To work on your people skills, learn the language of horses. BY M. MARCEL Maissonneuve Magazine JUNE 8, 2018 Rachel Avitan’s task was to lead Cricket, a towering black quarter horse, around the barn’s dirt-floored pen without tugging or pulling at her. Rachel, a diminutive, galloping executive in her sixties, called out softly and gestured[…]
I can’t believe we are rounding out 2017 in just a handful of days. The shortest day of the year is here and now the sun starts to return and bring us longer days slowly but surely. I am at a stage in life where I don’t really need much of anything so Christmas[…]
Midnight in Rome We threaded our way along the Via Dei Pastini, quietly dodging the late night revellers, walking in twos and threes, with purpose. We were on our way to a unique spontaneous performance. A once in a lifetime moment for us and for our as yet unsuspecting audience. As we rounded the corner[…]
I never saw this coming. When I envisioned myself as an executive coach working with people and horses I never saw myself in front of a microphone telling people about the magic of my work. Let’s be clear – I am an introvert and was always most comfortable in the background. It caused me some[…]
Do you remember the old ‘telephone game’ that we played as children where you got two empty cans, put a long string through the bottom of one and connected it to the other one and then ran off in different directions to talk on the ‘phone’? If you played that game you will recall that[…]
How are you moving through life? For an equestrian, forward is all about impulsion in the horse. For humans forward is about the ability to hold the concept of one’s ideal future in focus and carry out one’s mission. Forward is about maintaining the ability to channel one’s energies to move through life while letting[…]
Being a coach has been such a gift in my life. I get to be an attendant and helper and a witness to people who are wanting to make changes in their lives. Having had to make many major changes in my life has given me a sense of empathy with what my clients are[…]
The deep rumble in the distance could be a locomotive or it could be thunder. I can’t tell. I am out of my element and in it all at the same time. Five thousand feet above sea level. Hours from civilization. Finally visiting my dear friend’s cabin after years of hearing about it. The almost[…]
Equine Coach has been in business for 10 years now and I still don’t have the perfect slogan or tag line for my business. I have several friends assigned to come up with something – something that might just tickle the creative juices into the perfect lightbulb moment – something descriptive summing everything up eloquently with[…]
The March weather was more heavy mist than rain as I walked through St. Germain that chilly Tuesday morning towards my meeting with a stranger. In our email exchange she had suggested Les Editeurs – which was a wonderful choice; I couldn’t imagine a more Parisian cafe in which to connect with someone who shared[…]
In honour of International Women’s Day I am featuring the painting on the right, completed in 1855, by the french painter Rosa Bonheur, one of the greatest artists of the 19th century. The subject matter is the Paris Horse Fair held on the Boulevard l’Hôpital near the Salpêtrière asylum, which is just visible in the[…]
It is Sunday midnight in Montparnasse. I am still awake living in a time zone of my very own, somewhere between Pacific Standard and Central European Time. Parisians are settled in for the night. If I look out of the living room windows, off to the west I can just make out the top third[…]
Many of us today are seeking meaning in our lives. As Jason Garner, former Fortune 500 executive put it, we are seeking to move “from a life of matter to a life that matters”. Seeking that which is non-material or intangible, that which has meaning beyond the need for food and shelter, is to be[…]
Views on leadership, leadership qualities and leadership models diverge widely. Models of leadership have focused on situational theories (e.g. Hersey & Blanchard), behavioral styles (e.g. Blake and Mouton), traits theory (e.g. Derue, Nahrgang, Wellmand & Humphrey), as well functional theories (Kouzes and Posner). Some argue that leaders are born, some that leaders are made, and[…]
“Come back to the present. Be here with me now”, says Charlie the big beautiful thoroughbred. Charlie is one of the many horses I get to spend time with in the course of a normal week. I love working with horses for many reasons – chief among them that being with horses is my main mindfulness[…]
To be clear – I am not talking about an NFL trade here. In the sport horse industry there is an expression (which I love) – “send him/her to the cowboy”. That’s what you tell a friend who has a horse that has learned how to buck and regularly uses it as a tactic to get[…]
That sounds like one of those tabloid headlines designed to draw your attention because it is so nonsensical. But at Rutgers medical school that is indeed what is happening! Horses are teaching at Med School! It’s “a doctor’s presence alone, rather than their competence, that can mean the difference between life or death.” Maria Katsamanis,[…]
“Yet if we look at our evolutionary history, we can see that language is a relatively recent development and was most likely layered upon older signals that communicated dominance, interest, and emotions among humans. Today these ancient patterns of communication still shape how we make decisions and coordinate work among ourselves.” I just read a[…]
