The Energy of Connection

By Christina Pitts, USA

As I write this story, I see handsome, sweet Bud standing in the pasture outside the paddock, energy focused on his herd, joining from a distance. Again I feel deeply my gentle connection with him. New to his herd, as I’m new to the Conference herd.  Was he my inspiration?


Unplanned, and unclear to me why, I chose to engage during the Conference by stepping away to the outer edges of our horse and human herds. I set aside my analytical brain in favor of my other brains: body, gut and spirit. In the mornings I stood or sat at the fringe; afternoons I claimed a spot at the back or side of the room. Spoken words were barely audible as I amplified my sensory self, achieving throughout each day many miraculous silent moments of palpable synchronicity with The Four Legs and Two Legs.

The entire Conference was powerful, important, provoking, evoking. Mornings with the horses and their teaching were magnificent.  Afternoons overflowed with marvelous information. My embodied experience led by Jim Kepner was extraordinary.

Recalling the heart of the hoofs of the Horse, he invited us humans to take a few minutes to connect with each other through the heart of the soles of our feet. I clarified a gentle intention, and as my focus deepened, I sensed energy emanating slowly from my feet becoming tree roots growing deep into the earth beneath our ground-level space. I felt and smelled and tasted a lovely velvet dampness in fertile, dark soil. Then the roots transformed into rivers of fiery energy springing from each foot, flowing steadily outward, breaching barriers, then exploding into innumerable bolts of energy beneath the lakebed, forming a bowl to buoy the lake beyond! Next, I was beneath the lake, gazing through warm, luxuriant waters abundant with all forms of life to a bright blue, cottony sky above.

It seemed I could remain forever, mesmerized, enchanted. But the conference was calling to me, so with some regret I shifted my energy back to the room, and chose to try the same connection with Petra, whose friendly smile lured me to meet her after dinner our first evening. So I channeled gentle energy bolts to her. Moments later she turned to the room, eyes wide in amazement. “I felt a very strong connection moments ago! Was it someone in this room?”

That morning I’d arisen early to walk alone in reflection beside the lake, connecting to all of Nature, embracing our place, our space, our convening. Now, I smiled, the child within me bathed in delight at the One-ness of the earth, the lake, the sky, the herds and me.

(The picture shows Bud at Pebble Ledge Ranch – Spirit of Leadership, September 2013.)

The HorseDream® Approach. About Feedback.

By Gerhard J. Krebs, June 2013

There is a saying: “The feedback tells us a lot about the feedback provider.”

In HorseDream seminars we consider the horses to be the real trainers. We as humans step back behind the work of the horses. This also means that the horses give feedback. The feedback of the horse is instant and honest. There is no hidden agenda behind it.

The HorseDream concept is based on a certain set of hands-on exercises. In between there are questions on observations, one-word-feedback from participants for participants, transfer models as theory inputs, and discussions on personal experiences from the exercises.

We believe, based on what we have learned in more than 16 years of horse assisted education, that all the HorseDream participants go through a profound process of self-development or as a group through a team development process at our seminars. In our experience, everyone learns a lesson. Sometimes the learning happens already in the first exercise, sometimes in the second, third or fourth.

Learning with horses is an emotional learning process. Emotional learning is much faster and more sustainable than rational learning. Thus, we want to provide as much emotional level of learning as possible. Whenever you start to discuss or give feedback, you interrupt the emotional learning process. That’s one of the reasons we recommend not to explain or interpret during or after a practical exercise.

The second reason is that if you state your point of view, you might be right, but you could be terribly wrong. Nevertheless, your opinion as the “horse knower”, as the “horse work experienced facilitator” or  even worse  as “the horse guru” could be perceived to be “the ultimate truth”.

We believe that if a participant thinks s/he did not learn anything from an exercise, s/he is not ready for the lesson in this moment. S/he will probably learn something from the next exercise, the one after that, or maybe in a fortnight, in six months or in a year from now.

How can we help people to understand the feedback of the horses? According to the thoughts expressed above, we don’t need to! But what if someone insists on getting our feedback or interpretation?

First, we give the question to the group. Secondly, we talk about what we observed. Then, if our interpretation is still requested, we tell a story about a similar situation, which happened at a previous seminar.

Understandably, at a one day seminar with eight participants there is not enough time to go through these steps with everyone. But what if there is only one participant or if there is time enough like in a longer seminar?

In this case we watch the video of the exercise together with the client and we interpret using the integral model, starting with the four quadrants I, We, It and Its. For example, just some possible questions which could be answered:

– What do I feel about the situation?

– How does it influence both of us or the whole group?

– Anything to say about the horse’s nature or instincts?
– How would society change if not only the participant but all mankind would learn from this?

HorseDream feedback or interpretation is never about right or wrong. We cannot look inside the heads of our horses. We are not able to tell people what the horse wants to tell them. However, we can encourage them to think about what it may mean for them. And if they want to get a confirmation, we can assure them or talk to them about what we see differently.


Back to the Roots – Up to the Future: A Vision Becomes Reality

By Gerhard J. Krebs
Translated by Melba-Linda Schertler (Horse Alliance)

Published in “Wirtschaft & Beruf”, Germany

Today, more than 200 trainers – 100 of them licensed HorseDream Partners – from Europe, the Near East, North & South America and Australia are working with the business concept of horse-assisted training and advanced development programs developed from 1996 onwards, by HorseDream. An idea has become a world-wide trend within fifteen years! The European Association for Horse Assisted Education (EAHAE) is the driving force behind this development.

Am I a good manager or leader when I am able to lead a horse around four posts in the riding hall? What do managers have to do with horses anyway? The history of humans and horses, which is thousands of years old, has left some informative traces behind in connection with language: One keeps his/her members of staff on a tight rein, slackens the reins now and then, gets the team up to speed, holds the stirrups for another, helps someone into the saddle, kicks over the traces, knows it’s going to be red tape all the way, puts the cart before the horse, etc.

“To be led” means to follow voluntarily. In its most pronounced form it should ensure the independence and willingness to take risks in moving forward in the direction the leader desires. And the horse? Who does the horse follow? The horse follows a person precisely then, when they demonstrate self confidence, trustworthiness, clarity, credibility and are goal oriented.

Can I deceive a horse? Horses are honest people say. They don’t have any ulterior motives, no hidden agenda. They act according to their nature. If I try to trick the horse, I don’t deceive it, I deceive myself.

Horses and Leadership

How do I lead a horse in a management seminar? Take the lead rope rolled up in one hand and let it loosely run through your other hand, is perhaps the best way. Don’t wrap it around your fingers!” They are the only instructions you get. ”Why is the rope so long, wouldn’t it also work with a shorter one?” The question comes almost every time.

We work with symbols and metaphors. Everything has a meaning. But the participant has to work out the meaning him/herself. So what does the long lead rope represent? Perhaps the management structure in the company? Perhaps the long leash I normally lead my staff on? Or information presented like a tangled ball of thread? And what does the horse represent in this exercise? My co-workers/staff? My project? My customers? Me?

The horses are used to each of the leading exercises. They have known them for years. Bosse and Benny, our oldest horses, who are over 20, have been with us from the beginning. But even Goody, aged 10, has already spent half his life in seminars.

The horses adjust to each new participant within seconds. The same exercise but another person and with a different personality, a different character and different background experience is for the horse, a different situation.

“The horse is your own mirror.” We often hear this at the end of our trainings. For us the horse is more than that. It is the real trainer. In hundreds of seminar situations we have experienced the horse not only reacting to the person, or to the whole situation, but also acting independently. And in fact it wasn’t done accidentally or intuitively, but quite consciously. So the horse becomes not only the initiator or medium of the learning process, but it even controls it.

