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In the wild, horses were preyed upon for food by wild dogs, big cats, and primitive man.  Their survival depended on their ability to be fully in-tune to their surroundings, be very perceptive, and have a fast reaction time.  Like humans they utilize all of their senses -- sight, smell, hearing, feel, and taste -- to take in their surroundings.   However, horses' senses are more acute.  Their smell is similar to that of a dog.  They can smell fear or anger in humans, and when smelling the ground they can identify who has passed by. 

 

When interacting with people, the horses’ acute awareness allows them to recognize the slightest uneasiness or tension in our bodies, as well as the non-verbal messages.  Their keen perception allows them to notice incongruence between our actions and our emotions.  They are that perceptive!  Not only do they notice the disconnections, they reflect them back to us through their behaviours. 

 

The horses’ unique sense of awareness and their ability to reflect the emotions of humans make them the perfect co-facilitator to help people learn how others perceive them and how their actions are being interpreted.

 

Leadership has been defined in numerous ways but boiled down to its most basic definition it means “getting work done through people”.  That sounds easy enough, right?  Well, anyone that has ever tried to motivate people into action knows the difficulties that arise when working with other human beings.

 

Leading people requires many skills.  Daniel Goleman, in his book “Working with Emotional Intelligence”, provides supporting data that successful leaders possess competencies based on five elements in relationships: 

 

  • Self-awareness
  • Motivation
  • Self-regulation
  • Empathy
  • Adeptness

 

Horses possess many of the competencies described by Goleman.  Their awareness is so acute that they tune into all the non-verbal communications, including the emotions of the humans they interact with. 

 

 

 

When we mask our emotions we hold tension in our bodies, and our horse partners recognize these disconnections and mirror it back through their actions.  Emotions and tensions that lay under the surface and out of our human awareness are very visible to the horse.  They notice the inconsistencies in our actions and non-verbal messages. 

 

Linda Kohanov, in her book “The Tao of Equus”, elaborates on the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and the benefits of working with horses.  She puts into words what those working with horses have known for years that horses are great teachers about life and relationships.  Working with horses offers the unique experience of developing a deeper understanding of yourself and how others perceive you, what motivates you, your adaptability & flexibility in changing situations, your innovativeness, level of commitment and initiative, and your ability to understand and lead others.

 

The best lessons learned from horses are those that allow us to adapt our behaviours to be more balanced and cooperative.  Horses teach us to be conscious leaders!  In order to truly lead others you must first understand yourself and recognize your areas of strengths and developmental areas. 

 

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