What I’m Learning About Presence

Travis Stock
June 2022

How did you come up with the concept of “The New Masculine” for your podcast?

The New Masculine podcast was created from my experiences with co-leading and facilitating personal development retreats for men. What I witnessed in those events was that men craved more connection and vulnerability with each other, but didn’t have models for how to get there. Each retreat began with the male participants scoping each other out, sharing only socially
acceptable portions of themselves while remaining emotionally disconnected from themselves and others. 

With the support of different exercises (including Equus Coaching), one man from every group, through his own bravery and/or momentary lapse in social awareness, would break the social rules of manhood by opening up about what’s really going on in his life. That vulnerability often came with tears. And those tears served to break down the walls between the men – allowing for more connection. What I witnessed over and over was it only took one man’s tears to give the others permission to let down the wall, shed some tears of their own, and actually lean into a little intimacy with his fellow man.

Those events also helped me see in myself how much I yearned for more connection. And so, I became hooked on creating spaces where men (including myself) could feel more at ease connecting through vulnerability, while helping each other learn more emotional agility. So that’s what I do now on The New Masculine.

Why is this an important topic for men, women and families to explore?

Culturally, we have been uncovering and exploring the consequences of how we overvalue masculine (goal-oriented, achievement based, individualistic) energy in our approach to life. On the individual level, men are facing more mental health crises than ever before and male suicides are at alarming rates across the globe. Through movements like Time’s Up, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and others, we have come to see how consequential this lack of balance is on our ability to safely relate to one another as humans. And on an environmental level, we have too long  disregarded our impact on the planet and pushed it dangerously close to catastrophe. What is becoming clear is that our current path is unsustainable at all levels, and it’s time to find new ways forward as a collective.

To be clear, masculine energy isn’t inherently bad in any way and actually comes with a lot of gifts. It is in how we overprioritize the gifts of the masculine, while largely leaving out the gifts of the feminine, that creates many of the consequences.  

What do horses know about gender? Reading masculine and feminine energy? What would you say to horse people who think their horse has a gender bias?

From what I can tell, horses don’t care about gender. Something I have noticed is that people at Equus Coaching workshops misgender horses all the time (calling a male horse “she” or vice versa), and I have yet to meet a horse that cares at all. Gender is a human-made, social construct that is not necessarily based on biology. The norms of behaviors, styles of dress, communication styles, etc. that a society associates and enforces for men and women all fit under the umbrella of gender. Horses exist outside of human cultures, so they aren’t bound by the same norms and rules.  Energy, on the other hand, is something different. Horses do make associations based on what they felt in past experiences. It is possible that a horse who has been abused or significantly mistreated by a man might associate others with a similar body type, stature, or style of dress with that past experience. But it is less about the gender of the person and more about the past experiences the horse had that determines their “bias”. Luckily, horses can often make new associations and learn from positive, corrective experiences as well. If a horse seems to have a “bias”, slow down and pay attention to their feedback. All the information you need for how to create a new association is available if you are paying attention. 

Is there a way to tap into masculine or feminine energy to find “the right approach” with a horse? 

What I love about Equus Coaching is that it’s about the relationship between two beings who don’t speak the same language. In a session, the human client is invited to explore what comes up for them as they begin to build a relationship with the horse. They also get to be curious about the feedback the horse offers based on their way of showing up. With the clear, non-judgmental feedback from the horse, the client has the opportunity to notice their own relational patterns. Sometimes a client might be very direct or overly task-focused (aka a lot of masculine energy) causing the horse to startle or become reactive in some way. That feedback offers the client an opportunity to explore the gap between what they intended to create and the impact of their communication style on the horse. From there, a client might choose to incorporate that feedback by using a lighter approach when communicating so the horse doesn’t startle. By valuing what came up in the relationship between human and horse (aka more feminine energy), the person was able to tap into more a balanced approach that allowed them to still be effective (masculine energy) while also caring about the quality of their relationship (feminine energy).

What can Equus Coaching offer in terms of balancing and exploring masculine and feminine energies?  

Equus Coaching can most definitely help us each explore our own unique sense of balance between masculine and feminine energies. Yes, we all have both types of energies within us, regardless of our gender identity. And we each likely have a different sweet spot for how those energies blend within us. In the framework that I work with, the role of masculine energy is to
individuate us – to give us a sense of direction and purpose as an individual. The role of feminine energy is to connect us – to create a sense of belonging and care for one another. With the help of our sensitive horse partners, we can try out different combinations of those two energies and get real-time feedback on how we impact the external environment. From there, we can find our own unique sweet spot where those energies come together and unlock more of our strengths and gifts.

The Center for Equus Coaching