The Trifecta of emotional intelligence, known for short as EQ, is a combination of Mindful Leadership (ML), Awareness and Presence (A+P), and Conscious Communication (CC). Success in life depends on a few factors; if you don’t have a rich parent or spouse, didn’t win LottoMax or American Idol, or you don’t look like a movie[…]
Are you feeling increasingly distracted by the demands of data and information constantly coming at you? Are you feeling less connected to your real feeling and authentic self? The world is increasingly demanding attention from our brains leaving the rest of us – heart, soul, and senses – to atrophy. We can end up feeling[…]
The Fear Factor is a popular show on television and I think it speaks to one of humanity’s common denominators. Fear is an essential survival instinct designed to keep us humans alive. We are all wired with the fight/flight/freeze response to fear. […]
I just returned from a visit to a remote area of British Columbia to find wild horses and while catching up on my email, read a great article about what we humans can learn from horses. Written by brain surgeon Dr. Allen Hamilton, it covers so many concepts in relatively few words including human evolution,[…]
I’ve been thinking about conscious communication a lot these days. It’s a complex topic that doesn’t get enough attention. Usually it gets attention when it’s a problem and then frequently that problem appears to be an insoluble one. Non-verbal communication incorporates everything from bad breath and taking personal space to an inexplicable feeling of[…]
Mindfulness seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. Sorry for the bad pun – but it is, apparently, increasingly a topic of interest. In fact, Google search trends show a steady increase in web searches for the terms mindful or mindfulness since 2005. Europe was the source for most of the searches of the[…]
Views on leadership, leadership qualities and models of leadership diverge widely. Models of leadership have focused on situational theories (e.g. Hersey & Blanchard), behavioral styles (e.g. Blake and Mouton), traits theory (e.g. Derue, Nahrgang, Wellmand & Humphrey), as well functional theories (Kouzes and Posner). Some argue that leaders are born, some that leaders are made, and others that leaders are a combination of innate leadership psychology and learned or groomed behaviours or habits. Ideas around leadership qualities vary widely and so far it appears that no-one has been able to develop a definitive list of leadership qualities. […]
Authenticity, self-awareness and leadership – one of these things is not like the others. In Daniel Goleman’s excellent article The Focused Leader, written for The Harvard Business Review, he discusses emotional intelligence in terms of awareness and where the effective leader directs his attention. In terms of being an authentic leader, he asserts that a leader needs to be[…]
Awareness and coaching presence are core competencies for coaches. I love coaching with horses because they foster and reinforce these competencies constantly. Being with horses just naturally seems to focus one’s attention on inner states and how we are affected by inputs from the environment and other beings. Horses are natural-born coaches that way. At[…]
Have you ever walked into a room full of people and felt really uncomfortable yet couldn’t pinpoint why? Or have you had the experience of joining a group where the feeling was positive and welcoming and you immediately became infected by an ineffable sense of well-being. If you have experienced either of these situations you have encountered what psychologists refer to as an affective state, or a state of awareness that may be pre-cognitive. When something is pre-cognitive it means that information is being perceived, shared, and processed unconsciously and is not yet available to our cognitive or conscious thinking functions. In essence you are having a shared experience, being a part of a collective, being one with the herd, the flock, the school, or the tribe. Sometimes it is pleasant and other times it is uncomfortable.
While scientists are pursuing studies on topics associated with perception and neuroscience, we mere mortals often continue to struggle with some of our affective perceptions, especially in the workplace. Sometimes we are conscious of these feelings and we might refer to them as a “hunch”, “gut feeling”, “intuition”, or we might try to ignore them altogether because we can’t classify them, rationalize them, or make logical use of them.
We humans have evolved a significantly different skillset from other mammals – that of verbal language. It may be that this higher order communication skill comes with a cost – that of a loss of awareness of the information sharing that occurs through non-verbal means. Another cost is possibly the false bias that we are rational beings that experience emotions instead of the fact that we are emotional beings that are capable of rational thought. […]
Apparently there is a syndrome that results from having too little nature in your life; it’s called Nature Deficit Disorder. According to Richard Louv, who coined the term in his book “Last Child in the Woods”, it may account in part for the “psychological, physical, and cognitive costs of human alienation from nature”. This notion[…]
This is a difficult article to write. And the title is likely a little grandiose but I am going to have at it anyway and try to explain this thing called join up in the way that I and many others are coming to understand it.
