Learning from Horses – Masters of the Moment!

IMG_1047[1] They came together in arms but also in minds.  Some were already horse people who own and interact with horses regularly and some were not.

Nine people and six horses participated in our January 2014 Personal Development workshop with the theme of Non-Predatory Communication and Consensual Leadership.

Back in the Spring of 2013 I was inspired by the newest book written by Linda Kohanov called The Power of the Herd.  She began talking about well known historical figures like George Washington, Ronald Reagan and Alexander the Great and some of the lessons learned from horses about life they were able to transfer into their leadership styles making them effective; memorable and able to stand out from others.

I live in New Jersey and George Washington “slept here!”  So I know the historical places where many soldiers morale was bolstered by their leader on his white horse.  I also have experienced how a white horse is born black or very dark and over time, like us, their hair turns white.  An outward sign of living long and growing in life’s wisdom.

George Washington was considered not only a great rider but one of the greatest horse trainers in the new land. Above is one of his two horses Nelson.

Ronald Reagan was another horseman who developed a great ability to collaborate with his fiery Arabian/Thoroughbred El Alamien gifted to him by the President of Mexico.  It has been reported that he rode to the rescue of   secret service agents employed to protect the President. We will never know how this wise white horse shaped America.

Alexander the Great was so fierce in battle because his forces did not need to fight with their horses first! They could ride into battle with sword in one hand and shield in the other using their relationship based horsemanship to guide their horses!

Now, I’m not agreeing with the politics of any of these horseman what I am saying is anyone who has done the work to ride horses out in wide open spaces successfully; meaning everyone is happy and safe,  knows it takes way more than just hanging on for dear life! You need to pay attention to the horse you rode in on; share leadership; problem solve in the moment together without drama or you will not get very far except maybe back to the barn a bit quicker than you hoped you would or worse left behind to walk home!

In her book “The Power of the Herd” Linda helps us to take these life lessons out of the barn and use them in the board room, office or in our own homes.

Just because you are non-predatory doesn’t mean that you are weak or a victim.  “HorsePower” is real and used as a model for us to understand the real power of a fully empowered herd.  What we learn from all this is that horses are well equipped from the beginning of time to help humans.  In this case the help looks like a model of non-predatory power and behavior that :

  • values cooperation over competition
  • values process over goal
  • fights to protect self and others; prefers to herd family and companions away from trouble
  • assertive in holding personal boundaries without ordering others around
  • stops fighting when aggressor backs off
  • shields the weak (vulnerable individuals can rely on others)
  • leads through experience, curiosity and the ability to calm and focus others during crisis
  • values relationship over territory
  • leader and dominant are often different animals

As opposed to Predatory Power

  • competition is emphasized
  • values goal over process
  • attacks to protect self and others and gain advantage
  • Aggressive in taking others’ territory and resources
  • fight to the death impulse is strong
  • culls the weak (must hide vulnerability at all costs)
  • rules through intimidation
  • values territory over relationship
  • leadership equals dominance

Daniel Golman wrote a best selling book called “Working with Emotional Intelligence” and Linda combined this science with her experiences with herds of horses  to understand Social Intelligence.  Here is the You tube video from Daniel Goleman  speaking about Emotional Intelligence.
Below is an example from my herd; Obviously they are not looking at me and I have the hay!  Their emotions are telling them they need to pay attention to something and it is their collective “social intelligence” that has everyone on alert.

Those are hunters that just came out of the woods way across the field. This herd of horses used their emotions as information.  They did not shy away from the feelings about these hunters and pretend they aren’t real because they are uncomfortable!  They stayed alert assessing the danger to their lives.   Realizing there was no danger to their lives they went on to eat the hay without plotting to ‘get’ those hunters in the future or not letting them see that they were afraid/vulnerable. The hunters left and it was over. However that is not how humans do things, we ruminate on the scary thing plotting our next move all the while pretending there is nothing wrong. We do this enough and then we find danger in everything and are unable to move about freely enjoying life, or our job, hobby, intimacy or family because we are busy avoiding and protecting ourselves from all possible discomfort. By the way no one is exempt from this behavior even though we are at the effect of it in varying degrees said another way we are all in varying stages of emotional agility!

Back to our class – Many of the participants shared that they work autonomously in their worlds and for awhile in this class because working in groups is so difficult! It brings up all the problems in communication that we experience daily!  Jan. 2014 029

It took about an hour to create consensual leadership or leadership based in the senses where group members were able to listen with empathy to one another finding and agreeing to participate in a plan that worked! This was the first real opportunity participants had to try out a new way of collaborating with one another and in the scheme of things it only took an hour!  When these skills are taken back to an office where the practice is employed moment to moment day to day, this is where a culture is changed from one of Predatory Power to Non-Predatory Power. According to Daniel Goleman’s research, when Social and Emotional Intelligence is understood and embraced by organizations,  companies retain employees longer, they are more productive and when employees move on either because they are terminated or resign, when asked about the company 97% speak positively about their former employer.

If you are interested in finding out about:

  • Using emotions as information
  • Managing contagious emotions
  • Mastering boundaries and assertiveness
  • Conserving energy for true emergencies
  • Preparing for difficult conversations or
  • Engaging in consensual leadership where the best suited person can step into leadership now
  • Saving a large amount of time and money wasted on interpersonal conflicts

Come learn In the Company of Horses – Masters of the Moment!
For yourself or your organization –
Part 1 in New Jersey June 7 & 8, 2014
Part 2 in  New Jersey July 12 & 13, 2014
For registration and more info. see our website       Private workshops may be held anywhere in the world! Just ask.
This is an approved EAGALA Workshop!



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