In the company in-house seminars there is an exercise at the beginning and at the end, where the horses run free in the riding hall. 

In the beginning it’s about experiencing and recognising – a known phenomenon of every participant:  “You can only see what you can see” (Fred Kofman, in Conscious Business). We see, hear and think in our own patterns. One horse is big and proud, so it has to be the boss in this group of four. Another one is agile and wiry, makes contact with everyone and interferes everywhere, that one must be the boss. The third one is calm and reserved, keeps track of everything and doesn’t allow anything to disturb it, so it must be the boss. And the fourth one?  “You can only see what you can see.”

Horses & Organisational Development

At the end of the seminar the horses run free in the hall again. This time however, they move in the middle of a set-up representing a situation in an organisation.  The set-up is the result of a previous team discussion held in the seminar room. This concerns for example, goals and obstacles which are then represented by such symbols as plastic pieces, skittles/cones, a tarpaulin or balls, in the arena. This is a four-phase learning process: First the rational phase in the seminar room during the discussion, then setting up the symbols representing the real situation, in a playful way, after that the emotional phase where participants watch what the horses do in the arena and finally the integrated phase where participants debrief and evaluate the session.

It may happen that the horses only stay in one half of the riding hall. It could be that they only concentrate on one theme. Sometimes two horses pair up and take care of something in particular. It is also possible that everything that was set-up falls over  – or, it is all still standing when the horses are finished.

Back to leading. As one of our participants put it, “To date I have read a lot about leadership, but today I felt what leadership is.” You can’t learn leading – leading is learning. Horse-assisted management seminars are concerned with respect, trust and authenticity. The horse directly mirrors a person’s outward manner of leading and their internal attitude. It helps us to recognise our strengths and weaknesses and sometimes it only takes a small self-correction for us to become more like our “real selves”.

Years of Pioneering Work

For us, this all began in August 1989 during a riding holiday in Tyrol. This was followed by six years of intensive work with horses. In 1996, alongside of the EDP courses we were holding at our small business, a totally new seminar idea developed. The idea became a plan, a new company and in the following year, a seminar program.  At the beginning of 1998, after a one-year internal pilot project, we ran our first open management training seminar with horses. It was titled “Motivation – Reaching a Goal Together”.

In August 2004 we founded the European Association for Horse Assisted Education (EAHAE) as a platform for horse-assisted seminar providers. In 2005 the first of now seven annual conferences, took place. After the conference in Warsaw in 2008, a qualification process was started. Since then we differentiate between “qualified members” and “friends”. A qualified membership requires each member to take part in a Train-the-Trainer seminar. This seminar is offered today in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and in USA. Of the current 210 EAHAE members, 170 have completed this seminar.

Qualified EAHAE members are permitted to hold the EAHAE one-day seminar “The Art of Leadership”. The underlying principle of this seminar is the HorseDream concept. It is based on a finely tuned balance between practical, experiential learning and theory transfer. Within a very short time, horses are able to get people to focus on what is essential for them. The topic here is reduction.  It is said that many areas of our society and many companies are “over managed, but under led”. To lead companies and people, we probably don’t need less management, but certainly need more leadership and more vision.

In a horse, reality and vision are uniquely connected. Learning with a horse requires one hundred percent concentration, presence and awareness. A horse is absolutely a real being. On the other hand, there has been a mythological connection with the horse for thousands of years – the horse itself is a legend, a dream, a vision. The HorseDream concept unites reality and vision. 

In past centuries all leaders were trained with the help of horses. Working with horses fosters courage, strength, creativity and willingness to take risks, but at the same time also fosters a sense of responsibility, reliability, patience and determination.

The individual horse embodies pride, strength, beauty, freedom, courage and energy just the same as it does sensitivity, caution, and the ever present readiness to flee. It is willing to serve humans and it does this both from the position of being dominated and through entirely voluntary participation.  Apart from that, the horse herd conveys the feeling of protection and security, inclusiveness and cooperation as well as self confidence and contentedness.

Team Development

Where people work together there are always issues that cost time and energy. These can be caused by external or internal factors. When teams are newly formed it takes some time to get rid of reservations and build trust.

In the horse-assisted training’s learning environment, teams grow together in an extremely short period of time. In the two 4-hour sessions, they pass through so to speak, the four phases of the team development process (according to Tuckman): Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing – or, according to Christoph V. Haug: Test phase, Infighting phase, Organisational phase and Working phase.

In the Test Phase team members are polite, impersonal, curious and cautious. During the Infighting Phase there are underlying conflicts, personal confrontations, clique building and progress is a struggle. The Organisational Phase sees the team developing new ways of personal conduct and behaviour, enabling constructive feedback and confronting the differing points of view instead of making it personal. The Working Phase shows the team is finally full of ideas, flexible, demonstrates solidarity, is efficient and participants are ready to help. All four phases are portrayed through practical exercises with the horses. That can be likened to a vaccination where the symptoms of the team development process are experienced in a weaker form. According to our experience, the horses act as emotional bridges between the people and in our intercultural trainings, even as bridges between cultures and religions.

Project Work

In the first instance, projects are based on objective planning and calculations. However, the project work is then influenced by emotions triggered by envy, resentment, a know-it-all attitude and cantankerousness, or just simply carelessness.

Through a horse-assisted project workshop an atmosphere of cooperation, creativity, flexibility, self-assuredness and goal-orientation, can be created in two days. During the work with the horses new ideas, mutual understanding and goodwill arises.


Sometimes communication fails just because of misunderstandings, or because the connection doesn’t take place in a reasonable way, or perhaps because information has been exchanged before people have found the right approach to each other.

In this respect it makes sense to integrate horse-assisted trainings as the emotional door opener in every medium- or long-term program for further education, personal development and communication.  All our experience with these combinations has shown that despite how sceptical some were at the beginning, the seminar leaders, coaches and participants, were all enthusiastic – and the enthusiasm was then carried over into the following “normal” course of the event.

Change Management

Change processes, however good and well planned they are, always runthe risk of emotionally losing the people involved. The horse-assisted Change Management concept addresses precisely the emotional component of the change process. The participants work through the four phases that are the underlying principles of the Appreciative Inquiry approach, by David L.Cooperrider, namely: Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny. The team tackles the issues regarding the present and the future they have planned.

EAHAE’s Vision

The EAHAE’s vision is to establish horse-assisted training and further education as a general form of personal and professional development, in corporations, organisations and institutions. There are three challenges that have to be met.

Optimal Group Size

The first challenge is an implementation problem. The optimal group size for management seminars is 6 to 8 people. If we take a company with 1000 employees and 100 Managers, we would need 13 one-day seminars for all of the managers to enjoy a horse-assisted training just once. Team trainings can easily be held with up to 20 participants. Assuming that just half of the workforce is to attend the training, we would need 25 seminar days.

To ensure that the horses retain their sensitivity, we normally plan one seminar per week. There should be at least four days between seminars.  The management seminars would therefore be able to take place within a period of two months and the team trainings would take four months.

So taking the above into account, one seminar provider would be busy for six months. So if we calculate this for major population centres such as Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich, or the Ruhr area, one gets an idea of the number of qualified seminar providers that would be necessary.

Seminar Price

The second challenge is the price of seminars.  If we look at horse-assisted management seminars in the context of operational training and further education, and not as an event, the EAHAE’s seminar providers net price ranges between €400 and €1,100 per person and day – depending on the number of participants and the additional services, e.g. a specially cut seminar video.  An event with horses for 30 or more participants does make sense, but doesn’t have much to do with the seminars described above.