The last thing I want to do is criticize the good work of so many honest and talented horse people who do amazing healing work by putting horses and non-equestrians together. So many people have benefited from an increasing number of equine practitioners who are getting into the field of equine assisted/facilitated healing/learning/psychotherapy/coaching. I know because I am one of them. I have been planning my life around this work since 1998 and am passionate about what I do. I have witnessed many people light up and come alive in the presence of horses. I have never witnessed someone leave an equine facilitated session feeling sad, depressed, hurt, empty or used. I am certain the many people involved in assisted/facilitated healing/learning/psychotherapy/coaching would say the very same thing. I wish we could all say the same about the experience that the horse is having. Too often, the experience of the horse is not considered or if it is, it is not really well understood. […]
What? You might well ask what the heck does that mean! Attention density and the Quantum Zeno effect are outputs of some of the learning that is being published from studies of the brain and how it functions. These ideas are also tightly aligned with effective coaching and, especially, with equine facilitated coaching. David Rock,[…]
This article has much in it that is applicable to people in so many different aspects of life. It is a story told by Jim Overstreet about his mentor and famous American horseman Tom Dorrance. In it Jim describes a lesson he learned about getting something done and encountering resistance – resistance that he created unknowingly.
One of many life lessons I have learned at the hands of a horse was about resistance – or emotional ‘stuckness’ – at the time I was in the saddle and I was trying to get something done (although I don’t remember now what that was). When I had the insight it was such a powerful experience that it has stayed with me for years and positively affected my behaviour and performance in many ways. This is the value of insight – it has the ability to change the brain and build new neuro-pathways that make the lesson stick. […]
“My daughter turned sixteen years old today; which is a milestone for most people. Besides looking at baby photos and childhood trinkets with her, I took time to reflect on the young woman my daughter had become and the choices she would face in the future.
As I looked at her I could see the athlete she was, and determined woman she would soon be. I started thinking about some of the girls we knew in our town who were already pregnant, pierced in several places, hair every color under the sun, drop outs, drug addicts and on the fast track to no-where, seeking surface identities because they had no inner self esteem. The
parents of these same girls have asked me why I “waste” the money on horses so my daughter can ride. I’m told she will grow out of it, lose interest, discover boys and all kinds of things that try to pin the current generation’ s “slacker” label on my child. I don’t think it will happen, I think she will love and have horses all her life. […]
Warning: Reader Discretion Advised.
Will you eat horse meat? For me this question has no meaning. I became vegan last year, initially out of a desire to get healthier, and then, after witnessing some graphic video of slaughterhouses on ‘candid’ camera, it so sickened me I haven’t been able to consider eating any animals, fish, or other sentient beings since. So the current ‘scandal’ over horse meat turning up disguised as beef does not concern me at all. Neither am I against others choosing to eat meat. What does concerns me is the hideous treatment to which all food animals, horses in particular, are subjected on their way to the dinner plate. […]
Coaching is a fascinating line of work. Learning how and why people think, act, feel, and behave the way they do is an endless topic of study. As a coach, I work to understand how to assist people in focusing on goals, identifying and overcoming obstacles to success, and planning actions that will take them to their highest ideals and best selves. […]
I made this video a couple of summers ago with my horse Easter’s Hurricane – aka Harold – and the help of a dear friend and horse trainer Lyz Rudolph-Michaels. In this video you will see a combination of the body language I learned from Chris Irwin and the Waterhole Rituals that Carolyn Resnick developed for building connection with horses. My intention is to show the type of activity one might engage in when having a coaching session facilitated by horses. The interaction is simple and yet as complex as any interaction we have with humans – and more mysterious until we learn to speak the language of the horse fluently. Each horse is unique just as we people are, however their language is universal in the equine world. […]
Yes it’s an awkward title but sparked by an article that came to my attention about a recent acknowledgement in the scientific community that mammals and some other life forms do indeed have consciousness. In July 2012 the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was adopted at the first Francis Crick Memorial Conference. An excerpt from the[…]
For Christmas I received a beautiful copy of John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony. I had heard of it and knew nothing about it. I opened it tremulously as I detest reading narratives where the horse-hero is abused, lost, killed, or otherwise treated cruelly by the world – which is unfortunately not atypical for any horse[…]
The end of the year approaches with its stormy weather, long dark nights, and ‘wet’ coast rains. Christmas and the winter equinox are celebrations; they help us hold onto the faith and hope that spring will come, the sun will return and we will once again enjoy the lengthening sunshiny days and clear starry nights.[…]
Michael O’Shea is a Vancouver photographer and friend who has done some great work for me over the years. He took some wonderful shots of Harold and I a few years ago and did my head shots for this site as well as a few others. It is a treat to work with talented people[…]