How Equine Facilitated Learning can help you find a way forward, no matter who you are.
Many people ask us whether we train the horses to do what they do here at Horse Sense.Like all our other colleagues in the Equine Facilitated Learning Industry, the only ‘training’ the horses have is familiarization to the props we use. We train our horses to get used to coloured flags, poles, traffic cones and other equipment that we use on our programmes, but that’s it. There’s no other training involved at all; our horses are your normal, everyday horses and ponies that spend their days grazing in the fields, just like any others.
The other question we get asked is whether you need to be a horse person to do this. In other words, do you have to know your way around horses, feel comfortable around them or even be able to ride them. Again, the answer is an emphatic ‘no!’. It really doesn’t matter whether you have experience of horses or not. The horses don’t respond to any secret equestrian ‘know how’, they just do what they do best; they be themselves and they react totally in the ‘moment’ to what they feel.
A few years ago, I went to visit a guy who was held in high esteem in the world of equine facilitated learning. An accomplished horseman and follower of natural horsemanship, I had read his book on leadership using horses and was curious to learn more about his own work in this fascinating field.
Upon arriving at his yard I was amazed when he whistled and from far across the fields, two horses came galloping over. The connection this guy had with his horses was incredible. They would follow him anywhere.
Later on in the day, he asked me (a fellow NLP Coach) to take him through some of the exercises I might use with my own clients. He talked to me about a decision that he had made regarding a future goal. I decided to do some Timeline work. Based on Timeline Therapy®, the fundamental principle is to replicate your client’s past, present and future in a line – and we use the outdoor space in the arena to do this. So, we set too, creating a pathway in the arena which represented the future journey that he needed to make to achieve this goal. I then asked him to walk up the path towards this goal and ask his horses to follow him (no lead ropes attached). Now, I had no idea what was going to happen and, to be honest, I really thought that, given the relationship he had with his beloved animals, they would walk straight on down after him. But no. They refused to follow. I was, for want of a better expression, quite literally gobsmacked – and so was he. We spent some time next discussing this future goal and, importantly, his level of commitment to it. Clearly the horses had picked up that he wasn’t completely confident in the path he was taking and their intuitive ability and survival instinct had kicked in; they most certainly weren’t going to follow anyone down a road they weren’t confident with, no matter how much they adored him. After a short time, it transpired that there were family issues surrounding this goal; it was right for him, but not for his wife and deep down he knew that. We talked about other options and eventually he found a solution that was right for both of them. I asked him again to make the journey towards his goal, this time with the new insight and learning. This time, the horses followed.
Apart from being one of those ‘wow!’ moments, and a rather emotional experience for all (as these sessions often are) that session taught me a few things too.
Using the arena to represent a client’s timeline is incredibly powerful. The horses, no matter what their previous training will always do their own thing and default back to their natural instincts. And, it really doesn’t matter whether you are a Grand Prix Dressage Rider, Cowboy Extraordinaire, or have never touched a horse in your life before, the horses will always detect and mirror your underlying thoughts and feelings that so often hold us back in life without us even realizing it.
Karen Fleming is an experienced International Coach, Master Practitioner of NLP, Master Practitioner of Timeline Therapy® and accredited Equine Guided Leadership Development Facilitator.
For more information about how you can use horses in our CPD Accredited Coaching Programmes to work through personal or business issues, please contact: