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  • Writer's pictureRachelle Millar

How do horses teach leadership?

If you are part of the riding fraternity you would know about the phrase or philosophy of show the horse who is boss!

This is a common perspective in how we look at leading others, show them who is the boss.

Which often means, show others how much you can shame them, make them feel bad, submit to you.

This is a VERY old philosophy.

I could go into how our old stories or philosophies still play out today, but that is not the point of this article.

Other groups of thought are top-down or hierarchical, the idea that those few at the top are the ones who are steering the ship? Who has the power? We often give away our power to the few at the top...what is the narrative that helps those biases come to fruition?

When you study a little more, and you turn over a few more rocks on the beach, you realise, oh so subtly how much the sea shore, turns the waves, the wider community creates momentum and that it is always a body that has so much power. Either a body of people or your body. Yes, I am talking about how much your body has so much governance over you. If only you would let it.

Or learn from it, or be in it!

So how does a horse teach us to lead, it teaches us to be present, in our body. Because when we are not... we are not able to lead a horse.

It is a BOTTOM up approach.

This week, I ran a 3 day programme. There were 5 tweens, and 5 horses. There was a lot going on!

I realised that there were some children who were vociferous in their stories, of the times that they had spent with horses, there were other children who were in their stories without being so verbose.

And I in all of my listening had to work out what I needed to tune into to make this the most amazing experience for these tweens. Which is also my own story, but one that I really love to be able to create.

To do that, I had to set my boundaries and my needs. So, in amongst five horses and five children moving around in the arena I said, let's stop. I am looking after and facilitating a group.

"I need" ..... (this is something I teach my clients, in order to know how to hold a boundary, you have to know what you need)

Which is the first step in setting a boundary....

I need to look after all of you both the children and the horses. And I need you to all be safe. In order to do that, I have to be in the present moment. Therefore, I cannot listen to anything that is in the past or in the future. I have to listen to all 10 of you in the now. The present.

I could have had a hissy fit, "I can't handle all of this, please stop" and with that phrase I would be every other parent. And I have been every other parent because I have told my kids I am checking out. I am not perfect. With all my knowledge, experience and wisdom. I've been there too.

And those kids would have done as asked, shut down..... but this time, I said it to them in a way that helped them feel seen.

And whilst the verbose children quieted, the others stepped up, their look at me, just said - yes, thank you... we feel seen now.

So when you lead, it is never about being bossy, it is about, what can you hear, what and who can you see. Because if you are to lead, it is quiet, it is in the moment, it is powerful and it requires seeing and hearing.

And if you are to lead, then those people who are following, step up, they see their brilliance and their light and all of a sudden.

It becomes possible to follow it.

And when they know what lights them up, then they can guide.

They can shine the light for others to follow them.

Because just like the horses, (who I explain to the kids that they want to get it right) we are all seeking to do the same... get it right, get the praise, and feel good.

No one sets out to be mean, no one wants to cause pain to another.

None of the people or children I had in my care this week learned anything much about horses. What they did learn was how to step up into their own space, their own power, and above all lead the way into their own lives.

And that is something that I am proud of being a part of.

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