If We Just Listen

Horses are intuitive beings who can show us in an instant when we are fooling ourselves and when we are on the right track. As herd animals who are tuned in to the slightest inconsistency in their environment, they mirror back to us inconsistent behaviors we may not have been aware of—behaviors that stop us from moving forward in life or from moving deeper into our own authentic spirit. When clients leave an equine guided session, they leave with insights they can immediately apply to their lives. What’s more, no matter what result a person hopes to achieve when they come to a session, almost everyone leaves having been touched by the horses at a much deeper level than they expected.

It gives me great joy to do the work I do—combining horses and life coaching. My company, SpiritDance Coaching (www.equinecoaching.com) is part of a worldwide profession called Equine Guided Education (EGE). There are other names for it, too: Equine Assisted Learning and Equine Facilitated Learning. No matter what name we call this work, every day we who do it witness the miracles that the horses bring about. We are ongoingly touched by the horse inspired “aha’s” that alter lives.

Equine guided education is a well-recognized field in which horses partner with professional life coaches and facilitators to guide personal and professional growth and learning. It is experiential in nature.

The focus of EGE is on human skills, not horse skills. Ninety per cent of the EGE activities we do are on the ground, making it possible for clients with or without horse experience to benefit from the work. We design actives to create metaphors reflecting “real life.” The focus is on non-verbal communication. The approach is non-directive yet focused, allowing for opportunities to problem-solve and be creative. Equine guided education is solution-oriented and acknowledges the power of choice.

Horses are large and powerful animals. Accomplishing a task involving a horse, in spite of fears or limitations, creates confidence and provides wonderful metaphors when dealing with other challenging situations in life. Horses attune to exactly what human body language is telling them. Their unflagging honesty makes them especially effective messengers. In addition, the horse’s natural responsiveness to what clients embody empowers each person to discover their unique path and accomplish their most cherished goals.

One reason EGE is so effective is its body-centered impact. Participants move their bodies in the arena. They smell, touch, see, and hear the horses. The horse picks up what is congruent or incongruent in the person’s body through its body. Horses naturally use their bodies to “know” the world.

Although human beings at this time in history rely heavily on language, we are still wired up, as our ancestors were, to learn things through our bodies that can only be described in language after the fact. Some examples are: sensing danger, reading the wind before a storm comes, and responding to the look on a child's face. However, we have learned to distrust our body’s knowing.

Working with horses taps into our body’s cellular memory which, when activated, can reveal patterns and beliefs that are different from what we say we want. When these patterns come to light, participants have access to whole new ways of being in life.

I speak of this work because it embodies a renewed consciousness that the horse is not just a beast of burden, but a spirit being that has an important role to play in healing hearts and in the healing the planet. There was a time when our ancestors listened to the horses and to other animals as a matter of course. The ancestors knew horses were divine messengers.

In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the
animals, for Tirawa, the One Above, did not speak to people. He sent
certain animals to tell people that he showed himself through the
beasts, and that from them, and from the stars and the moon, people
should learn.

- Pawnee Chief Lekota-Lese

Equine guided life coaches and educators listen to both horse and human, and through employing skills of observation, curiosity, open ended questioning, and intuition, bridge the horse/human connection. Sometimes we create specific exercises designed for specific learning. Often we just take people out in the pasture where we trust the horses to choose among themselves who will work with a person on a given day. In my experience, the horses seem relieved that someone is finally listening to them and most are eager to step in and go to work. Clients come away feeling known and heard. They go home with new confidence in themselves and new ways to be with the people they love.

Lynn Baskfield, owner of SpiritDance Coaching, is a Minnesota based equine guided coach and educator doing individual coaching, retreats, and group workshops for spirited midlife women (and older) around the world. She is also conducting a yearlong apprenticeship program in Australia starting March, 2015 for coaches and horse professionals who want to become qualified Equine Guided Coaches. www.equinecoaching.com.

© Lynn Baskfield 2014