By Travis Stock, Master Facilitator and Instructor
Did you know that our bodies are constantly responding to the thoughts and/or current relationship we are having with ourselves? This can look like subtle changes in our heart rate, muscle tension, or even our breathing speeding up/slowing down. While we may not notice these subtle shifts, horses are sensitive and attuned to their environment.
A horse in an Equus Coaching session will often take this information and respond naturally to what is felt (e.g. moving away, moving closer, following the person, etc.). That response is often a mirror of what is going on for the client(s), whether the client voices it or not.
Equus Coaching for couples is a fantastic way to uncover the patterns, beliefs, and ways of showing up that each individual brings to the relationship. Allowing each individual to build a relationship with a horse – a being that doesn’t speak the same language – gives a couple a unique opportunity to see each other’s approach to relationships more clearly.
Through individual and paired interactions with a horse, a couple can explore the overall health of their relationship, common communication breakdowns, and/or how to better meet each other’s wants and needs. In short, Equus Coaching can help couples explore the strengths and obstacles in their relationship and support the development of new strategies to overcome these obstacles.
Let’s imagine a couple in a paired interaction with a horse who have decided they would like to see if they can get the horse to move forward a few steps. One person believes they know how to make this happen and walks to the front of the horse, leaving their partner standing behind the horse. The person in the front starts making noises, stomping their feet, whistling, in an attempt to get the horse to move. But, the horse isn’t moving. Meanwhile the person in the back, starts to feel sad and “shuts down” because their partner isn’t including them in the plan – a feeling this person has felt before in their relationship.
What the couple hasn’t noticed yet is they are sending mixed signals to the horse. Without getting on the same page prior to communicating with the horse, the couple has shut down any forward or backward motion from the horse just by their positioning (one at the head and one at the tail). It’s like one person is saying backup (person at the horse’s head making sounds) while the other person (the one at the horse’s tail) is blocking the horse from doing so. By not moving, this horse is mirroring the lack of a consistent message and the “shut down” energy felt by the person behind the horse. This is a moment in an Equus Coaching session where the couple, with the help of an Equus Coach, can explore what pattern this horse is mirroring and how it applies to their relationship.
There are all sorts of benefits that couples might enjoy from working with a horse in this way, such as:
- Improved communication
- Better understanding of obstacles that show up in their relationship
- New strategies to move through challenging dynamics as they arise
- Better understanding of each other’s needs and wants
- Greater authenticity
- Increased playfulness
Couples who have been through an Equus Coaching session often share that they discovered something new about their partner as a result of the session. The experience with the horse allowed them to see the world more from their partner’s eyes, creating greater mutual understanding.
They often share that their interactions with the horse (and discussions with me as the Equus Coach) gave them a new language set to use when talking to each other about their relationships. Most couples spend very little time assessing what is working and what isn’t working in their relationship. Having a new language set to assess together the relationship opens the opportunity to create an even more fulfilled and balanced relationship.
One of my biggest passions as a coach is welcoming more men into the world of self-inquiry and personal development. (I host a podcast called The New Masculine, which is on a mission to disrupt outdated models of masculinity in service of new ways forward for men.) Equus Coaching can give men new tools to explore their inner world, better understand their impact on the external environment (a key element of empathy), and shift patterns that limit their relationships – all skills many of us men have not been encouraged to develop. So my focus is on how we can lower the barriers to entry and invite more men to 1. experience an Equus Coaching session; and, 2. join the Equus Coaching herd by signing up to become an Equus Coach.