Corporate Leadership Development
The Realise Organisation is at the forefront of Corporate Leadership Development in the United Kingdom and it works with such household names as Jaguar, ASDA and Network Rail. Associate Cliff Edwards spent the day with Horse Sense for Life and in this case study he explains why he believes it offers a real opportunity for business leaders and managers to develop their confidence and face their demons.
“Horse Sense for Life intrigued us when they presented the idea of confronting one’s communication fears using an animal it struck us as a possible new route to help people to confront fear barriers, habitual behaviours and even communication issues.
Having a human being giving significant feedback on a course or in a group means there is one easy way to avoid confronting one’s long held habits if one wants to avoid it. One might say instead ‘Oh, they’re being judgemental, that might be their problem, not mine’. We thought that the way a horse reacts would be essentially honest and not generate that ambiguity. So that might be a way of getting to grips with long held unhelpful thoughts around: leadership, presenting themselves, confidence and clarity about who they are.
“When I went along, it struck me that it’s exactly that and in fact here was an animal that had no issue, other than maybe it’s a bit frightened of you, and didn’t know how you were. Here was an opportunity to deal with the other’s fear and get instant honest feedback on our behaviour – confident, frightened, hesitant or connected. Whether a horse has the right or not to be frightened of you is not the issue as it might be with a human being. It quickly became clear that a person's or horse’s view of you could be arbitrary but still true for them. A sense of “Deal with it” was created.
When you see the horse react, you know the truth about what effect you are having instantly. Then you could use that to ask yourself: ‘What is it I’m doing that’s created that?’, rather than ‘what’s their problem?’. So it throws it inescapably back on you. The horse is not right or wrong; that issue disappears. At least the horse was telling you its truth! You don’t get that in many other places.
“They might be wrong. But at least they’re honest and that’s very powerful. The thing about the animals at Horse Sense is that there are no lunatic horses. The proprietors make sure that, although any horse can be used, there are no psychotics in the pack. So you can sense, very quickly, that they’re not going to suddenly run into you, or bite you. Their process allowed us to feel safe, challenged and excited. That’s what Horse Sense for Life has achieved, which I think is amazing.
“Of course, when you first arrive and see this massive tonne of sensitive meat in front of you, that there is a moment of fear. I think that initial insecurity is a vital part of the process. Horse Sense take time to introduce you to the animals - it takes half an hour at least. Because if you’re not used to horses, you don’t know what to expect. At the end, the fact that the fear’s now completely gone, is a magic part of the journey that stays in our memory and reminds us, from then on, that when we face that fear with people, by giving patience, listening and developing trust, it is possible to go from fear to friend.
It’s not quite like when I first did abseiling. Yes, it scared the hell out of me and I was still scared an hour later. Having done it, it’s a memory and a story for life. But - I wouldn’t do it again. The big difference here is that making friends with horse is heart-warming and irreplaceable. You will want to make friends with a horse again and again and again.
“When I worked with Horse Sense I saw nearly everybody except for one guy, who was very, very reserved, actually hugging the horse. You don't’ see adult, suited people actually doing that very often. So I think that’s a credit to the preparation, training and process offered. Yes there’s fear, but it’s not massive fear. And you know that there are experts standing next to you and you kind of trust that. So you put your trust in someone else and that’s good learning as well for a manager. It’s a vital skill to be able to do that; it teaches an essential part of delegation.
“So certainly if a client would accept that it’s a valuable process I would recommend Horse Sense; I deal with CEOs whose income is several million pounds a year who may be concerned how their image would be perceived. It means that if they’re going to do it, it has to be kind of private and Carey and the team at Horse Sense for Life offer that.
I think the next level down, for senior and middle management, it is superb. They’re looking for ways to differentiate their management capability. They’re looking for ways to improve themselves which will enable them to climb the ladder. If this process means they find a way to examine their behaviour and become more approachable, that’s an easy sale really. They’ll take a day out for that any time. These are people earning between £35,000 and £170,000 a year. I would recommend it for middle management in just about any corporate environment, in order to build self-trust, generate trust in others and confidence in themselves.”
Carey Khan from Horse Sense for Life welcomed Cliff Edwards comments, explaining: “We were really excited to have Cliff in the arena with the horses experiencing the work and understanding the benefits it brings.
He raises an interesting point about the horses being trained for this work and is a perception we hear a lot from clients and prospective clients.
“In reality these horses are just being themselves and are interacting how they choose to. They are not training in anyway other than that they are used to having people around them and are not known to kick or bit. They live in their natural environment as a herd in the field. We can work with any horse as long as they do not kick and bite and are free from any pain and in fact work with several different venues and their horses depending on client’s needs.
“Naturally we offer confidentiality and professionalism with set objectives for client sessions and these are always solution focused.”