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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

The Horse as Our Teacher

Jun 30, 2019 02:00AM
by Pam Hunter

Horses are remarkable animals. They’re powerful, intelligent, graceful, and incredibly gentle. And even though their strength far surpasses that of humans, they graciously allow us to ride and work with them.

Horses have long been companions and helpers of humans and appreciated for their intelligence and prowess; however, their roles have been primarily helping humans in a physical capacity. More recently, horses are assisting humans in a new way by supporting our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. There are now centers across the country offering equine therapies and equine facilitated learning for corporate leadership development, team-building and personal development.

In the last few decades, pioneering women like Koelle Simpson and Kathy Pike have been expanding the field of personal development by working with the innate wisdom of horses and nature. Their work has helped people to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and develop greater self-awareness through the interaction with horses.

Thanks to the work they’ve done, there are now highly trained Certified Equus and Equine Facilitated Learning Coaches around the country who provide the experience of working with horses for the betterment of humans.

What are the benefits of coaching in partnership with horses and what would a horse supported coaching session look like?

Participants will not be riding a horse and all activities are performed on the ground. They will be interacting safely with a horse in a round pen and/or arena under the guidance of a coach.

Sessions can last anywhere from 60 minutes to three hours depending on the depth of experience participants are seeking.

Benefits are many but the following are some of the reasons people engage in equine supported coaching:

Illuminates where we’re not being authentic.

We humans are often conditioned to hide our feelings and act in ways that seem socially acceptable. This conditioning is sometimes necessary in our complex human society, but it can also disconnect us from our feelings and get in the way of being authentic in many situations. Horses, on the other hand, behave as they feel and are able to detect our incongruency—what we’re projecting vs. what we are actually feeling.

The horse responds to the human’s energy and emotions (what is being projected through thoughts, feelings and behavior), the reactions of which are interpreted by the coach to help the participant understand what’s going on inside of them. As they become more aware of their feelings and behavior, the coach can guide them to become more congruent energetically and the horse will respond to those shifts in real time. This visceral experience and process can give the participant profound insights about themselves and can actually teach them to create the changes needed in their lives.

Can provide insights about our relationships.

Because we’re in relationships with other socially conditioned humans, learning about our personal patterns can be a confusing and challenging task. Horses, who are honest/authentic in their feelings and behavior and fully present in the moment, show us how we’re likely interacting in our relationships with others. The horse’s feedback in the round pen can help the participant see how he or she might not be setting healthy boundaries, where they might be withholding, or how fear is getting in the way of true connection in relationships.

Can develop leadership skills.

As the participants start to see how their internal state affects the horse’s behavior, they can begin to shift their patterns and learn to adjust their energy based on the real-time feedback they’re getting from the horse. The coach will show them how to effectively become a leader to the horse. In the process, they learn to become more calm and authentic in their energy. This highly valuable skill can be used to navigate through their relationships at home, work, and in their community in the most rewarding way.

Equine supported coaching could be one of the most powerful and pattern shifting experiences we can have for our personal development. People report some amazing personal transformations. If we’re looking for a new and highly effective way to have breakthroughs in our life, get clarity and insights about a difficult situation, or develop leadership skills in our life, we need not look further.

Pam Hunter, Principal at Unbridled Life Coaching, LLC, is a Certified Equus Coach and Master Equus Coach Facilitator through the Koelle Institute for Equus Coaching, an Advanced Equine Facilitated Learning Coach through the Academy for Coaching with Horses, and a Certified Equine Experiential Education Level One Practitioner. For more information, go to or call 908-217-7852.

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