Today I want to share with you some of my work that I do with my horses.
Many people have asked me what it is I do exactly when I talk about “Equicoaching”. Others are interested in a coaching session but are still hesitant, because they are afraid of horses.
I would like to write about 2 things today:
- What / who inspired me to start working with horses?
- What is equicoaching? What can you expect when you book a session?
1. There are two books / authors that convinced me to start with my equicoaching practice when I was still hesitant. I have always liked horses, been around them, but I had also always been slightly afraid of them. I used to ride and do some summer schools but I was never really a good rider. I just remember that I loved riding a horse in summer in the fields, wind in my hair. It felt like such freedom and connection!
The first book that was recommended to me was “Horses don’t lie” by Chris Irwin. The moment I started reading, I couldn’t let go of the book. I discovered so many things about horses!
It is actually a rather thin and small book and not reads really easily. But boy, what a change of perception! I suddenly realised that everything I had learned in the horse riding school was to be “unlearned”. Because the methods I had learned were based on controlling the horse and letting the horse adapt to us humans.
This is what we humans tend to do: try to control everything, change nature so that it would fit our needs and comfort. Which is quite absurd, because that makes us the only species on the planet that DOESN’T live in harmony with nature and its creatures.
What Chris Irwin taught me was entirely new at that time: understanding the horse. Truly understanding the horse by observing him, observing herd dynamics, by learning to speak its language! And yes, if you communicate to your horse in a language that he knows and understands, you’ll get the best results.
What I also learned from his book, is that horses are authentic, they never lie. They are congruent: their feeling, thinking and doing is aligned. Which is often not the case at all with humans. Think about how many times you felt bad, but continued smiling and fooling everyone (including yourself) that you were fine?
This was the first step towards understanding horses and learning their language. The great thing is that the approach then goes from a controlling one, to a loving relationship with mutual respect and non-violent communication.
For everyone who seeks to understand his horse or horses in general I recommend starting by reading his book. Here is an affiliate link to the book on Amazon.
The second ‘horse’ book that came across my path was “The Tao of Equus” by Linda Kohanov. After reading her first book, I joined a workshop of her in Paris that was about her other book “The Power of the Herd”. I can only describe the books and the workshop experience as magical.
I am going back in 2 weeks to Paris, where she will train us for 2 days about intuitive connection and sensitive communication with horses. I will let you know about that experience once I’m back.
But back to the TAO of EQUUS: the book is written in an intuitive way. There is no rational structure. It is as if she was writing down every moment, every experience and that it fluently added up to a great book.
What’s more impressive: the moment you start reading that book, things starts to change or happen in your life that you didn’t expect. I had just started out with my first 2 horses when I was reading Linda’s book. And it was quite difficult in the beginning. I didn’t have enough leadership skills and wasn’t coherent enough, so my horses could be quite difficult to handle… But they are really good horses, so it had nothing to do with them. They were just mirroring my inconsistent behaviour and doubts. I was not communication clearly, so they didn’t understand what I expected from them and that frustrated them. And since I wasn’t a capable leader, another horse had to take on that role to assure the herd safety.
While reading and applying both Chris Irwin’s techniques as well as Linda Kohanov’s advice, I started noticing some changes. But that meant I first had to work on myself! Once I became more confident, more calm (more inner peace), the horses also started reflecting calmness and wellbeing.
But that meant I had to be aware of my every move, every thought and work daily on my consistency. But that also taught me that when I have an off day, I should not hide it. So instead of pretending that I was calm (while my head was a mess and I was stressed) – which created reactions from my horses that I didn’t enjoy – I started talking to my horses. On an off day, I would tell them: “don’t mind me today, I’m a bit of a stressed out mess. Just keep your distance, let me feed you and I’ll be back when I’m ME again.”
And surprisingly they would understand and respect that. On the other hand… Once I was jumping in my mind from one thought to another. I arrived at my horses and they were waiting for me to feed them. Physically I was present, but my mind was still at work (because when I started out, I was still combining the horses with a full time job). I noticed that the horses had broken a part of the fence. So picture this: I arrived with the intention to feed them (they sensed that and were waiting), but then I got distracted by the broken fence (which I wanted to repair immediately) and I felt stressed about things happening at work. So I was a bit like a chicken running around without its head… The horses didn’t understand and starting turning around me and becoming impatient. My alpha mare understood very well what was happening: I wasn’t really there, I was incongruent and not grounded* at all. So with her knee she hit the inside of my knee, which made me collapse instantly. She looked at me deeply and left, leading the rest of the herd to a patch of grass. That’s when I got the message! It was a hard message, because it hurt, but she was absolutely right: I wasn’t capable of leading a herd at that moment and I was not balanced and grounded.
The moment I started breathing again, clearing my head and practising mindfulness the herd came back calmly and came to livingly greet me again. Amazing, right?
In the TAO of EQUUS, you may also read such experiences. And often you recognise your situation in the book and it helps you move forward to a better relation with horses, but also with humans and nature. If you want to know more about this book, you can click here.
Which brings me to point 2. What to expect when doing an equicoaching session:
2. In Equicoaching we work together next to the horse or amongst the herd in the prairie. So we don’t sit on the horse! We don’t ride. Depending on your objectives (what you want to work on) I will give you certain exercises to do on your own, or with a horse, or with the whole herd.
For example: if you want to work on becoming more assertive and having more self-confidence, I will teach you how to set your limits and the horse will constantly “test” your limits until you made it very clear what those limits are.
If you want to work on your leadership and communication skills, I will let you lead a strong-willed horse. The moment you doubt yourself and your skills, the horse will not follow you. So then we start working on what you feel, what is happening inside you or identifying what is incongruent. Once your thinking is focused and aligned with your feelings, you take the appropriate leader action and the horse will follow without any problems.
It’s a bit hard to explain it in words, because I constantly work with what we are feeling and showing non verbally (body language) so you need to see it for yourself. That’s why I’ve included a short film fragment to illustrate what I mean. In the film you see me working with the horses in complete liberty. No ropes.
If you want to experience this for yourself, then please contact me to see what I can do for you. You can book a free intake session by clicking here.
* Grounded = a state of being rooted, like a tree. You feel balanced physically, mentally and spiritually. It refers to being mentally and emotionally stable, sensible and unpretentious.
Have a nice day,