I went to a really interesting and powerful workshop last weekend based on EAL/EAP (Equine assisted Learning and Psychotherapy) work and Linda Kohanov’s book The Power of the Herd teachings. It was geared toward Personal development and Leadership training skill building.
I wanted to share some of the brilliant exercises that brought into sharp focus how our thinking and being can be shaped in so many ways by old patterns and our brain’s Interpretation of things can be skewed greatly by that.
We did several exercises that involved just Observing your surroundings and your own feelings about them. We did boundary sensing exercises on each other and with the herd of horses provided. We did an Observation exercise which was fascinating and telling. And we did a final group exercises that really showed how when you want to work with many different people with different ideas and personalities how wrong and then right it can go once you come together. This particular exercise was a very clear example of why people have trouble working together in businesses, relationships and life in general. But when given the tools and skills needed, we were able to get 9 people and 6 horses at Liberty on the same page and the result was a harmonious, joyful experience! It wasn’t easy but we did get there all together as a unit. It was abundantly clear to me why businesses fail, Politics often don’t resolve anything and personal relationships struggle between friends and family. The Horses as usual were fantastic guides.
There were several terms and ideas that really resonated with me and I could relate to. One term that was used was Vilifying. Vilifying (Judging negatively) is what we do when someone does something we don’t like or a even a school of thought we don’t like and we decide that they are inherently bad by association. Basically writing someone off because of their beliefs, ideas etc. Or even attacking them personally. I think the world is full of this type of behavior and in fact wars are started because of this. I feel the horse world is fraught with this as well unfortunately. Another term used a lot was Predatory behavior. Other related terms would be Dominant, Intimidators, and Bullies. Of course we have all seen this behavior in the horse world as well.
My favorite exercise was the Observation/Interpretation Exercise. It involved all the participants standing with the horses and observing something about them that we ALL had to agree on what we saw. This exercise challenged us to see what is really in front of us and not “project” our interpretation of any emotions or ideas we thought we saw. The result was a very neutral non-judgemental environment between us and the horses. So for example, one person would say what they observed. They might say “that horse is happy” but that is an interpretation that not everyone might agree with. Remember, we ALL have to agree on what we see to be able to work as a team. Get it? Another person might look at that same horse and say “That horse is sad” because that is their Interpretation. To make it neutral and easy for us to agree on what we observed, we had to stick to statements like “that horse is a bay” and of course, we could all agree with that! Or “That horse is eating hay” Yes we can ALL agree that we Observed that. The agreement in what we ALL observed, unified and neutralized our connections with each other. When someone would say something they “Interpreted” it split us as group because inevitably, we would not all agree on that Interpretation.
Another example of this was with my Mother who participated as well. She was standing with a group of horses around her and then we had to share what we observed. One person said my mom looked scared. My mom then relayed that she was in a state of complete joy at that moment. So the other person’s Interpretation was coming from their own experience and they projected it on to my mom. How often do we do that to our horses? I know I see it all the time.
Try this Interpretation exercise and let me know what you find out about yourself and others. I often tell my students to ask themselves “What is the horse really doing right now? Not what you think he’s doing, but what is he really doing? It can greatly improve your experience with your horse. Especially the fearful people. I find fear can make us spend a lot of time Interpreting everything around us in an effort to stay safe. It can quickly become a cycle of projections from brain and not what’s actually happening.
In the company of horses (http://www.inthecompanyofhorses.com/index.html) is in New Jersey and it is well worth it if you can participate in a workshop on every level. Non horse and horse people alike. I met many like minded awesome people too! I look forward to doing another workshop and implementing these powerful techniques in all areas of life.