Lately I have been out working and playing with the horses more. Indeed the horses have huge part of my transition back out into world of relating and working beyond the Zoom screen.
There’s no doubt that being out at the ranch and out in the pasture with the horses is calming. Here’s a little of the science regarding horses from HeartMath that I believe is very compelling:
“Recent studies conducted by the Institute of HeartMath provide a clue to explain the bidirectional “healing” that happens when we are near horses. According to researchers, the heart has a larger electromagnetic field and higher level of intelligence than the brain: A magnetometer can measure the heart’s energy field radiating up to 8 to 10 feet around the human body. While this is certainly significant it is perhaps more impressive that the electromagnetic field projected by the horse’s heart is five times larger than the human one (imagine a sphere-shaped field that completely surrounds you). The horse’s electromagnetic field is also stronger than ours and can actually directly influence our own heart rhythm!
A coherent heart pattern is indicative of a system that can recover and adjust to stressful situations very efficiently. Often times, we only need to be in a horse’s presence to feel a sense of wellness and peace. In fact, research shows that people experience many physiological benefits while interacting with horses, including lowered blood pressure and heart rate, increased levels of beta-endorphins (neurotransmitters that serve as pain suppressors), decreased stress levels, reduced feelings of anger, hostility, tension and anxiety, improved social functioning; and increased feelings of empowerment, trust, patience and self-efficacy.”Taken from: https://www.taoofhorsemanship.com/heart-math
So that’s pretty good reason to consider getting out with some horses.
To be an effective leader one of the most crucial skills is our ability to build relationships. Most of us focus that effort on building relationships with others. Of course, that’s important, but what might be even more critical is our relationships with ourselves.
Whatever we are saying, thinking, or feeling about ourselves is the filter through which we see, interpret and interact with others. Too often though, we think because those thoughts and feelings are in our heads, invisible, no one else knows what’s going on.
There are days when I walk into a situation thinking:
• “I sure hope no one knows that I don’t really know what I am doing.”
• “I am totally pissed about what’s going on, but no one can know that, it’s not the right message.”
• “I sure hope I don’t make a fool of myself today.”
Often these types of thoughts are such a common thread I may not even know it’s running. Yet these internal messages are impacting how I experience our world, how I relate, and how I make decisions and lead.
Bring in the Horses
Horses are big biofeedback machines. They are constantly sensing our breath rate, our heart rate, and arsenal and cortisol levels. They notice any changes and though they may not know what stress I am under or what that inner dialogue is, they have a keen sense when my inner critical comes online.
Usually as leaders, parents, role models we have learned to pretend that everything is just fine. We come by that naturally because we are taught to show confidence, control, be professional, strength – that’s leadership – right? Basically, though we’ve learned to be incongruent!
Maybe you can remember being told, “Never let them see you sweat, cry or rage.” That is not okay or unprofessional. Of course, you learned how to cover it up.
But here’s the deal, horse’s pick up that incongruence immediately. They know when we are incongruent or masking what is really going on for us. The horse finds that uncomfortable and awkward. They don’t trust the incongruence and move away because it doesn’t seem safe.
We are fascinated by how the horse ‘just seem to know’.
Truth is people do to. I’m sure you have had those moments with someone:
“Wow, something is up with _ I am going to stay away.”
“No way do I trust that information – something is off.”
But we human beings tend to play the social game. We do nice and polite or pretend everything is good. That ends up having a big ripple effect on all our interactions and decisions.
Going out with the horses, provides a safe space for you to go out and discover what is going on. Making shifts as you go and owning what is. Being vulnerable and really showing up. Getting that feedback from the horse that can support you in developing a stronger relationship with yourself.
Developing a better relationship with yourself is not about getting rid of that inner critic. It’s about developing a larger self and presence, or your own somatic (body-based not just story running) awareness.
When you can notice and sense what is really happening inside of you, you have choice and more influence with others.
Because people, like horses, trust and want to follow someone who knows themselves and is congruent.
Most of us keep looking outside, reading, studying, observing others – but until we get a strong somatic awareness all that knowledge hasn’t yet landed in our whole-ness.
So you see horses have a great deal to offer us. Just being around horse helps our hearts and they are great at providing compassionate, straight feedback for effective communication and leadership.
I am encouraging my clients to get their company to sponsor a trip to Montana – big sky, horses and some awesome coaching. Check out Find Your Mojo in Montana or make date for a personal intensive.