I have attended many workshops in my career, many of them fantastic learning experiences that created great shifts for me, but few (and I can count them on one hand) delivered as this one: “Authentic Leadership through the gift of horses”
How does one begin to describe the learning and experience this workshop offers? I mean, doesn’t it sound so far fetched? Or perhaps intriguing? Or crazy? Or a load of horse sh*t! You might have thought some of these thoughts when you read the name of it; however, perhaps you will indulge me and let me illuminate this gift?
Did you understand what unconditional love felt like before your experienced it?
I’d only ever been a receiver of it from my parents and my dog. That was my experience of it, until I held my baby girl in my arms, and in that moment I found my heart outside my body, bigger than I ever thought possible. I experienced giving unconditional love, there were no judgements, no expectations, only love and trust. Then I got it. I truly got it.
Do you remember struggling to master anything in your life? How it felt like you would just never get it? And then one day it just clicked into place and you wondered why it seemed so challenging when in reality it was quite easy? Like learning to ride a bike or car, learning to touch type or perhaps forming letters?
When I got my first calligraphy pens I spent hours practising the letters, line after line, stroke after stroke, pushing through my finger cramps and stretching my aching hand I practised daily. I felt like giving up, it wasn’t worth the frustration. I thought I’d give it one more try…and in that moment, the perfect letter formed, the angles aligned in uniformity and I felt the pride well up inside me. Accomplishment, I got it. I truly got it.
These are examples of moments in our life that simply take our breath away; or we grin like the Cheshire cat or dance a little jig. They are not always earth-shattering to others but they are always meaningful. They change us somehow, sometimes very subtly. When these moments come into our awareness we can’t help but make a change, because once you know something it can’t be unknown. You may choose to ignore it, but you still know it.
This is what the horses do for you. They provide you with insight into the parts of you that will trip you up in your life if you leave them unaddressed. In under 10 minutes!
Accepting feedback can be hard. We hear it from others and instinctively we want to push it away. We deny it is true, we justify it, try to rationalise it, mask it, and often blame the messenger. What’s their intention? Who are they to judge us? This loops until we find acceptance within their message, and then, only when we accept it, can we say we are truly self aware and can make a positive change.
This is the gift of horses. They have no hidden agenda, and their feedback is a mirror to you that gives you the opportunity to see yourself as you truly are with all your masks removed. What shows up is what you need to work on to become an authentic leader, whether you are leading people at work, in your community or your family.
You see it, straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak and it is delivered gently and you feel supported and safe. As you see it, you become aware of your internal dialogue, you connect with how you are feeling and in that moment, as you let their feedback sink in, you realise how this part of you has been playing out in your life.
In that moment, you know that if you could make one small change the horse will respond so differently to you. You know that if you practice and embed that change you will connect with your inner authenticity. You become conscious of what you need to do to embrace the authentic leader you were born to be.
So simple, yet so powerful.
What I’ve shared here is just based on the first one-on-one interaction with the horses.
The workshop covers much more; and for me who works in the leadership space, I was familiar with most of the content; however, knowing the subject matter did not detract from my personal learning through the experience.
There was an area of my development that I was grappling with. I couldn’t find the cause of it and yet in just one day I’d identified the reason for it. Rarely as leaders do we take enough time to reflect on our personal leadership journeys or the opportunity to immediately implement a new way of being. On day two I was able to practise the internal shifts I needed to make. I received instant feedback from the horses. We had several exercises to affirm our shift had taken place.
With the constant change in our worlds, we are not only leading teams, we are influencing people at all levels. To do this just by being ME is invaluable. So now I can take a horse to water and make it drink! (Or in my case, lead her through an obstacle course AND have her lift her hooves for me only because she trusts and respects me and chooses to follow. There are no adequate words to describe it.)
PS Did I tell you I was anxious around horses? Oh yes. I forgot to say that upfront. And the reason I forgot is that I’m no longer afraid.
PPS If you’d like to find out more you can click here
PPPS If you have any further questions about my experience please ask away