In the example mentioned in the first challenge, the price per management seminar would be approx € 7,250 and for the team training approx. €8000.  A company’s total investment would then be at least €290,000.

Taking the regular costs of the horses, riding hall, seminar room as well as the cost of equipment, material and assistants as a basis, it’s clear that the prices mentioned above are realistic. Seminar providers who offer considerably lower prices, are either making their main income in another area, or leave the horse-assisted training field after holding only a few seminars.

From the cost perspective, the company has to take into account that horse-assisted seminar measures can’t be compared with any conventional training. Current scientific research has shown that the sustainability of the seminar work and the time factor are of vital importance. This type of seminar assures long lasting learning success in an extremely short period of time.


The third challenge is Marketing. According to our experience, it isn’t possible to explain to someone in an understandable way, how horse-assisted training works, what it sets free in people, what mental blocks it releases and how it helps individuals and teams to progress.  Even seminar videos that show content and atmosphere, don’t really help. And participant’s stories only give a partial picture of what happened on an inter- and intra-personal level, in the team, for example.

How can the vision of horse-assisted training and further education become a matter of course in human resources development under these conditions? How do you simultaneously prevent an attitude where this concept is misused or misunderstood as a joke or just hype?


We recommend those who are seminar providers of the EAHAE organized one-day seminar “The Art of Leading” to offer this seminar once a month as an open seminar. This is the best chance for participants to experience the seminar concept.  We have found that the so-called Taster courses are not suitable due to the short time period, or the fact that transfer models and video reflection are omitted. This means that the participants never go through the whole learning process and therefore don’t experience most of the possible insights.

We recommend companies take out an EAHAE company membership. This allows them, among other things, to send individual members of staff to open seminars under special conditions.

This system presents itself as profitable for all concerned:

– The participant experiences the complete learning process of the one-day seminar.

– The company saves up to 75% of the seminar fee, per individual employee.

– The seminar provider fills places with participants who are potential customers for a company
   in-house management seminar or team training, at a later date.

– The EAHAE receives additional financial resources to support its members, communication and the
   increasing acceptance of the platform.

This concept is just in the introductory phase and should be implemented internationally after the 8th EAHAE annual conference that is taking place September 7 – 9. 2012.

The motto of the conference “Back to the Roots – Up to the Future” stands for our reflecting on the moral and ethical concept of our horse-assisted educational work. We worded it thus: “For the EAHAE community it is essential we hold and adhere to certain values. Above all is trust. Further we encourage caring, collaborative business and not competitive business. It is at the core of the EAHAE values that we collaborate on an equal level. Regarding our horses, we consider them as trainers not as tools.”

The motto also stands for spreading this approach according to a concrete plan that takes into account the interests of everyone concerned. It should achieve measurable success by 2020.

All support in line with the above-mentioned concept, is very welcome!

Brown Makes His Needs Known

By Barbara K. Rector, USA

A few days ago, a very generous spirited colleague and friend, Linda Kohanov, invited me to participate in her four day teaching seminar focused on the Wisdom of Pioneering Spirit. Linda knew I was recovering from yet more dental surgery and that my horse Brown was living nearby.  Brown had been moved two weeks earlier to El Milagros for the purpose of learning how to be a horse amongst horses.  He was turned out with nine other geldings in a ten acre grass pasture paddock.  Jean Burke, supervisor of the Milagros herds, has a good track record with me; she kept Rama for three years while I was in graduate school.

Brown is an August ‘92’ foal and near as I can determine, I’m his third owner.  He is a Minnesotabred American Quarter Horse who trained at a Duluthshow barn showing so successfully as a Western Pleasure and Trail horse that when he was about seven years old he was hauled to Arizona for our Sun Circuit where he achieved Regional Championship status in both divisions.  Brown came into my life as he was turning twelve years.

On the sixth day of Brown’s socialization adventure my friend and colleague Lisa Walters agreed to visit him with me after we finished up with our third annual face to face meeting of the Epona Quest Foundation Board held at Linda Kohanov’s new home in Amado.  Jean’s Milagros pastures are just two freeway exits south past theArizona–Mexico Border check point.  We call Jean to let her know we are on Bridge Road approaching the railroad tracks; she agrees to meet us at the locked gate where Brown’s section of pasture is located.

Each nine to ten geldings or mares or babies and their Mom’s have two ten acre irrigated grass paddocks that are rotated each week to week and a half depending on the grass length, growth, and water needs.  Lisa and I follow Jean’s truck out to the designated gate for Brown and his group.

My heart sings when in response to my whistle and yell out, “Hey, Mister”, Brown pops his head up from eating and knickers a greeting.  I’m thrilled as he begins to walk towards me.

Then, while he’s still some distance away, I observe in alarm that he is walking as if in a perpetual half pass to the right with a strange wiggle twist to his right pastern or hock.  In fright and panic I think his leg is broken.  Jean says, “No.  His eye wouldn’t be so bright, his interest so high in my offered carrot; if his leg were brokeen, and he would hardly be walking – if at all.”

The three of us determine something isn’t right and that he needs removal from the pasture for further checking.  Jean goes in amongst the hovering crowding geldings, to halter a willing and compliant Brown.  I slam the gate shut on the three youngsters attempting to follow him out of the pasture.  He has developed friends.  The big Percheron grey, Mac, bellows to him and Brown answers back even as he’s busy minding Jean’s request to back up.

I confirm his eye is indeed bright and run my hands down each of his legs.  No sign of heat, no obvious swelling.  Mystery.  He is definitely walking with an odd twist, drag of right hind leg and as he does so is curved sideways.  We decide to walk him up to the barn a distance of some mile and a half.  I start off walking him on his lead with Lisa following driving Vanilla (my trusty 01 Subaru).  Jean and her truck filled with three large shepherds bring up the rear.

Brown is dancing in place as the notion dawns he is leaving his friends.  Soon they begin to gallop down the fence line next to the tree lined lane where we are walking.  Knickers and bellows and general racket, Lisa tells me later that Brown did several steps of pretty good piaffe.  I have to remind him to stay with me and not go up taking me with him.  Relief floods through me; his leg isn’t broken with this agility display.

Three quarters of a mile at the gate, Jean wants to switch places; she can see he is about to lift me off the ground.  As I hand him over to her, she reminds me the dogs know me.  No matter really as I open door to drive her truck, they all bound out.  Not a problem for Jean.  She’s a remarkable hand with a horse, even one strong as Brown now attempting to pull her stocky bulk up.  Yes, I can now see, he’s actually doing quite a decent piaffe.

I lock the gate per Jean’s instructions and Lisa follows me around to the barn.  Jean has walked the shorter route down the house lane through the private courtyard of the owner’s home.  We arrive in time to see Jean and Brown round the mesquite shaded bend.  He’s walking still with that odd curve, twist and drag.  Jean puts him in a large barn paddock about the size of a small dressage court – two twenty meter circles stacked on top of each other.  She wants him to keep moving; so puts hay at one end and water at the other.

A small adjacent paddock holds an aged Shetland pony and a long haired donkey.  Further down the fence line is a lovely bay Arabian gelding.  Brown immediately investigates the pony and donkey – two animals with which in the past, he has exhibited strong reactions of fear.  Not so now.  He is definitely displaying a more socialized ‘horse amongst horses’ demeanor.

The vet will be out Thursday or Friday for his regular weekly ranch visit day.  It’s Joe Robinson out of Nogales, our old friend from the days of Trekhner mare, Tasha and Kelly’s Welsh pony type, Dolly when we hunted to hounds in Sonoita.   In the meantime, Jean will keep him in this spacious paddock and give him a gram of Bute (horse aspirin) per day until Joe has an opportunity to go over him.  Jean is of the opinion he has over done it playing and romping in the herd life; she has observed some full out gallops; Brown has made best buddies with Mac the big grey Percheron.

