David Russ is a “horse-whisperer” as a result of remaining inactive for a year owing to falling from his horse and who decided to change direction from working in advertising and to transmit all that these magnificent beasts had taught him. The Russ Natural Horse Way. was born.
“The skills that a good “whisperer” should possess to get an animal of 500 kg. to want to cooperate, are very similar to those a good leader needs when it comes to managing their teams”, claims Russ.
His program “The Leader Who Whispers” is directed at directors and middle-ranking executives in order to analyze and improve leadership skills. The techniques of “horsemanship” are transposed, and leading horses in a professional ambit and the response of the horse to being led is analyzed against the requirements of the participants. Turning the time with the horse into a mirror that highlights the type of leadership possessed by each person.
“When we work with a horse, you stand in front of the best teachers in the world”, David Russ
During the learning-period, skills such as assertiveness, self-control and non-verbal communication are worked, along with sensing openings, empathy, motivation, flexibility, confidence and lateral-thinking.
“The horse makes us aware of our capability to believe in ourselves and generate confidence amongst others”
According to Ada Quintans who runs her own coaching business “The most impacting element is seeing how the power and material strengths that each leader has in their organization, are not valid in these dynamics with horses. They need to rely on natural leadership and creativity to change behavioral habits that serve them in order to guide effectively their teams”.
A course of approximately eight hours with ten participants can cost around 150 euros per person, including materials and meals. The training can either be individual or in a group. “There isn’t an established profile, it is open to anybody looking to improve or develop the areas of communication and empathy within excellence” Quintans assured.
“The horse assumes leadership, or cedes it absolutely to whoever it feels confident with”
“In coaching, the will to change from the coachee is important, the determining which objective they want. Each one of us lives a reality which is ours, what we perceive through our filters” according to Edgar Guerrero de la Rotta, horseman and teacher of Holistic Horse Taming and Excellency.
In the equine world a learned value is that the leader should never go alone, for this reason it is the eldest mare who guides the herd to a safe place with the best pasture and plentiful water. This secure, comfortable and stimulating place, which we would all like to be our workplace.
Would you dare to ride in order to get it?
Illustration: Robert Farkas