I had the great privilege to work with Renee Sievert and Michele Woodward at an Equus Coaching outing (a methodology created by Koelle Simpson) a few weeks back in the hills of Northern Virginia. Equus Coaching involves interacting one on one with a horse and, through that experience, have a better understanding of yourself and how you “show up” in the world. I thought I was going to be learning about horses but the horse held up a mirror to me.
My past experience with horses had been at camp when I was about 8 and a few trail rides. I always felt disconnected to horses. I felt like they were leading me and I had little to do in directing the path. I was just the terrified kid bobbing on top hoping we ended up at the end of the trail in one piece. I am happy to report that the Equus experience brought about a new appreciation for horses and a new self-awareness.
This is what I learned from my teachers, Lollipop and Rusty:
1. Attention. I love to be the center of attention. Lollipop came right over to me as I went into the round pen. He is a smaller, younger horse and he made a b-line for me. I had ten minutes to spend with him, and I think I would have been happy just petting him the entire time. I realize now, it’s one of the reasons I adore my dog, Baci, because she will follow me around the house and lay at my feet wherever I land. I feel a bit guilty, but I love the attention.
2. Intention. I need to be clear in my intention. Renee initially modeled how to lead a horse in the round pen. She stood alone in the pen with Coco (a horse she had never worked with) and through focus, attention and directed arm movements, Coco magically moved in a circle around the pen. No harness. No whistling. No strings. It was amazing (I had goosebumps). By just telegraphing her intention to the horse, she got her to move wherever and whenever she wanted. You have to know what you want to get done so if you want to be the world’s best purple squirrel catcher, set your intention and get started. Be clear in your intention.
3. Focus. I can’t lose my focus. I was amazed that I was able to move Lollipop in the same way around the pen that Renee had moved Coco. I focused in, moved my arms and he followed my intention and focus. Pretty soon he was galloping around the pen in a circle….magic….but….I lost focus. The very second I took my eye off of Lollipop, he came over to me like a moth to a flame. I lost my focus and Lollipop came back to me to find it again. This shows up everywhere in my life: unfinished books, deserted projects, languishing relationships. Stay focused.
4. Sync Up. When you are working in a group, sync up. This is going to sound crazy (cause I thought it was crazy) but I was on a team of three women that had to herd a handsome, albeit obstinate horse named Rusty without communicating using the most obvious of skills, spoken language. Using hand jesters, hope and a little bit of grit, we had to decide where we wanted Rusty to go and then go make it happen. In the end, Rusty didn’t do exactly as we expected but that was largely due to the fact that all three of us had slightly different agendas. Where does this show up for you? Did your assistant put in too much detail maybe because you didn’t communicate your expectations? If all three team members are on even the slightest different tangent, the horse does not know where to go. Sync up your team.
5. Power. I need to find my power. At one point, when we were trying to move Rusty, he stood there; and.would.not.budge. My teammate tried and then she motioned me over. I went over and got behind Rusty. I started slapping a rope against my leg. He.would.not.budge. Ugh. I was getting frustrated. I was going to move this horse. I summoned my power. My energy. I put it into my entire body and slapped the rope against my leg with full force, intention and focus. Magic. Rusty started to move. I stayed on him focusing all my intent and energy forward. He moved. I moved a 2,000 pound beast by finding my power. You cannot phone it in. If you want to move mountains, you need to find your power; FIRST.
It’s amazing how much Nature can teach us if we just pay attention to the lessons. Having a facilitator like Renee was really enlightening. She was constantly observing and saying things like “what’s your body saying to the horse?” or “where is your focus?” Think about how you show up in the world and how you are being observed. Pay attention. You can change more than you think you can.