GERHARD J. KREBS, GERMANY
Gerhard J. Krebs, EAHAE President and Managing Director of G&K HorseDream GmbH, Born 1949 in Hamburg/Germany. 1978 University of Hamburg, Magister Artium in political sciences and contemporary German literature. 1978‐1983 employed with Daimler, Bogner, Munzinger. Managing director at an agency for new communication and IT trainer 1983‐1996. Founded HorseDream in 1996. Developed the first horse assisted management training in Europe. Entered the seminar market in 1998. Educating trainers for horse assisted leadership seminars, team building, coaching and change management processes since 2004. Founded EAHAE International in August 2004. Seminars and trainings with own horses, naturally living in a herd, schooled to work with people without any horse experience.
G&K HorseDream GmbH
Phone: +49 5685 9224 4233
Gerhard J. Krebs (September 2014)
Talking to film maker Piotr Bernaś at the 10th Annual EAHAE Conference, Poland, September 2014.
Gerhard J. Krebs (June 2013)
THE HORSEDREAM APPROACH ABOUT FEEDBACK.
There is a saying: “The feedback tells us a lot about the feedback provider.”
In HorseDream seminars we consider the horses to be the real trainers. We as humans step back behind the work of the horses. This also means that the horses give feedback. The feedback of the horse is instant and honest. There is no hidden agenda behind it.
The HorseDream concept is based on a certain set of hands-on exercises. In between there are questions on observations, one-word-feedback from participants for participants, transfer models as theory inputs, and discussions on personal experiences from the exercises.
We believe, based on what we have learned in more than 16 years of horse assisted education, that all the HorseDream participants go through a profound process of self-development or as a group through a team development process at our seminars. In our experience, everyone learns a lesson. Sometimes the learning happens already in the first exercise, sometimes in the second, third or fourth.
Learning with horses is an emotional learning process. Emotional learning is much faster and more sustainable than rational learning. Thus, we want to provide as much emotional level of learning as possible. Whenever you start to discuss or give feedback, you interrupt the emotional learning process. That’s one of the reasons we recommend not to explain or interpret during or after a practical exercise.
The second reason is that if you state your point of view, you might be right, but you could be terribly wrong. Nevertheless, your opinion as the “horse knower”, as the “horse work experienced facilitator” or even worse as “the horse guru” could be perceived to be “the ultimate truth”.
We believe that if a participant thinks s/he did not learn anything from an exercise, s/he is not ready for the lesson in this moment. S/he will probably learn something from the next exercise, the one after that, or maybe in a fortnight, in six months or in a year from now.
How can we help people to understand the feedback of the horses? According to the thoughts expressed above, we don’t need to! But what if someone insists on getting our feedback or interpretation?
First, we give the question to the group. Secondly, we talk about what we observed. Then, if our interpretation is still requested, we tell a story about a similar situation, which happened at a previous seminar.
Understandably, at a one day seminar with eight participants there is not enough time to go through these steps with everyone. But what if there is only one participant or if there is time enough like in a longer seminar?
In this case we watch the video of the exercise together with the client and we interpret using the integral model, starting with the four quadrants I, We, It and Its. For example, just some possible questions which could be answered:
– What do I feel about the situation?
– How does it influence both of us or the whole group?
– Anything to say about the horse’s nature or instincts?
– How would society change if not only the participant but all mankind would learn from this?
HorseDream feedback or interpretation is never about right or wrong. We cannot look inside the heads of our horses. We are not able to tell people what the horse wants to tell them. However, we can encourage them to think about what it may mean for them. And if they want to get a confirmation, we can assure them or talk to them about what we see differently.
Gerhard J. Krebs (September 2012)
BACK TO THE ROOTS – UP TO THE FUTURE: A VISION BECOMES REALITY
Today, more than 200 trainers – 100 of them licensed HorseDream Partners – from Europe, the Near East, North & South America and Australia are working with the business concept of horse-assisted training and advanced development programs developed from 1996 onwards, by HorseDream. An idea has become a world-wide trend within fifteen years! The European Association for Horse Assisted Education (EAHAE) is the driving force behind this development.
Am I a good manager or leader when I am able to lead a horse around four posts in the riding hall? What do managers have to do with horses anyway? The history of humans and horses, which is thousands of years old, has left some informative traces behind in connection with language: One keeps his/her members of staff on a tight rein, slackens the reins now and then, gets the team up to speed, holds the stirrups for another, helps someone into the saddle, kicks over the traces, knows it’s going to be red tape all the way, puts the cart before the horse, etc.
“To be led” means to follow voluntarily. In its most pronounced form it should ensure the independence and willingness to take risks in moving forward in the direction the leader desires. And the horse? Who does the horse follow? The horse follows a person precisely then, when they demonstrate self confidence, trustworthiness, clarity, credibility and are goal oriented.