The coming week I have dental surgery and won’t be able to drive for a few days.  I agree to stay in touch with Jean by phone and check on his progress.  I do want him vet checked and if he takes a turn for the worse sooner rather than later.  On Friday when Joe looks him over, he finds no obvious sign of injury.  Brown actually passes the basic flexion soundness exam and still walks slightly curved with the odd twist and drag.  Joe didn’t have his x-ray machine with him; he agrees to bring it next week.  He speculates there could be arthritic changes in that hock.  Once he sees the picture, he may decide he could be helped by injection into the joint of Legend (product name for a hyuralic acid joint fluid).

As I hear this from Jean, the picture of the first day of turn out six days earlier pops into my mind; head groom Jesus walking Brown on the lead as he first entered the paddock.  Amongst all those geldings down and across the entire ten acre pasture, being familiarized with the perimeter of fence line, the location of salt blocks and the water tanks.  Brown had been passageing.  “Making himself BIG”, in Anna’s words.  That was probably more passage than in his entire nineteen years life up to that point.  He’s tweaked something in his hock, I’m thinking.

The following week post dental surgery, I’m cleared to drive and visit him daily late afternoons after the Wisdom seminar at Linda’s.  Rather nice to discover I’m approximately 45 minutes away drive way to drive way on the back roads past the Fairgrounds and down the ‘Suharita autobahn’ to old Nogales Highway through township of Continental.

First day’s visit, I brush his shaggy winterized coat and clean his feet.  I notice his poops are healthy and there is even a roll spot in the sand so I know he is getting down and up with no problems.  After finishing off his six carrots Brown does an odd thing.  He walks over to a cattle loading chute and puts his head underneath it.   He stays motionless for a few minutes and then retracts his head from the dark interior and looks at me intently.

Several minutes looking at me and then he puts his head between his front legs and rubs his eyes.  Again Brown looks at me and then swings his head around to place it in the hole of the underneath side of the loading chute.  “OK, what the heck?” I’m thinking.

As he finished off his carrots, I had asked him what more he needed from me as we waited out the week for next vet’s visit scheduled for the following Friday.  Now Brown is again standing motionless with his head inside the dark hole of the chute.  I go over and actually poke my head in along side his.  We are eye to eye, neck along neck, shoulder to shoulder looking ahead into the dark interior.  I notice the shade on our eyes is pleasant.

After a few moments, it occurs to me this probably isn’t the safest position and I’m clueless as to what he is looking at if anything.  After I retract my head and step back, Brown brings his head out and turns again to look at me intently.  Then he puts his head between his legs and rubs his eyes.

“You want your fly mask!” I exclaim.

Brown nods his head up and down several times affirmatively.  He puts his head on my heart.  “Message delivered”, he seems to say.

“Well, OK, I’ll be here tomorrow afternoon with your freshly washed fly mask.”  I give him a big heart hug and go get the remaining apple to cut up for his departure treat.

Home from my Minneapolis teaching trip, I visited Brown yesterday (November 5, 2011) and he is even better.  Almost back to normal with only the faintest of wiggle twist drag to his leg.  He’s been five days with no bute.  Joe did his x-ray on Friday and we’re currently waiting for the reading and news of whether he is cleared for pasture turn out.  I’ve already told him that I don’t care if he’s ever ride worthy.  I just want him to be free of pain and willing to engage with me and others in the Adventures In Awareness process of expanding our Awareness and developing Consciousness.

BKR/Casita Skyview

Post Script:

The day after Thanksgiving, daughter Kelly Kreiselmeier drives me down to Jean’s to visit Brown.  I want Kelly’s empathic read on how Brown is really doing.  Two weeks earlier, he had been cleared by Dr. Joe for return to pasture turnout.  His medicine bottle had not yet arrived and he was reported to be doing very well.

Kelly and I decide to do lunch first in Tubac and run into Jean in the sandwich café.  “Remind me to tell you good story about your horse when we meet back at the gate in about an hour”.

Again my heart sings, as I call out “Hey, Mister” and Brown pops up his head to knicker.  He starts briskly towards the fence line where he sees me waving the bag of carrots.  Odd.  Only Mac the big grey accompanies him.  The other horses hang back and mill around some invisible perimeter fence line.

Kelly agrees to feed Mac, the large grey Percheron while Brown and I have our nuzzle love fest and carrot feeding time together.  Jean comes down the hill to join us. “Ok here’s the story”, she says.

Jesus walked Brown out into the pasture while I worked the gates.  Brown positively strutted.  Once released from the halter, he looked around and seemed to say to the gathering group of horses, “I’ve been thinking this through – all alone back at the barn in the back paddock.  I’ve   learned something over the last three weeks.  No one, absolutely no one  is to come near me.  Except possibly Mac, my best bud.  No one else”.

Indeed, with merely a wrinkle of his nostril, an evil eye look or a both ears back snake faced, Brown was keeping those other gelding way away from the fence where he and Mac were enjoying the carrots.

Jean continues, “if he’s not careful, I have other pastures with more knarley geldings for him to deal with”.

As we’re leaving, after having taken a look at my brother Walt and Shirley’s Future and Alleah (they are both glossy and Alleah actually chubby), I approach Brown waiting at the fence.  “Did you hear that Buddy, best wear your new found mantle of authority with dignity and grace.  Jean has other more ‘bad boy’ gelding pastures should you get out of hand.”  Brown stares intently at me and then at Jean.

Kelly remarks, “I have no doubt that he understands the message”.

BKR/Casita Skyview

Lessons From the Picadero: Paying Attention To Our Intention

By Nikki and Leslie Kagan, Israel/USA

The picadero – much like a round pen with corners – is a place where we can explore our own truths and look in the mirror of how we relate to others.  With our equine partner, we have the opportunity to experience the impact of our presence – our emotions and energy – on others.  This experience can be a very powerful metaphor, as was the case with “Susan,” a participant in one of the corporate HorseSense programs we facilitated recently.

Susan is the Office Manager for an executive search firm in the northeastern United States.  She had never been around horses before our program, and seemed to be enjoying her interactions with them very much.  Still, she entered the picadero with some trepidation, gripping the flag tightly in her left hand, unsure of how to proceed with Chip, a large Appaloosa gelding who was a veteran of a number of our programs. Susan approached Chip in an attempt to establish a connection with him.  Dropping the flag to the ground between her own and Chip’s front feet, she held out her hand in silent gesture of “hello”.  Chip expressed mild interest in the flag, nosing it lightly, and ignored Susan.

We watched as Susan tried more affirmatively to connect with Chip, moving closer to him, tentatively stroking his neck with her right hand, holding the flag aloft in her left hand near Chip’s head, and occasionally shaking it.  When these gestures produced no obvious connection, Susan began to wave the flag at Chip’s left haunch, then his shoulder, then his haunch again – trying to get him to move.  Chip stood perfectly still.

Susan’s efforts became increasingly disjointed and remained without effect. It was painful to watch her frustration visibly mounting.  After a very long few minutes of being ignored, Susan turned away from Chip looking dejected. She lowered the flag, lowered her head and said, “I just don’t know what to do.”

Nikki joined Susan in the picadero and asked her a few questions.  “What would you like Chip to do?”  “How would you describe what you’ve tried so far?” “What else might you try?”  With a few words of encouragement about the importance of setting your intention and concentrating on being clear when asking for what you want, Nikki stepped out of the arena and left Susan to continue.

