When coaching with horses, a triangular relationship arises between the coachee (the person being coached), the horse and the coach, whereby all three treat each other in an equal respectful manner. Now about the horses ...
Horses are very sensitive animals. The number of coaching sessions they can handle varies per horse and per moment. A horse does not have to learn anything special for this, it is based entirely on its primal instinct in the 'here and now'. It is therefore important to ensure that they can express themselves as much as possible. The management of the horses is central to this, so that they can feel 'horse' as much as possible.
But how can a horse help us in coaching? There is an increasing amount of literature and evidence-based material that supports the usefulness of using horses in coaching and therapy. However, you must have experienced it yourself to fully understand what it is all about, but we will try to briefly outline what a horse can mean in coaching.
Horses are prey animals and naturally live in herds. Their sensory attention is keen on the most subtle signals from herd mates and other horses. In herds, just like in our lives, there are various roles: the nursing role, caring role, leadership role, guardian role,... The hierarchy has been extensively studied and new insights have been gained in this, such as the fact that roles change depending on who is good at what at any given time. Their main goals are safety, social behavior, affection and reproduction.
A horse continuously scans what is moving, the body position, the breathing, the energy of herd mates, other horses and predators and reacts to the slightest change in this. Horses can also extend their typical herd behavior (protecting the foals and the weaker animals within a family structure) to humans. This explains why many horses have a very precise sense of how to deal with small children, people with a physical disability, or with vulnerable people.
Coaching with horses focuses on the experience and what is happening in the here and now. By experimenting with new ways of thinking, feeling and doing, we gain different experiences that we can project onto our daily lives after the session. The methodology we use is solution-oriented.
Horses, like other socially living animal species such as primates (J. den Boer 2009), can enter into relationships, experience feelings and even, in the context of social interaction, display altruistic behavior within a relationship. In other words, horses can do something for another without the need for an immediate reward. Strengthening the bond and, in connection therewith, intensifying the mutual relationship of trust, makes it worthwhile for them. Horses can also enter into such relationships with humans. This also explains why horses trained on a partnership basis often outperform horses trained on pure stimulus-response (positive or negative conditioning).
When man opens up to the horse, all senses are addressed by the interaction with the animal. You can also discover the horse with all your senses. It is beautiful, large and aesthetically pleasing. Every part of his body smells different and it feels different everywhere. The fine structure of the nose, the soft fur on the ears, strong muscles, firm hard hooves… His behavior is exciting. Some things surprise or initially frighten us because we cannot place and understand them. Touches back and forth can create a dialogue with the horse. Also emotions, our own body feeling and all kinds of other things that take place inside of us are part of this.
Moving with the horse makes an intensive appeal to the psychomotor skills, which also develop further as a result. Because of all the stimuli that come to the nervous system and are channeled and processed in it, many new connections and nerves are created that have an impact on our brain structure and neurological functions. These compounds also affect our metabolism and hormones, and they can trigger all kinds of interactions between body and mind.