Can I deceive a horse? Horses are honest people say. They don’t have any ulterior motives, no hidden agenda. They act according to their nature. If I try to trick the horse, I don’t deceive it, I deceive myself.
Horses and Leadership
How do I lead a horse in a management seminar? “ Take the lead rope rolled up in one hand and let it loosely run through your other hand, is perhaps the best way. Don’t wrap it around your fingers!” They are the only instructions you get. ”Why is the rope so long, wouldn’t it also work with a shorter one?” The question comes almost every time.
We work with symbols and metaphors. Everything has a meaning. But the participant has to work out the meaning him/herself. So what does the long lead rope represent? Perhaps the management structure in the company? Perhaps the long leash I normally lead my staff on? Or information presented like a tangled ball of thread? And what does the horse represent in this exercise? My co-workers/staff? My project? My customers? Me?
The horses are used to each of the leading exercises. They have known them for years. Bosse and Benny, our oldest horses, who are over 20, have been with us from the beginning. But even Goody, aged 10, has already spent half his life in seminars.
The horses adjust to each new participant within seconds. The same exercise but another person and with a different personality, a different character and different background experience is for the horse, a different situation.
“The horse is your own mirror.” We often hear this at the end of our trainings. For us the horse is more than that. It is the real trainer. In hundreds of seminar situations we have experienced the horse not only reacting to the person, or to the whole situation, but also acting independently. And in fact it wasn’t done accidentally or intuitively, but quite consciously. So the horse becomes not only the initiator or medium of the learning process, but it even controls it.
In the company in-house seminars there is an exercise at the beginning and at the end, where the horses run free in the riding hall.
In the beginning it’s about experiencing and recognising – a known phenomenon of every participant: “You can only see what you can see” (Fred Kofman, in Conscious Business). We see, hear and think in our own patterns. One horse is big and proud, so it has to be the boss in this group of four. Another one is agile and wiry, makes contact with everyone and interferes everywhere, that one must be the boss. The third one is calm and reserved, keeps track of everything and doesn’t allow anything to disturb it, so it must be the boss. And the fourth one? “You can only see what you can see.”
Horses & Organizational Development
At the end of the seminar the horses run free in the hall again. This time however, they move in the middle of a set-up representing a situation in an organisation. The set-up is the result of a previous team discussion held in the seminar room. This concerns for example, goals and obstacles which are then represented by such symbols as plastic pieces, skittles/cones, a tarpaulin or balls, in the arena. This is a four-phase learning process: First the rational phase in the seminar room during the discussion, then setting up the symbols representing the real situation, in a playful way, after that the emotional phase where participants watch what the horses do in the arena and finally the integrated phase where participants debrief and evaluate the session.
It may happen that the horses only stay in one half of the riding hall. It could be that they only concentrate on one theme. Sometimes two horses pair up and take care of something in particular. It is also possible that everything that was set-up falls over – or, it is all still standing when the horses are finished.
Back to leading. As one of our participants put it, “To date I have read a lot about leadership, but today I felt what leadership is.” You can’t learn leading – leading is learning. Horse-assisted management seminars are concerned with respect, trust and authenticity. The horse directly mirrors a person’s outward manner of leading and their internal attitude. It helps us to recognise our strengths and weaknesses and sometimes it only takes a small self-correction for us to become more like our “real selves”.
Years of Pioneering Work
For us, this all began in August 1989 during a riding holiday in Tyrol. This was followed by six years of intensive work with horses. In 1996, alongside of the EDP courses we were holding at our small business, a totally new seminar idea developed. The idea became a plan, a new company and in the following year, a seminar program. At the beginning of 1998, after a one-year internal pilot project, we ran our first open management training seminar with horses. It was titled “Motivation – Reaching a Goal Together”.
In August 2004 we founded the European Association for Horse Assisted Education (EAHAE) as a platform for horse-assisted seminar providers. In 2005 the first of now seven annual conferences, took place. After the conference in Warsaw in 2008, a qualification process was started. Since then we differentiate between “qualified members” and “friends”. A qualified membership requires each member to take part in a Train-the-Trainer seminar. This seminar is offered today in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and in USA. Of the current 210 EAHAE members, 170 have completed this seminar.
Qualified EAHAE members are permitted to hold the EAHAE one-day seminar “The Art of Leadership”. The underlying principle of this seminar is the HorseDream concept. It is based on a finely tuned balance between practical, experiential learning and theory transfer. Within a very short time, horses are able to get people to focus on what is essential for them. The topic here is reduction. It is said that many areas of our society and many companies are “over managed, but under led”. To lead companies and people, we probably don’t need less management, but certainly need more leadership and more vision.
In a horse, reality and vision are uniquely connected. Learning with a horse requires one hundred percent concentration, presence and awareness. A horse is absolutely a real being. On the other hand, there has been a mythological connection with the horse for thousands of years – the horse itself is a legend, a dream, a vision. The HorseDream concept unites reality and vision.