Susan seemed to draw inward and we all watched in silence.  Then she took a step back from Chip and snapped the flag energetically behind him.  Chip raised his head and shuffled forward a few steps.  Encouraged, Susan repeated the vigorous snap of the flag.  Once again, Chip responded by moving forward a few more steps.  Then the dance began in earnest.  With each step that Chip took, with each snap of the flag, we could see Susan’s confidence grow until both horse and human were trotting easily around the picadero together.  Susan was grinning from ear to ear, carrying herself lightly and openly, radiating excitement and energy.

After a minute or so, Susan stopped trotting, lowered the flag and, having accomplished her objective, moved to leave the picadero, not noticing Chip following behind her like her newest best friend.  We motioned to her to turn and look, and then asked her to stand by Chip for a picture of the two of them together.

Once the picture was taken, Susan left the picadero and walked past the group, clearly moved by her experience.  Without speaking, Leslie placed a hand on Susan’s shoulder, and Susan started to sob.  Leslie asked, “Do you want to talk about what’s coming up for you?” Susan nodded and explained that her experience with Chip mirrored her experience in the office with staff.  “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings at work, just as I didn’t want to push Chip with the flag.  But they don’t pay attention to what I’m asking for, and I end up feeling frustrated.  I see now that I’m so concerned about being nice and getting along with everyone that I don’t really ask for what I want.  I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but I end up feeling hurt because I’ve been unclear and they don’t respond.”

Leslie asked, “How did Chip respond to your clarity?”  Susan answered, “It was great. Everything flowed so easily after that.  We had a great time!  This was a huge lesson for me in asking clearly for what I want.”

Not every picadero experience is so profoundly insightful, but the opportunity is there for those who are willing to engage with what they see when they look in the mirror of their equine partner’s eyes.

How to Gain Clients: The HorseDream Way of Doing Business.

By Gerhard J. Krebs, Germany

Whenever somebody is on the phone asking questions about the HorseDream train the trainer seminars, for example “what is required to do the training and to be successful in the horse assisted education business afterwards?”, we answer: “The most important thing is to get clients.”

If you have management skills and horse knowledge, that’s perfect. In the 2-day seminar you get all the information to combine both. But that is only the basic requirement to do a good job. It is not sufficient to make a living out of our concept.

There is one page in the seminar manual covering public relations, marketing and advertising. This page contains our experiences from more than 14 years management training with horses. We summarised in a few sentences, what worked and what did not.

Our core statement is that ‘Traditional marketing and advertisement does not work at all with horse assisted education’.

Unfortunately most of the seminar participants do not believe this. Therefore they try out everything on their own. We guess some of them think: “Okay, if you just do it the right way, it will work,” or “I have the competencies; I know how to do it.” And when they start their marketing they realise after a few months, there is no real success in terms of paid clients. They attract a lot of attention, appointments, taster seminars with much interest but no bookings.

How come?

Perhaps you know this famous AIDA model:

A – Attention or awareness: attract the attention of the prospective customer.
I – Interest: raise the interest of the prospective customer by focusing on or demonstrating advantages and benefits.
D – Desire: convince prospective customers that they really want to do the seminar and that it will satisfy their needs.
A – Action: lead customers towards taking action and booking the training.

There is a whole industry fighting for attention, interest, desire and action. Advertising agencies employ thousands of very creative specialists to constantly think about new ways to sell products and services. Be honest: what is your reaction to direct mail, advertisements in newspapers or magazines? What is your reaction to TV adverts? And what is your reaction to internet banners and pop ups?

If you are not really interested in the product, in the service or in the company brand you don’t even notice this kind of information. That’s why marketing psychologists come up with new strategies. They try to get the sales information into your subconsiousness. This is a method that works with a lot of people. They order the product, not because there is a need for it, but because they feel there is a need.

Of course the more conscious people are, the less this method works. You know the advertising is manipulating you. Moreover, you think every marketing activity is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. With time you learn to ignore it. It is no longer your cerebral cortex which reacts to the message but your amygdala. And your amygdala immediately says NO to whatever shows up as sales manipulation.

You think your horse assisted education advertising is information? Your prospective customer thinks it is manipulation. Your target group is the conscious customer and, believe me, he does not react to classic marketing as you hope he would. He reacts as you do. His amygdala works just as well as yours!

Okay then, how do we get clients? We wait for them. It sounds strange but it is true. We want horses to follow us out of free will. We want employees working together with us out of free will. And we want customers to come to us out of free will. The positive impact of such an approach is: you only work with clients who are really interested in what you are doing. That’s much better than working with participants who have been convinced to come to your training by written or spoken promises.

There are many companies out there, unaware of how important horse assisted education is for the benefit of their businesses. And there are a few companies out there which are aware. Don’t focus on the former. You will not gain any paid participants by doing so. Wait for five more years and some of them will probably be in the latter group. Focus on the companies which are already open for our new world of learning. They are only a few in relation to all the others but only a few in this dimension means tens of thousands worldwide and at least fifty to a hundred just around you within a radius of two hours drive.

What is required to get into a position where you are able to just wait for those clients? First of all you have to be present. In the very beginning of all our seminars people get the information to be present one hundred percent. Because when you are working with horses you have to be present. The horse is a very present sentient being and it wants you to be present, too. So working with horses teaches you to be present all the time. And as a seminar provider you have to be present in the market.

The market is the place where you turn desire into money. It is full of offered products and services which are not really needed. And yet they are bought. Those companies which are aware of the outcomes of horse assisted leadership seminars, horse assisted change management, horse assisted team building, horse assisted personal development must have the opportunity to find you. You go to the market with open arms just to be there, just to be present.

The internet is our main communication medium. More than 75 percent of our seminar bookings come via the HorseDream homepage. There is a German and an international version. Further there are special websites covering special topics, like HorseDream Concept, which was launched to attract large companies and seminar organisations. We also deal with the statistical part of our homepages watching which path visitors take inside our programmes. And of course we search for new horse assisted education offers.

Do you know how many natural or unnatural horsemen and women have invented this revolutionary thing called horse coaching? Hundreds. And they all consider themselves to be very unique. Hopefully for them, corporate clients will visit their websites, because otherwise they won’t survive. Whenever you find someone who offers horse assisted education on the same website besides riding lessons, mum-and-kids-projects and similar clinics you can be sure that s/he’s not an HAE professional in the sense of providing corporate trainings.

From our point of view, competition belongs to what we call “the old business”. Our vision is not to compete any longer but to collaborate and cooperate whenever and wherever it is possible. Look at the market. There are hundreds and thousands of companies with millions of employees. What if only one big company finally comes up with the idea to train all staff with horses? Who would be able to do that? We would have to say “Sorry, we can only manage three courses a month – and two of them are already booked.” You see, we need many of us. We need to be prepared for these first huge orders. And we are sure they will come. Horse assisted education is not hype; it is not something that burns like a big straw fire and afterwards calms down again. Horse assisted education is like building a future. It is like being alive again. It is like being human again. When people experience that horses are bridges between people, when companies experience that horses are even bridges between countries and cultures, there will be no stop for our concept.

So how do we spend the time until this happens? Being present, being aware, being of help to others, offering seminars and trainings in our own region, talking about what we are doing. What I mean is, burning like a fire of passion – not just presenting a method. Horse assisted education is more than a business. Whoever asks us what is required to become a horse assisted educator gets the answer “You need a long deep breath.” And s/he gets the recommendation not to leave their present job. If you can make a living doing your present job and start with HAE seminars once a month or so you will not run into any problem. And you will be able to put your seminar price on the table. And this price is high.

