Equine therapy… what is it?
All horses are natural experts in sensing what is the inner state of and motives of other animals around them (including us – even if we are predators to them). They need this instinct to survive and to know if a predator is hungry or has just eaten. What does that mean for us humans? “Accessing body intelligence gives us more accurate information about what is really happening in our lives rather than what we may “think” is happening. With this way of coaching we are able to feel what matters versus just trying to think our way out of a bad situation,” says Anette Haug, therapist, coach and founder of Equinox Coaching.
Equine coaching enables us to help us to overcome personal fears which prevents us from moving on or achieving our potential. The first review paper published in March 2015 listed benefits such as learning to read non-verbal cues, to trust, nurture and being more assertive, gaining greater self-esteem, self-control, empathy, self-awareness, emotional awareness and ability to focus. Since its inception in 1999, therapeutic work with horses is now offered in 49 countries, by 4,000 practitioners.
What happened in the session?
After an initial 30-minute coaching session where we covered a few key points that I was struggling with – leading a new project at work was uppermost in my mind. I was full of doubt – could I do it? ‘Let’s find out’, said Anette. I was led into a barn. Anette made me close my eyes, breathe and mindfully tune into a ‘body scan’. The idea is to be able to connect with how you’re feeling versus our thoughts. Anette then asked me to open my eyes and walk around the barn and field where her herd of horses were grazing. ‘Tell me what you see’, she asked. ‘Unicorns!’ I joked. There were two beautiful, rather magical looking white horses just outside of the barn. All they needed was a horn in the centre of their foreheads and I would be in a Harry Potter movie. I was instinctively drawn to them until I noticed a rather scraggy, thinner horse making a bee-line for us. ‘I’m scared,’ I said. Tell me what you’re feeling, said Anette. ‘That horse is the baddie and he’s going to hurt the unicorns,’ I blurted out.
I felt very nervous of the horse Anette called Phil. ‘Interesting,’ she said. You do realise that you’re making this all up. It’s all your projections. Phil, she explained, was the leader of the herd and he wasn’t going to hurt the ‘unicorns’ but was trying to protect them from me as he didn’t know who I was. ‘What I observe is that you’re in touch and very comfortable with your inner magical child, Suzy but you are disconnected from your inner authority.’ That rang true for me. ‘And you need your inner authority so you can create strong boundaries and lead and protect yourself and your team,’ continued Anette. It felt absolutely true and very profound.
This session led to a huge turning point for me at work where I realised that I need to start developing a stronger leadership style, to stand up, say no, ask for what I want versus magically expecting things ‘just to work out’ just by my sheer enthusiasm and good will. I also had to learn to protect myself and the team from toxic influences versus expect someone else to do it for me. This one shift has not only had a huge impact on the way I am managing and leading my team but also on my life.
“I bought my first horse and trained in the pioneering John Lyons Natural Horsemanship method in Florida. My second horse joined us soon after. I heard about Equine Guided Leadership and in 2006 trained in this inspirational concept with Horsedream in Germany. I followed on from this by developing my own leadership development programme to take the amazing knowledge I had learned into the business world. I ran my first Equinox Coaching seminars in Scotland in 2007 and after moving to England in 2010 created my own centre in Sussex within easy reach of London and the South Coast,” says Anette Haug, an equine coach and therapist and founder of Equinox Coaching.