Horses as Teachers, Not Tools

February 3, 2016



There are many species of animals that we consider teachers. One of the many things I find interesting about horses as teachers is how much of their natural ways can be a positive influence on us humans. Allowing a horse to give feedback is a major component to what makes him a teacher, not a tool. We nourish our teaching horses to be horses, such as in their behavior, so that what they bring to your experience as a student contains the gifts of their species. As you read the list below, notice how many of these natural horse characteristics are beneficial to us.  These behaviors help us create a high quality of life, realize successful teamwork, build personal leadership, and enjoy fulfilling relationships.


Horses as Leaders – They Are:

  • Always 100% present. They value emotional congruence in daily communication and interaction. They rely on emotional congruence as a survival tool in their natural herd environment.

  • Proactive vs. Reactive.

  • Larger perspective in nature. They look at life from a wide view. They take in the whole picture, or “big picture.”

  • Exercise a consensual model of leadership when in a herd and invite others to lead and follow, rather than a dominant “because-I-say-so” model.

  • Focused on the highest good. They act in the best interest of the entire herd, not just one single member.

  • Clear and respectful in honoring different roles in the herd.

  • Highly effective at non-verbal communication.

  • Able to recognize and set boundaries to enhance clear communication in the herd.

  • Inclined to move to the next point by the most direct route.


Horse Sense at Work

The ability to dance with multiple factors and factions to achieve ambitious goals cannot be achieved through purely rational, methodical means. Safe yet powerful ground activities with horses specially trained for this work (no riding/no previous horse experience necessary) teach leaders of the future how to collaborate with the changing needs, whims, and perceptions of the market, their clients, their competitors, and their employees.

Challenge U’s workshops using the horses as teachers offer outcomes such as:

  • Using emotion as information, in self and others.

  • Dealing constructively with the contagious nature of emotion.

  • Employing the body as a tuner, receiver, and amplifier to read subtle nonverbal communication.

  • Strengthening relationship skills.

  • Setting and respecting boundaries.

  • Recognizing the spatial proximity response in others – and its influence in creating the conditions for optimal performance in individuals and teams.

  • Approaching leadership as a generator, not a dictator.

  • Motivating others without dominating or micromanaging.

  • Developing a tolerance for vulnerability, in self and others.

  • Moving beyond limiting thought patterns, perceptions, memories/stories, and negative self-talk.

  • Replacing rigid judgment with clear discernment.

  • Learning to agree upon and envision a goal before performing it.

  • Developing timing, focus, energy modulation, and sensitivity to the needs of others in performing a goal.

  • Engaging both embodied reason and embodied intuition in realizing a goal.

  • Handling heated emotional exchanges professionally.

  • Understanding and experiencing the potential of consensual leadership in leading teams of experts.

Why Horses?