Recently I had an incredible opportunity to develop my leadership effectiveness via horse whispering training with Anna Twinney. I shared the weekend retreat with a small group of brilliant women entrepreneurs. When I thought about revealing my lessons learned, I knew I literally could not express them any better than my friend and colleague Paula Gregorowicz. (Side note: although I did not share Paula’s initial fear of horses, my lessons through my own interactions with them were perfectly aligned with hers.) Thank you, Paula, for allowing me to share your reflections on our experience.
When I first learned that this private retreat with my mentor was going to be a weekend of wisdom with horses, I whined. I mean whined. Does it have to be with horses? Can’t we go climb trees or a mountain or play in traffic or something, anything else (except maybe skydiving)? You see I have been mostly terrified of horses since my one and only real experience with them fifteen years ago while on vacation. To sum up, it basically involved a nose-to-tail line of horses, and partway through the horse in front of me threw his rider on his head. That resulted in the other horses being extremely unhappy and skittish. I was scared out of my mind, my horse wanted nothing to do with listening to me, and I vowed to never get near one again. I really wasn’t interested in partnering with a creature that could leave me crippled and breathing through a straw for the rest of my life.
So much for that idea and the illusion of safety. The spirit of divine dice rolling gave me the opportunity to spend three days with five of my dear colleagues, my coach, and, you guessed it – horses. This weekend of wisdom was facilitated by master horse whisperer Anna Twinney and Vin Mancarella of Reach Out to Horses. To say I was terrified and intimidated going into this would be an understatement.
What I knew for sure about this weekend was that resistance and terror aside, I was willing. I was called here for a reason (even if it was with the firm nudge of my coach) and I could either sit on the sidelines and whine or show up fully. To me there is no other option but to show up fully. How you do one thing (a retreat, vacation, class, relationship, etc.) is how you do everything. You either show up or you take a backseat in your own life. You either commit or don’t. Maybe does not exist. There is no try.
I also knew that I would trust deeply. I already knew I trusted my coach implicitly. If she knew and trusted our facilitators (basically trusted them with our lives and safety) then so would I. I was fully in and ready to go deep quickly.
A great reminder to be careful what you wish for!
Considering it took under five minutes for Anna to see through my story and basically call me out on what would be my biggest challenges, I knew I was in for a ride. I’ve only had two people ever meet me for just a few minutes and then throw me that soul piercing “I see right through you and have I got a challenge for you” look. Both times had been intense and life changing. I thought uh-oh, here we go!
So, what did I learn from my expert human guides and incredible horse teachers? SO very much.
Intention and Energy Trumps Actions
While actions may speak louder than words, your intention and energy speaks louder than actions. Never has this been so obvious to me than in working with the horses. On our first day we learned to lift the hoof and clean it. Guess what? If you’re not clear, strong, and direct about lifting that hoof, the horse will never lift it. I had to shift my own energy from tentative and petrified (I had to move through my terror about even being near or touching the horse) to deliberate leader. If I had not made this shift I would still be there trying to lift that first hoof a week later.
Later on in the weekend we had to move and guide the horses while they were loose in the ring. Once again without a very clear intention and strong energy you are certainly not going to get a horse to move or to stop. This was so obvious as people would approach the horse standing big and tall and then poof nothing happened. You can take all the “right” actions but if you’re not confident and clear on the inside, that horse is going to blow you off and do exactly what it pleases.
There is No Halfway
You cannot kinda sorta make a request of a horse. They will just stand and look at you with a “what the hell?!” look. You will also get the same “huh?!” response if you send him mixed signals. So often in business and life we try to straddle the fence. The conversation in your head sounds like: If I don’t jump all in, it’ll be safer. The problem is that “on the fence” leaves you without clear intention, half-hearted commitment, and therefore half-hearted (if any) results. Not to mention this in-between position is painful (and I’m not just talking about fence wedgies). It’s downright torturous to be living in that middle ground not quite having what you want but fooling yourself that you’re doing all that you can to make it happen. Horses don’t do in-between for a reason.
It Isn’t Personal
When a horse blows you off, tells you that you are full of it, or decides to do his thing instead of your request, it’s not personal. It’s not because you’re not good enough, not worthy, not tall enough, short enough, thin enough, smart enough… you get the picture. It’s not about you. You may have triggered something in the horse that causes him to do something, but in the end it has nothing to do with your innate worthiness.
How often does a co-worker, client, or friend do or say something that throws you into a death spiral of negative thoughts? Something gets said, confidence plummets and you essentially feel like a fraud wondering who am I to be brilliant? While there can often be something to learn about ourselves in any situation because all things are our mirrors and teachers, it isn’t personal. The horse is just being the kind of horse he is.
Staying Stuck in Your Head Will Get You Killed
When you have a 1400 pound horse (or two) running at you, you do not have time to think. That is not the time for pro and con lists, mental gymnastics, or deep analysis of your options. Over thinking (frankly thinking about it at all) will get you run over. I mean could you see saying “Excuse me, Mr. Horse – I need to run some regression analysis on this first!” Yeah, right…
On our first morning Anna said to me that my biggest problem would be staying out of my head so I don’t get killed when a horse is running at me. When she said that (remember – it was still introductions, I was still terrified, and I knew this woman for maybe 30 minutes, and I was thinking bond with horses not running loose in a ring) I really wanted to just pee my pants or leave. My mentor even said afterwards – wow you were brave to just sit there and take that in! Yet, I know that despite all my breakthroughs with getting out of my head and into my heart (that have led to me creating Intuitive Intelligence(TM)), there is a new level of evolution still calling to me and this is it.
So, when I was asked to be in the ring with two loose horses and a teammate, I had to show up in a big way, decide, and act on pure intuition (and verbal guidance from our horse whisperer of course). It was breathtaking, exhilarating, and amazing fun to learn in this way. We accomplished our goal of guiding the two horses to stand in a particular space and hold them there with our presence and leadership. The deep lesson I learned about strong heart-felt leadership, trust, and teamwork in those moments will be with me for a lifetime.
We All Want to Give and Receive Love and Healing
Love is all there is. The greatest spiritual leaders and even the Beatles have shared that message far and wide and it is true. All beings desire to give and receive love and healing and that can only happen from our heart (not our head) in a place of willingness and trust. I’ll admit that my favorite way to learn is in a space with excitement and movement like we did with the horses in the ring. Yet I learned something equally profound in the stillness of the stall while offering energy healing to a horse.
My experience with a feisty show-off of a horse (coincidentally one of the horses from the ring the day before) was extremely gentle and loving. I felt he really did want to receive love and healing and that in some way he desires to be seen in a deeper way. It took some time to get beyond the distractions that keep all of us at a superficial level of relating (let’s say he was going to keep chewing hay until he was ready to receive). Yet with patience an opening to a deeper experience was shown. Because of the nature of this exercise, it is hard to explain in words except to say that I know in those moments that he experienced the healing power of release and love as did I.
To Wrap-Up…There are experiences that change who we are and the way we navigate in the world. They stay with us forever and fuel everything that is to come in some alchemical way. I’m blessed to have had another one of these experiences. It really was a journey from terrified to terrific – I now see horses and myself in a little different light and for that I am grateful.
Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, helps you stop living a double life so you can discover and successfully create the work you are meant to do in the world. Through the power of Intuitive Intelligence (TM) you will learn to make wiser decisions with ease as you break free from the tyranny of your own mind that holds you back from your greatest success and enjoying the journey. Download the free report – Your Own Uniqueness: The Path to Purpose, Prosperity, and Playfulness at http://www.intuitiveintelligencecoaching.com and visit her website at http://www.thepaulagcompany.com.