Lesson 1 – Authenticity
The first lesson my horse Chanova taught me was about trust. In the beginning of our training I did ask for help from experts and I had numerous trainers in riding and horsemanship. Some trainers told me to push and others to pull; all of them favored the use of force. I never even considered if this was the right method training horses, because this was the commonly used training concepts at the time.
Chanova did not like the training and from being a kind and accepting horse, she sometimes refused to be with me on my terms or any other humans. One autumn I had constant problems catching her in the pasture. There where nights when I left her all alone outside, because she refused being lead by me. Other days I temporary fenced the path between the pasture and the stable so she could walk in by herself, to rest calmly in the stable with her fellow horses in the herd.
When one of the experts told me to beat her up showing who was the leader, I decided to let go of all expert advices and to approach Chanova with a different and softer leadership style.
This first lesson was not about the horse it was all about me, not trusting myself. How could Chanova trust me or even like or know me, when I did not show how much I cared about her and what we were accomplishing together? At this point the horse guided me to start my own process to become more authentic, creating trust by being vulnerable and using my intuition like a horse, a prey animal not a predator.
Lesson 2 – Listening skills
The second lesson was about listening. I remember one day, when I came to catch Chanova in the pasture for a jumping training, with my usual tight time schedule. I had no problems getting in contact with her, but she told me nervously pacing around that there was something really frightening going on, and she did not want to leave her herd of horses. I was in a hurry so I told her to forget about it immediately and come along. She followed me restlessly pulling on the rope in all directions.
Horses were my hobby at that time but as a management consultant, busy leading complex projects somewhere in the world, I had no boundaries between work and private life. Suddenly everything happened. My cell phone caught my attention and I quickly picked it up, work was calling. A roaring truck pulled up in front of us and I brusquely stopped the horse from taking of, by pulling the rope with force. Chanova felt trapped, reared, kicked me down with her front hoofs and took of in panic.
Fortunately I was not physically injured. It hurt my heart though, realizing what a pushy and not listening leader I was. This was a hard and maybe necessary lesson to make me let go of my resistance to listen. Chanova as a flight animal created an awareness of the importance to listen and to connect with others, the situation and myself not only for survival but also to create new long lasting healthy relations. I did not have to make her run away I only had to listen and react in the moment with empathy.
Lesson 3 – Intentional presence
The third lesson Chanova taught me was about intentional presence. The horse was most successful in competition with my daughter. Although Chanova was not the best show jumper in the world, she gave all of herself if she trusted the rider.
At that point my daughter was accepted for a tryout to an International Equestrian Education Center with Chanova as her partner. My daughter did great, but Chanova refused to cooperate with the other students who wanted to be perceived as good riders on her back, and the horse was disqualified. Intentional presence is to be aligned with your inner purpose. In this case neither the horse, nor my daughter truly wanted to be in that equestrian program anyway.
In my case I wanted to be perceived as a good rider, horseman and leader and I did not reach my goal with ease and grace until I put my heart in it and really showed the horse and the world that I care.
This is my mission to create more authentic leadership in the world together with horses, and other inspirational leaders, and my number one thing is that I think we need to learn how to express and manage our feelings being intentionally present.
Lesson 4 – Value awareness
Chanova was one of my best coaches in our Horse Assisted Leadership and Team training programs. She was brutally honest always giving direct feedback without judgment. The forth lesson Chanova gave me was about values.
I had this team of German consultants participating in leadership training with horses defining and matching corporate and personal values.
Initially defining values was a mind game, there where no real connection between anybody either horses or humans, in the arena. Suddenly one of the participants exclaimed, “I need space to express my self” and started to walk away slowly. Chanova looked up and chose to follow him. At first she was walking behind him and then she followed easily in trot by his side. Together they moved together with joy and flow showing a total alignment.
This film sequence was widely spread on internet, and a couple of years later when this gentleman came to Stockholm he called me, just to ask if he could meet with Chanova one more time and experience the total alignment verifying his new values.
Lesson 5 – Energy management
The last and fifth lesson Chanova taught me is about energy and the signals we send out to either attract or repel individuals and/or situations.
Research has shown that horses are energetically sensitive to fields produced by the human heart and humans are sensitive to fields produced by horse’s heart. This is a measurement of coherence, which is the state when the heart, mind and emotions are in energetic alignment and in cooperation.
Chanova had a big and forgiving heart and embodied the great gentleness most horses have. Like all horses she could feel fear. Most meetings between horse and human in a Horse Assisted leadership training is about encountering your fears such as not being good enough, fear of failure, being alone, losing control, being together, being present, being vulnerable and the fear to follow your heart and intuition.
It is with love I remember all the different meetings Chanova had with participants in our training programs, most of them ending with Chanova coming forward putting her warm nose in your lap or standing just calmly beside you, giving and receiving love.
Chanova´s heart is not beating any longer in this world but what she left is ALIVE for us humans in the five lessons about Authenticity, Listening skills, Intentional Presence, Value awareness and Energy management.
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About the Organization behind the ALIVE Method
We are a team of partner management consultants and leadership coaches with over 30 years of experience from different industries and organisations. We make sure that organisations and individuals are experiencing the power of ALIVE leadership.