The wonder of horses

Equine Affinity Founder Catherine Bray explains how and why horses offer invaluable insight into your behaviour.

Someone asked me once, why horses? Why not cows? I would love to work with cows — they are beautiful and, I’m sure, insightful and they are sensitive, like horses. But I choose to work with horses as I understand them and there is already an established platform of horses being used for equine guided learning.

So what makes horses the perfect horse mentors for professional and personal development?

1. Horses are highly sensitive

Being prey animals means that they are designed to pick up on and move quickly away from danger (predators). Horses are often described as being ‘intuitive’, which means that they have a very large gut, which houses a very sensitive enteric (gut) nervous system.

As herd animals this enables them to function and communicate effectively as part of their group and enhances their ability to read body language and body energy in other animals and in humans. It also enables them to survive as a species.

It is their ability to ‘read’ us and assess our intention very quickly, that makes their feedback so useful in this kind of work.

2. They live and operate as a herd.

Their strength in numbers is paramount for their survival and by observing the herd interactions, our clients have ample opportunity to reflect on how they position themselves and operate within a team. We spend a lot of time observing the horses in their natural form and noticing the minute or sometimes extravagant ways in which they choose to establish themselves in their pecking order.

This provides a learning metaphor for people to explore how they perceive themselves within a team, and as a leader.

3. Horses respond to your authentic self

Our clients tend to open up quite quickly in the presence of a horse. This is because horses do not judge, and so our clients feel safe to explore the relationship with the horse and challenge themselves a bit further without fear of judgement. Their (the horses) only concern is whether, as a predator, you are a threat to them or not. They are not concerned with looks or ego. In fact, they respond well to your authentic self. This can feel quite liberating for people as we are immersed in a Western culture of expectations on how we ‘should’ behave and that is filled with judgements.

4. They respond to your non-verbal cues

Approximately 90% of human to human communication is done through body language. However, we have become increasingly unaware of that 90% of communication and we depend more on the 10% of verbal language. Horses communicate non-verbally and so when we are in their presence, we need to adapt our style of communication in order to relate to them. This allows us to get back in touch with how to use our body language and to listen those subtle messages that our gut instinct and body gives us that provides us with vital information about how to respond in situations with the horses, and when back in the work place or in your personal life.

Why horses? Come and spend some time in their presence and you’ll understand.

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