The beauty of being around horses
Ionut is first and foremost a person who masters emotional agility. A participant in any learning event where he facilitates a Horse Touch module would probably hear him say something like “In the world we live in, the real blockers steam from our emotional landscape and rarely from inacessible information”.
We’ve asked Ionut 5 questions about learning with the help of horses and here are his aswers:
1. What is the most important lesson you have learned while being around horses? What do the horses teach us, humans, the best?
Presence. Grounding. Clear emotions. Clear mind. Clear vision.
In the world of horses, there is no place for clouded murky thinking. They are prey animals. Clarity is vital for their survival. Just as clarity is essential for human success. Around horses, usually, emotions are heightened, and your mind can’t travel to other places or issues. You are there 100% percent, body, mind, and soul. And this is the beauty of being around horses; you get to be whole again.
2. Are people comfortable with being whole again in a working setup? We were encouraged to believe that the workplace is for the rational mind and home is for emotions. So, what benefit is to becoming whole again within your team?
First, you gain authenticity. When you disjoint your emotions from your rational mind, it is not natural; you do it as a social mask, a learned behavior. And when you are authentic, people and horses trust and follow you.
Then there is the comfort and ease of being whomever you are. This gives people charisma, an energy that is hard to be described, but we see it in the HorseTouch modules at the people acting like magnets for the other team members.
On the other hand, you can always spot disengagement. Silent quitting. Discomfort when working within the team. HorseTouch is an activity with emotions in sight. So, you cannot hide if you are not well within yourself. But! Everybody can USE the moment to increase awareness. It is Ok to be emotionally tired in your working endeavors. What is not Ok is to ignore it. The colleagues around a disengaged person need to SEE the signs, SEE the person, not the employee, and make sure to guide him to emotional safety.
3. There is a metaphor about leading that you frequently use in HT modules – how should you lead with a short leash or a long leash?
A short or long leash depends on the type of exercise and the result you intend to have, just like in business – hands-on management versus helicopter management. It depends on the task, the people involved, their experience, etc.
HorseTouch is about acknowledging that there is a mix of tools that you can use in solving tasks and leading people. It is about management flexibility that is quite trainable. Everybody deserves the quality of direct management comparable and aligned with their own experience, knowledge, etc. Any discordance will create discomfort.
4. How do the participants at the HT modules decide what the horse stands for in their exercises – client, boss, external environment, etc.?
We always do a pre-training/team-building discussion to understand the team’s objectives. What are the perceived areas where they could benefit from HT. The exercises are designed specifically to put light on the unconscious behavior, context, processes, and procedures that could stop a team from having the best results possible. And this is where the metaphor comes into play.
Say, the horse stands for the client. You unconsciously activate the patterns you usually work with when interacting with the client. We had fully aligned teams – physically and in action – but the customer got lost (literally) because the focus was on the process.
Team members get to become aware of this. And they are also the ones that can change (to an extent) the processes and the procedures so that they can focus on the customer instead. Alignment for the sake of alignment doesn’t produce results, even if it does look good in the arena.
5. What do you recommend teams do with the insights they get from the HT modules?
As I said, the exercises offer new perspectives on processes, procedures, ways of working, behaviors, and emotions. When possible, we recommend that the team comes with an in-house trainer or HR specialist to help them internalize their findings. We do a full debrief – or better said – the team does a complete debrief with the facilitators’ support. From that moment, it is their responsibility to use them to improve. We are always here for a follow-up activity if needed.
We say that Horse Touch enlarges the visibility of the consequences of our actions/decisions to almost 360 degrees – just as the horses have a 320 degrees vision. What you train is not the sight but the instinct that can help you make better decisions quicker using all the information from your environment and circumstances. Imagine what you can do with such a superpower if you continue to train it!
Ionut Popescu is an entrepreneur, owner of Potcoava Mountain Hideaway, president of the Romanian Equestrian Tourism Federation, riding instructor, scuba diving instructor, trainer, and HorseTouch partner who – in his own words – loves to build businesses from scratch like legos; to prospect, to plan, to change the plan, to test, to fail, to win, to build teams, to achieve excellency. His involvement brings a high understanding of the business needs and structure and the horses’ natural reactions to human interactions. He believes that the only reason a business exists is to offer value to the community, and he is 100% sure that Horse Touch brings incredible value to any team or individual interested in becoming the best version of itself.