There is one big delusion. If you think you have to start with a low price offer you are terribly wrong. Your horse assisted leadership seminar is worth the highest price ever. There is no way to learn faster and more profoundly. So you deliver very high quality – actually not you, but your horses. We heard people saying after our training “These two days have been worth each cent we paid,” and “It would have taken us 10 months coaching, to get to these fundamental results.”

So you and your horses are absolutely good value for money.

There is one more point. If a company books a training for executives, the HR people know well that quality requires compensation. So what? Horses are much more expensive than computer slides. And horses working as trainers are priceless!

Let me tell you a short story. When we started with top management seminars for chief executives we set a price of 1,995.00 euros per person per day. Nobody signed up. Our thoughts were: if nobody signs up at 1,995.00 euros it will make no difference at all if nobody signs up at 3,995.00 euros. We had just changed the price on the website when the first vice president registered on a two-day course. In the meantime we take 4,500.00 euros if someone wants an individual one-day training. Why? Because it is worth this price. Do people still sign up at this price: yes, they do. Not very often, but once or twice a year.

That leads me to the next crucial point of our market approach. We won’t do more than three or four seminars a month. The horses need time between the dates. They have to recover from their work with the clients, which is not of physical but of psychic and emotional stress. As the horses are most important in our seminars we have to look after their psychical, emotional and physical well being all the time.

This does not mean that we are on holiday between the seminar dates. Just the opposite. We need the time to work on our websites, to network with business friends and those who might be interested in attending our open seminars or a corporate training. We need the time to run the International HorseDream Partners Community and the EAHAE network. I spend about four hours a day, just answering emails, giving support regarding special seminar issues, talking with EAHAE members and HorseDream Partners. The rest of the day is developing new ideas, working on seminar videos, preparing the next workshop or train the trainer seminar.

Considering all our train the trainer seminars it is like lighting candles everywhere. In the first three or four years people had to travel from the north to the south to attend a HorseDream seminar. Now they find the nearest HAE seminar provider in Germany with two clicks on the internet just around the corner. In the next few years they’ll find you worldwide, everywhere.

The base of qualified HAE seminar providers is becoming larger and larger. And this means the base of HAE seminar participants is becoming larger and larger, too. Word of mouth information about the incredible success that can be the result of continuous horse assisted trainings, will spread. That’s the way we attract companies. It is not about pushing, it is about pulling. Traditional marketing is a numbers game. The more you put in, the more you get out. But Horse Assisted Education marketing is not a game. It is a vision. And we will all keep this vision alive until the very last person can see it.


By David Harris, United Kingdom

When we first started our workshops often we did not have a structure. We would invite friends family and acquaintances to come and “play” with the horses. If the play resulted in learning we would refine the process and utilise it in our programmes. This is the way many of our current exercises evolved.

On one memorable occasion we realised you do not need a structure or even an exercises for profound learning to occur. This is my memory of that wonderful occasion. I have changed the name of the participant to ensure this intimate learning stays that way. She gave me her permission to tell you the story.

It was a sunny spring day, warm but cool enough to require a coat. We had a group of four people playing with us. We had completed a safety briefing and the atmosphere was still with an air of excitement.

It was my intention to take the group through a lunging type exercise I was trying to refine. I asked who would like to try the exercise first. I was standing waiting with Johnjo, a chestnut gelding standing at 16.2 hands. He waited patiently while one of the participants stepped forward. Her name was Charlie (name changed by request).

I handed her Johnjo’s lead rope, gave him a gentle stroke on the shoulder in preparation for the exercise.

“Well Charlie, what would you like to work with today?” I asked.

She took a deep breath and then started to talk at a speed and rigor, which took me by surprise.

“Well I wanted to work with something that has been bothering me for ages” she took in a short, sharp breath and continued even faster.

“I am single and would love to find a partner, I have many men friends who would make great partners but we only ever have one date, never a second. And I do not know why.” Another even shorter breath and continued to speak still faster.

“I am attractive, intelligent, I earn good money, I have a great job and I think I am very interesting, why would it be that no one ever wants to go out with me more than once, I just do not understand”. She continued to talk faster and faster, snatching shallow breaths between sentences.

All the time she was talking Johnjo was yawning gently but regularly. Initially Charlie did not notice, but towards the end of her first stream she did. She stopped talking looked at Johnjo, then looked at me and said.

“My god, I am boring the horse”. For the first time she spoke slowly and it seemed from the heart and not the head.

As the words left her lips Johnjo stepped forward and put his head flat against her chest.

Charlie looked slightly confused and then put her arm around his big, soft head. They stood together in a heartfelt embrace, it seemed like time stood still.

After a moment Charlie looked up at me and started talking again building up speed with each word.

“Isn’t this interesting. When I got emotional the horse stepped forward to me. I do not understand, what does this mean? Do you think he is trying to tell me something? Wow this is amazing”.

Johnjo stepped back and started yawning again. Charlie stooped talking and looked into his big brown eyes. She sighed and said nothing; she looked moved by the interaction and visibly softened.

Johnjo stepped forward and again placed his head flat on her chest. Charlie put her arms around Johnjo and they stood, melting into each other. With each breath Johnjo’s head got lower, and lower; a sure sign he was very relaxed and connected. After a few moments he stepped back, there was a sense he was done.

Charlie looked at me, looked at the group then looked and Johnjo, gave his forehead a gentle rub and silently returned to the group.

Some weeks later Charlie called and said she had told all her friends what had happened with Johnjo. Her friends had said “Yes Charlie, that’s exactly what you do, you pretend to be what you think they want”.

Charlie asked me “Why did not they not tell me?” I asked her “Would you have listed if they had?”

This was a profound learning for Charlie by the simple act of being herself. She experienced the attractive quality of just being herself and had a whole body learning experience. Horses have an amazing ability to help us be who we really are. No pretence, no mask; the real self.

Making moves. Report on a horse assisted training.

By Michaela Schuhmacher, Germany

13 year old Peter isn’t very talkative. His most given answer is “Don’t know”. In school he’s causing trouble, because he doesn’t do his homework and often provokes his teachers by short unfriendly remarks. With teachers and parents he would question rules or simply ignore them. He’s also having problems to concentrate well. His marks are low, if he doesn’t achieve, he has to leave school in summer.

His class teacher likes him a lot and already tried a lot of things to make him feel more comfortable. His parents explained several times that it is important to get good qualifications in order to get a good job, that he has to be respectful to teachers and so on. Parents and teachers are quite desperate. They’ve tried their best, making offers, supporting him, trying to pull him in the right direction – unsuccessfully. Sometimes he’d say “I can’t do it” and doesn’t do what he’s asked to. Now they want me to “get through to him”, support him and help him to get out of his misery.

During sessions in the praxis he’d do the same to me as to every one else:
“Don’t know” and refuse to talk to me.

I suggest to consult my partner Chiara. The parents say: “We don’t think, he’d like it.”
Peter smiles and says “Yes”.

Session 1:

During the first session he makes contact very well. He’s not afraid and performes well. His first task is to walk with the horse and lead her (in the riding arena outside). The rule is: the rope has to hang loose all the time, no pulling, no forcing.

After starting successfully, Chiara would follow, so Peter doesn’t concentrate any more but starts dreaming. Chiara changes direction.
“Hey – what’s she doing?”
Chiara moves to the closest grass spot at the end of the riding arena.
“Oh no!” – He makes a noise that is between laughing and crying.
He manages to catch her attention again and starts walking again.
Chiara follows carefully observing when he’ll loose concentration again. Then – she changes direction.
“Oh no – she does it again!”
He follows her to the grass grumbling.
“Who’s leading now?”
“Well s h e is!”
He manages to get in the leading position again.
They’re walking.
Chiara’s waiting for her chance – and… changes directions.
Peter is very angry now “She’s always cuts off”
“What about leading?”
“I don’t know how to do it!”
“Be creative. She knows – long before you do where and when you’re going to loose your concentration. So first pay attention and concentrate, then find an creative solution that prevents her from walking to the grass”.
They start again. Peter is walking while concentrating very hard and paying attention to the horse. Carefully he’s observing her movements while they’re walking. The moment where she wants to go to the grass, he’d move around her quickly, so he’s in the leading position again.
Chiara is following, chewing, relaxing.
Peter smiles.

