A New Language

Horses speak their own language. They communicate with each other with the twitch of an ear in close quarters or a whinny that sends a message clear across a valley. Last week we needed to learn that language as we delivered our first EQuest program, a three day intensive working with horses in Montana, followed by three months of executive coaching. Acquiring a new language takes focus, patience and the ability to adopt a different worldview.

As prey animals horses view the world through the lens of danger and safety.  They are extremely sensitive to energy: are you friend or foe? Trust, or its absence, informs every relationship. While this can be true for humans, we typically don’t spend every moment of our life on the lookout for a mountain lion. As such we aren’t nearly as sensitized to our environment. Spending three days with horses significantly heightened our awareness. We noticed additional aspects of ourselves, others and the world around us.

The program outcomes exceeded expectations. It was exhilarating to witness a long-held dream come to life. EQuest has been four years in the making. It has been even more profound to experience the unflagging support of colleagues, friends and family in actualizing this vision.

Yet the biggest challenge lies ahead as we figure out how to convey the power of this program to rising leaders and their organizations. Fortunately we are partnering with Beeswax Productions to create videos that vividly depict the participant experience. We also need new words to accurately describe the program goals, methodology and ROI. You might ask, why the need for different terminology if humans have been working with horses for centuries? In short, when things become familiar, we stop seeing them. Fresh packaging enables us to see anew.

Here are a few things we are re-packaging:

Equine Guided Education (EGE) vs Horsemanship: Horsemanship is about the skillful training and riding of a horse. Equine Guided Education focuses on learning about oneself and others through interacting with horses. By their very nature, horses provide honest, non-judgmental feedback on how we present ourselves. They read and mirror back our energy. An EGE approach represents a shift in the relationship with a horse from one of control to one of learning guide—the horse herd is our faculty.

Somatic Learning vs Experiential Education: Confucius said it best: "I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” Outward Bound and NOLS successfully modeled “learning by doing” thereby paving the way for numerous grassroots programs to build rock climbing walls and high ropes courses. Over time these programs have become associated with leadership development at the middle school level. But adults learn by doing, too! We are exploring use of the term “somatic" (of, relating to, or affecting the body) to describe an adult learning process that is rooted in the body. As physical sentient beings, we learn best when our body, mind and emotions are fully engaged in the learning experience. This creates a memory anchor which can be viscerally accessed at a future point.

Energetics of Communication vs Content, Tone & Body Language: Historically effective communication has centered on what we say (7%), how we say it (38%) and what our body language is saying (55%). Instead we want to pay attention to the energetics behind our communication. Humans and horses can communicate through energy alone. No words, no tone, no body language. Simply energy.  As we can gain awareness of our energy, we can learn to channel it into more meaningful communication with others.

Executive Evolution vs Executive Development: Leadership development is done to you; leadership evolution happens from within. Our assumption is that emerging leaders have their own answers. With our horse faculty, we help facilitate finding those answers.

As you can see, we are not simply re-naming age-old concepts; we are approaching them with new eyes.

The act of learning or creating a new language enables us to see from a different perspective, which translates into previously unforeseen possibilities.

photo credit: Kris Fedro

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