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    ''Why Horses?''...I get asked ALL the time!

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    September 14, 2017

    Leadership...and...Horses?

    An acquaintance stopped me in the produce aisle of the grocery store the other day, and, after the initial "hellos", she asked me about "that thing you do with horses"...

    Admittedly, I do not have a great "30 second elevator pitch" for this arm of my business (and yes..I've been doing it for nearly 1.5 years)...So I tried to explain it: "Well...I have my clients interact with horses through groundwork activities, and I watch and coach on what comes up...Horses help develop emotional intelligence, creative and authentic leadership skills, adaptability, setting boundaries and energetic awareness..."  Though that's all true, I wasn't thrilled with that description.  

    So after a little time to think about it, here's what I want you to know about why I use horses (Equine Facilitated Learning, or EFL) in my coaching practice:

    1)  Horses are hyper alert and aware...
    ...their survival (in the wild) depends on it. For my clients, this means that the horse is constantly picking up what they're throwing down.  The leader of a horse herd is always the one that is the most acutely aware of themselves, and their surroundings - and the leader of the herd changes depending on who's the most aware in the moment, because that leader keeps the herd from being eaten, basically. 

    How does that help my clients?  If you want to be able to lead the horse through ground work exercises, you must also become hyper alert and aware...of yourself.  This calls in the first core skill of Emotional Intelligence:  Self-Awareness, and the 3rd core skill of emotional intelligence:  Social-Awareness.  So by working with horses my clients begin to develop their own self-awareness, and subsequently a deeper awareness of what's happening around them - a critical skill for talented leaders in any capacity.



    2)   Horses are drawn to "congruence"...meaning your insides match your outsides...
    ...You're nervous but are pretending to be confident?  The horse can tell.  You feel tired but are trying to act with energy?  This too, will be picked up on and sensed by the horse you're interacting with.  This ability to lead from a place of congruence is, all to often, lost in traditional leadership - We try to "fake it til we make it", and think no one notices.  Congruence builds trust - with the horse, but beyond that, with your family, your friends, your co-workers, your subordinates and even your supervisors.  And trust, in my experience, is what will separate managers from true leaders - Trust generates in your team a willingness to follow your lead...because they believe you'll lead them with integrity.



    3)  Horses mirror energy... 
    ...Yep, I'm talking about that woo-woo energy now.  But I guarantee that you can think of at least one person in your life - professional or otherwise - that had a distinct and natural ability to "bring everybody down"the moment they walked into the office...or, alternately, someone that could "brighten a room" just by being there.  When you're working with a horse, they have literally no judgement about what you can do for them...they simply respond to the energy you're bringing into the relationship right now.  Nervous energy?  You'll see the horse respond with cues that reflect an unsettled-ness.  Joyful energy?  The horse might show a playfulness.  Aggressive or angry energy?  You're going to see that mirrored back to you, too.  Oftentimes, my clients have so. much. to. do. that they don't have time to think about HOW they're doing it, or what their mood or energy state is while they're doing it.  The horse will show you...and then give you an opportunity to try something different...because...


    4)  Horses are always present right now....
    ...So you may arrive to your session, retreat or workshop with me feeling frenetic, confused and stuck.  That's a-ok.  We pay attention to it.  We admit it.  We reflect on why that is.  And then we try to let go of it (that's where I come in), and we see if our new energy:  settled, relaxed, content...is reflected by the horse.  The horse will neither remember or care that you were sobbing or screaming two minutes ago, they want to see how you are right now.  Which gives my clients this beautiful ability to change, adapt and evolve - - - yes, sometimes in the course of moments - - - and then see how that impacts their environments differently.


    5)  Horses are all different...
    ...Just like people. You may have to learn how to motivate and interact with a horse that is stubborn (like your teenage daughter), or high-energy (like your toddler son), or simply takes a lot of effort to get going (like that exasperating yet talented young employee).  So you get to practice tuning in to non-verbal communication, responding to feedback (of what is and isn't working in that moment), step outside of your comfort zone, embrace creativity, and try new ways to affect / motivate / inspire the horse in front of you.  Which might be different from how you work with the next horse I bring in. Creativity and adaptability at it's finest...I bet you've heard those terms relative to leadership before!  



    6)  Horses just generally bring up some shit for people....
    ...80% of the people I've had out to do individual, team or group EFL sessions have had a genuine fear of horses.  I don't see that as a barrier...I see it as an opportunity.  An opportunity to work through fear, apprehension, stress, and an ability to know and honor your own boundaries, and apply those skills to different areas of your life.  It's a lovely thing to see a client that walked up to the arena in fear, giving the horse a smooch goodbye at the end of our time together.  



    7)  Horses really can heal...
    ...Many of my clients are leadership or Corporate clients...but not all.  I've had mother-daughter pairs, husband-wife pairs, teams in the onslaught of change and challenge.  I've had individuals working through old relationship hurts, teenagers working through self-doubt and loneliness, and grandmothers wanting to rediscover who they are, now that they're spouse has passed and children have moved on.  The freedom, space and healing that comes from being with these beautiful and gentle creatures is indescribable.  The learning experiential.  The relief almost tangible.



    So yes...it's true...I have a very hard time succinctly describing "that thing I do with horses"...but I believe in it fiercely, and I am passionate about it to no end.  I believe that when clients come to me with an openness in working with my horse partners, they walk away changed for the better - and that is the most rewarding gift of all.  

    *I do currently have 2 spots left in my October "LEAD" retreat (a 2-day EFL leadership experience in Canby, OR on 10/17 and 10/18)...email me if you're interested in finding out more!  

    **I'm also scheduling team events and individual coaching sessions and VIP days - simply email me and we'll get a time on my calendar to talk more about the solution that might be best for you!
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    What my clients are saying:

    "I loved working with Meagan because she helped me to recognize and develop my emotional intelligence.  With her help I was able to identify what are true thoughts versus those that are not true.  Through my work with Meagan, I find I am able to respond to situations as they come up, rather than reacting.  Meagan’s coaching, guidance and perspective have been of benefit both personally and professionally!" 
    -JA
     

     
     
     
     
    Contact:
    Meagan English, Business, Life and Equus Coach (MBI Certified)
    meagan@meaganenglishcoaching.com, (503) 805-3892