He does very well from now on, and after short time, Chiara wouldn’t even try to change directions but sticks to him.

Session 2:

I ask Peter a difficult task: to lead from behind. I explain to him that the leading stallion usually is taking care of the herd and making sure that everyone is o.k. by staying behind, overlooking the scene and leading from there, while the leading mare is in front.

Chiara is wearing a vaulting band.
The task is to move the horse within the riding arena (outside).
Peter doesn’t want to use the whip “I refuse to beat the horse”. I appreciate this and explain that the whip is not for beating but a tool to give a slight signal. He agrees to use it after I showed how it is to be used.
Everythings ready. Peter wants Chiara to move. He uses the whip, while his body is stiff and tough.
Chiara doesn’t move.
Peter’s giving me a look that says “Help me, pleeeaaase”.
I give him a smile.
He tries again.
Chiara doesn’t move.
“She doesn’t do it!” He’s giving me a desperate look.
He tries again. Same thing. Horse falls asleep.
“Oh Mann! She doesn’t w a l k”. He’s giving up and let go off the whip.
He tries. No changes. No movements.
He’s desperate. “I can’t d o it.”
I tell him what I observed: “You’re using the whip with your hand, yet your body and mind say “I`ll stay here – I won’t move”. So Chiara doesn’t move. She says “I can’t do it this way, so I don’t do it. If you want her to move – you must w a n t her to move. Your mind a n d your body have to be ready for moving. Become aware and flexible.”
Peter is smart. He understands. This time he concentrates on his intention and his body is slighty moving forward while he uses the whip.
Chiara starts walking.
Peter follows slowly, hesitating.
Chiara stops.
Peter is confused. “What’s now? Why doesn’t she go on?”
“She won’t pull you.”
“She doesn’t pull you” [like all the others already tried without success] “Stay with her – keep moving”.
They start – and they walk. Slowly but steadily. Chiara would stop after a little while and they have to start again. They do that several times. It seems to be difficult for Peter to make his own steps, but he’s doing all right. He might need more practise here.

Session 3:

In session 3 I work with Peter on his attention and his creativity. He has to make contact with the horse (in the riding arena), get her attention and then lead her without the rope.
It takes all his energy to get her attention. At first she’d walk wherever she wants to. Peter – used to giving up at once is between laughing and crying.
“She’s walking away”, giving me that look again.
“Be creative, like in your first session – you can do it”.
His moves become quicker, he is focussing the horse and gets into the leading position. After a few steps, his concentration goes down. Chiara walks away.
He moans and grumbles – and follows her, focussing her, trying to find out where she is aiming at next. He makes a quick move around the horse – and gets into the leading position again. This time he keeps his attention span up longer – the horse follows.
He practises one or two more times, in the end it’s a scene of a harmonious play between the two of them.

Session 4 and 5

In Session 4 Peter’s working very well when leading Chiara over a canvas plane. Before he started, he made up his mind and focused on the task he chose (he could choose between: stopping in front of the canvas plane, making her walk over it and making her stand on it).

When beeing asked to wrap the canvas plane around the horse, Chiara went away, he couldn’t get close. This time he couldn’t fullfill his task (and making the experience of frustration. So I asked him to come back whith a workung solution. A week later he returned and explained that he first wanted to show the canvas plane to the horse, then put it on the horses back and finally unfold it. The pictures show how it worked.

We still have to work on some other things but Peter’s obviously improving. He’s built a strong relationship with the horse and behaving more self-confident. In school he’s also doing better now. Next thing will be to stabilze his new skills.

Closing sentence:

I don’t’ plan the sessions that way. I don’t know which particular task could be the perfect connection to Peter’s problem. Actually, I follow my intuition. Sometimes I decide what we would do, after he arrived. Another time I plan what task I want to give him (and might drop it, when the client arrives). Sometimes I ask a person what he or she wants to do. It always comes out right. The horse never lies.

Horses Are Mysterious Creatures!

By Renáta Foldynová, Czech Republic

“Horses are mysterious creatures,” a friend of mine told me when we talked about her project of horse assisted management training, and I felt this phrase in my mind suddenly opened the door to another world. Until then, the horses were for me like other domestic animals. I was not particularly interested in them; my interest was strictly neutral. But I was intrigued, attracted and inspired by the mysticism. Now, horses entered into my world of mysticism by the main gate in all their grandeur and splendour. From that moment I knew that I would take the first opportunity for contact with this leadership trainers shrouded in mysticism.

Finally the day came when I parked the car on the farm Heroutice that offered ideal conditions for the natural leadership course with the assistance of horses – accommodation, restaurant with lounge and garden, indoor and outdoor riding school, horses in pens, beautiful countryside 70 km from Prague. I got out of the car full of curiosity, what to expect. Just somewhere on the edge of curiosity, I felt the vibration of fear, how am I going to hold out as a leader face to face with these large animals.

The very first lesson – the observation of three horses from the gallery of the covered riding hall – was unforgettable. Our task was to observe the behaviour of this small group of horses and determine which of them is the leader. It was interesting to observe how the behaviour of the group reflected different character traits of these three animals, Master, Merlin and Louise. Even more interesting was to share views and insights with other students in watching the video after returning to the classroom. To my surprise, we didn’t agree on the leader of the herd. Each of the three horses was the leader in somebody’s eyes and each participant had strong and convincing arguments for their choice. The best example of the diversity of views on one and the same situation I had never experienced.

Another activity was leading the horse by the bridle near its head. At first glance, nothing complicated. We were outside. My colleagues fulfilled their tasks excellently and I took Merlin’s rein with confidence. Problems, however, arouse after a few steps, when Merlin saw a group of horses who just then had driven through a nearby meadow to the farm. These horses caught his attention, so that to fulfil a simple task for me was virtually impossible. I tried all possible ways to attract his attention back to me and our task, but in vain. Sure, it was the outside influences that made a real challenge from a simple task. But when analyzing the video with the teacher and other participants I clearly realized that my behaviour was lacking conviction. Merlin did not mark my words, he might have been more convinced by my body language, if only it were more expressive.

A more complex task was to get the horses to run around. It was an example of leadership at a distance with a tool – a riding whip with a flag. I had never tried anything like this before, so I had no idea how to use the riding whip. I tried different strategies, but with only partial success. Later the colleague, who had dealt with horses for years, demonstrated how to do it. Wow! Why are we looking for some complexity when the solution is simple and vivid, I thought to myself. What a lesson of humility this was! And what a lesson I learned to put into practice effectively! As a manager I have a set of different management tools, and often use them in a complex manner with little effectiveness…
After leading the horse from the front and from the side came leading from the back using the reins. After the previous experience, I was really worried. How should I handle this? I do not suffer from a lack of confidence and courage, but I was prepared for the worst. And again the surprise came – me and Master completed the task as easily as if it were the simplest thing. Sensational! Another surprise came in the analysis – this kind of leadership is an analogy of coaching. Even though I had already some coaching experience, this experience of coaching effectiveness was much more expressive. Instead of drawing a sail-boat and discussing wisdom and control as in a standard training, here I was standing on the swinging deck with the wheel (or reins) in hand.

