Learning what horses teach

Two different worlds

The Horse Assisted Education is probably one of the most intense experience you can have as a learner. It goes well beyond anything else, including extreme-sports and group activities, because it bridges two worlds, so different and yet so easily connected.

We are hunters. The horses are hunted.

We exist on a time continuum where the past and the future take a lot of space. Sometimes too much! We escape our own reality by going back or forth into our memories and imagination.  The horses live in a continuous present. Their lives depend on their skill to be present and aware. They escape by physically running. We escape by being absent.

They will try to escape before they fight. We will try to be right before we listen.

If they can’t escape, they will fight. We fight just to be right.

They walk on 4 legs, we walk on 2. We both have similar strides. On their backs, humanity has traveled both physically and spiritually incredible distances.

We use a language with more details than they do. By consequence their communication is more specific and shorter. They mean what they communicate.

We use energy to save face. They conserve energy to have resources when the situation will call. They concentrate mainly on what is happening around them. They default status is “focused” and “connected”.

So, with such a gap between our worlds, what can we learn from them? What can they teach us?

Say what you mean and mean what you say

It’s hopefully going to be one of your first lessons learned from horses. It will keep you safe and it will allow you to correctly interpret the messages they are trying to send you. It will also help you get your message across.

In your real life where your partners are humans which can use and interpret words, it will keep you safe from packaged messages and it will help you keep the right course in difficult situations.

Give (me) actionable feedback or get out of the way

In the horse-world the body-language weights more than the associated sounds. Therefore, your feedback needs to be in action-mode. You need to do. Talking about it will not serve your goal.

The other way around, you need to have your eyes wide open and your attention focused on your equine partners as they give feedback instantly and continuously. They do stuff like moving their ears, their head, their feet and their skin.

In our human world, the skill of doing instead of talking is part of two very important processes: the social learning and the role model, both highly valuable in personal and in business life. It serves you as a building block both with young individual as well as with adults.

You can’t tell me I can’t

Probably one of the subtlest lessons the horses can teach us is to be oblivious to what others say we can’t do. Since in the horse-world doing is more important than talking, if you want to tell a horse it can’t do something you must intervene one second before they do it to prevent them from doing it or immediately after by changing something in your relationship (increase space, decrease space, reduce status, increase status etc).

How would our world look like if we stopped listening to what other say about what we can and cannot do?  “You can’t lead that team”, “ you can’t have that”, “ you can’t oppose a person with higher rank”  etc.

Know where you want to go. Be clear about the goal.

This will be the most obvious lesson for those looking at you. The horses will look at you to set the direction. Should you fail to indicate it clearly, they will build their own agenda, away from you.

In your real life, where people tend to already have their own agenda and sometimes they are not even asking where to go, this combined skill will serve when working with teams directly and indirectly connected to you. If we all agree on the principles (the overall goal and indicated direction), our actions will be aligned, thus creating more efficiency and effectiveness.