I know that management is in part science and in part craft. You can read hundreds of books and not be a good manager, because a substantial part of the art of management is not transferable. This craft part we gain by practical experience through feedback from others. At the seminar with the assistance of horses, I found that feedback from these animals is much more vivid and goes deeper into my heart than feedback from other people. Words and logical arguments were not understood by the horses. They responded to the language of my body and to what my inner being wanted. With Master, Luis and Merlin I could go through some shells of sophisticated ideas to the foundations of my managerial skills and within two days realize my strengths and weaknesses, which had accompanied me for several years undetected. Horses are really mystical beings!

Lubomír Straka, MBA (*1970) works in corporate governance and international coordination division of Air Navigation Services of the Czech Republic. As a head of the strategic planning department, he deals mainly with performance measurement and management of air navigation services and with the application of performance-based management within the organization.

Horse assisted education – a most valuable completion of integral leadership training

By Dr. Barbara Gorsler, management trainer, Dietlikon, Switzerland

Managers (… and others..) can learn a lot during horse – assisted training. Approaching horses, watching their reactions to our behavior, touching them, smelling them, leading them with or without a rope – this is a very special experience which brings people “down to earth”. Contrary to schooling in classroom where participants are mostly rational decision makers the context of horse – assisted education opens the emotional side of people. The authentic feedback of horses provokes reactions and insights for the participants which touches them deeply. That’s why horse assisted education is a very valuable completion of classroom seminars. In role plays in the classroom people often play a role – they are not authentic and are not open to really face their personal problems and challenges.

The following case study will highlight what I mean by integral leadership training: I will tell you the story of Lukas, a participant of a two day seminar: “Successful conflict resolution”, followed by a workshop with horse – assisted education.

My boss does not pay much attention to me… how can I attract more attention and recognition ?

Confession in the classroom

Lukas was one of nine participants with banking and insurance background who attended the seminar: “Successful conflict resolution”. At first sight he appeared to be a nice guy, polite, very intelligent (classical scholar with double PhD), very interested to communicate with the other participants, very engaged during the exercises and role plays. Overall, he left a rather shy impression, which showed also in his stooping posture.

At the end of the first day, Lukas had gained enough confidence to tell us about his actual problem at his workplace. He was assistant of the management board of a bank and his task was delivering profound analyses and background information – he told us how he was fascinated by his task – he was sure he could deliver competent information based on his long experience in the field. Unfortunately, he was seldom praised – even worse, his boss, an ambitious young woman, only used his work to create an image for herself. He admitted that he was now no more motivated.

First encounter with the horses – his favorite horse being Santana

It is always very interesting to watch the participants whom you know from two days classroom seminar in a totally different environment during their first encounter with the horses. Most of them are really looking forward to the new experience. Others are sort of nervous to meet the horses and ask themselves if they will be able to lead such a big animal. A few are in fear of horses and tell me in advance that the observer role will be alright for them ( in most of the cases they change their mind and will ask me “What do you think, if I try myself ?”…).

Lukas was very eager from the very beginning – he told me that he didn`t have any specific experience with horses but that he was always fascinated by these proud and elegant species.

During the first exercise participants are watching a group of horses which play around in a riding arena. This exercise is useful to get a first impression of the horses. The task is to watch the behavior of the horses very carefully – are there any differences in character? – which horse attracts me most? During this exercise every participant can choose his favorite horse for the following exercises. Lukas` choice was Santana, a very elegant mare with beautiful expressive movements. I asked him why he chose Santana? “That is very clear, I am fascinated by her elegance and assertiveness – did you see how Santana reacted when this brown little pony wanted to bite her? … she just kicked out at him. I also chose Santana because of her gentle expression on her face..”

Lukas and Santana – not a dream team yet

The exercise is to lead the horse on a rope, individually. The participant has to walk through different obstacles with the horse: turn around poles, pass through small obstacles, walk over tarpaulins on the floor. Lukas was very eager to do his job with Santana – his eyes sparkled like a little child when he took the leading rope of Santana. Only seconds later the expression of his face changed dramatically: Santana was not willing to follow him. He tried to motivate her by gently moving the leading rope.. no chance – he did not know what to do. He tried some other timid movements, without success. He tried to talk to her – no chance – discouraged he watched the group.

I asked him: ..” Do you think the horse knows, what you want from her?” Lukas seemed to understand.. “ok, I will show her what I want.. I will take a leading position, walking in front of her”…with timid movements he made some steps forward – seemingly not convincing enough. Meanwhile, Santana took a very uninterested stance and did not move. Poor Lukas was in a quite desperate state … I asked him: .. “Do you think the horse can recognise your full presence and determination?” Lukas seemed to think about this and suddenly changed his posture, he appeared much more focused now and -.. no surprise.. Santana started moving and followed Lukas… up to the second obstacle where Santana stopped again. This time it was Lukas who gave the explanation himself: “I can tell you why she stopped.. I was very uncertain if she would pass through the second obstacle … how can I take a leading position when I am uncertain and even in fear?” Now Lukas made his way with Santana very determined and we could watch how he enjoyed realizing how easily the mare followed him – finally Santana had accepted him as her leader.

Lukas` statements after his exercise

Deeply touched and still very excited, Lukas told us how he lived these 10 minutes: “In the beginning I was quite in despair– I approached Santana so gently but I could not gain her confidence – I had no authority. Only after I was totally despaired about the failed trials I had the energy to get through and to be finally respected. I am sure Santana could feel that I was clearly focused on reaching my target. I am very happy now that I succeeded to move her, finally – may be that is also true for my life: I have to stand up and signal very clearly to others what I want!”

What we learn from this story

Already in the classroom Lukas had told us from situations at his workplace where he was not much respected despite his broad experience and competence. The exercise with the horse showed him a way how he could increase his assertiveness.

Typically, Lukas chose the mare with a lot of expression, who showed that she is able to defend herself … characteristics Lukas would like to have himself, as well. During the exercises Lukas could learn about the importance of determined body language and clear target oriented action – there was a clear difference of his presence – before and after.

I am always impressed, how the lessons taught by horses are so easily accepted by people – may be people think, “Well, its only a horse which reacts.”

That is a real advantage of horse- assisted education – horses can mirror people the unvarnished truth and it is accepted quite easily. For me as a coach or another participant it often needs a lot of diplomacy and fine feeling to bring the message to the point.

Working with horses we are not only focused on rational thinking but we are also touching the emotional side of our participants. As newest research about limbic learning shows us the emotional involvement is a prerequisite for inner acceptance and finally for change of habits or behavior.


Horse – assisted training is a most valuable completion of classroom seminars. To be efficient and sustainable the process of coaching and training is most important – horse assisted training must be embedded in a clear context: starting with a clear statement about the status quo and the personal targets of the participant. Previous classroom seminars often bring up important issues and targets for horse – assisted education. Another possibility is a well coached brainstorming with the group prior to the horse seminar. Most important is the reflection during the horse – assisted training session : by the participant himself, by the group and the coach. Videos are a useful tool to reinforce the reflection – nobody would be able to explain your nonverbal communication and appearance better then when you watch yourself on the video… ! Insight is one thing… change of habits another! So it is most important that the insight process is followed by a clear transfer plan – a plan which must be developed by the participant himself – because only he is able to know how far he is ready to initialize change– the coach is only the motivator of this process.

In the transfer process we have another valuable effect of horse – assisted education: the situations lived with horses leave a deep impression on the participants – the success stories with the horses serve as a clear anchor – the inner pictures of successfully leading Santana, Prince or whatever the name of the horse is, will encourage the participants to be more self – assured and determined.