In past centuries all leaders were trained with the help of horses. Working with horses fosters courage, strength, creativity and willingness to take risks, but at the same time also fosters a sense of responsibility, reliability, patience and determination.
The individual horse embodies pride, strength, beauty, freedom, courage and energy just the same as it does sensitivity, caution, and the ever present readiness to flee. It is willing to serve humans and it does this both from the position of being dominated and through entirely voluntary participation. Apart from that, the horse herd conveys the feeling of protection and security, inclusiveness and cooperation as well as self confidence and contentedness.
Where people work together there are always issues that cost time and energy. These can be caused by external or internal factors. When teams are newly formed it takes some time to get rid of reservations and build trust.
In the horse-assisted training’s learning environment, teams grow together in an extremely short period of time. In the two 4-hour sessions, they pass through so to speak, the four phases of the team development process (according to Tuckman): Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing – or, according to Christoph V. Haug: Test phase, Infighting phase, Organisational phase and Working phase.
In the Test Phase team members are polite, impersonal, curious and cautious. During the Infighting Phase there are underlying conflicts, personal confrontations, clique building and progress is a struggle. The Organisational Phase sees the team developing new ways of personal conduct and behaviour, enabling constructive feedback and confronting the differing points of view instead of making it personal. The Working Phase shows the team is finally full of ideas, flexible, demonstrates solidarity, is efficient and participants are ready to help. All four phases are portrayed through practical exercises with the horses. That can be likened to a vaccination where the symptoms of the team development process are experienced in a weaker form. According to our experience, the horses act as emotional bridges between the people and in our intercultural trainings, even as bridges between cultures and religions.
In the first instance, projects are based on objective planning and calculations. However, the project work is then influenced by emotions triggered by envy, resentment, a know-it-all attitude and cantankerousness, or just simply carelessness.
Through a horse-assisted project workshop an atmosphere of cooperation, creativity, flexibility, self-assuredness and goal-orientation, can be created in two days. During the work with the horses new ideas, mutual understanding and goodwill arises.
Sometimes communication fails just because of misunderstandings, or because the connection doesn’t take place in a reasonable way, or perhaps because information has been exchanged before people have found the right approach to each other.
In this respect it makes sense to integrate horse-assisted trainings as the emotional door opener in every medium- or long-term program for further education, personal development and communication. All our experience with these combinations has shown that despite how sceptical some were at the beginning, the seminar leaders, coaches and participants, were all enthusiastic – and the enthusiasm was then carried over into the following “normal” course of the event.
Change processes, however good and well planned they are, always runthe risk of emotionally losing the people involved. The horse-assisted Change Management concept addresses precisely the emotional component of the change process. The participants work through the four phases that are the underlying principles of the Appreciative Inquiry approach, by David L. Cooperrider, namely: Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny. The team tackles the issues regarding the present and the future they have planned.
The EAHAE’s vision is to establish horse-assisted training and further education as a general form of personal and professional development, in corporations, organizations and institutions. There are three challenges that have to be met.
Optimal Group Size
The first challenge is an implementation problem. The optimal group size for management seminars is 6 to 8 people. If we take a company with 1000 employees and 100 Managers, we would need 13 one-day seminars for all of the managers to enjoy a horse-assisted training just once. Team trainings can easily be held with up to 20 participants. Assuming that just half of the workforce is to attend the training, we would need 25 seminar days.
To ensure that the horses retain their sensitivity, we normally plan one seminar per week. There should be at least four days between seminars. The management seminars would therefore be able to take place within a period of two months and the team trainings would take four months.
So taking the above into account, one seminar provider would be busy for six months. So if we calculate this for major population centres such as Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich, or the Ruhr area, one gets an idea of the number of qualified seminar providers that would be necessary.
The second challenge is the price of seminars. If we look at horse-assisted management seminars in the context of operational training and further education, and not as an event, the EAHAE’s seminar providers net price ranges between €400 and €1,100 per person and day – depending on the number of participants and the additional services, e.g. a specially cut seminar video. An event with horses for 30 or more participants does make sense, but doesn’t have much to do with the seminars described above.
In the example mentioned in the first challenge, the price per management seminar would be approx € 7,250 and for the team training approx. €8000. A company’s total investment would then be at least €290,000.
Taking the regular costs of the horses, riding hall, seminar room as well as the cost of equipment, material and assistants as a basis, it’s clear that the prices mentioned above are realistic. Seminar providers who offer considerably lower prices, are either making their main income in another area, or leave the horse-assisted training field after holding only a few seminars.
From the cost perspective, the company has to take into account that horse-assisted seminar measures can’t be compared with any conventional training. Current scientific research has shown that the sustainability of the seminar work and the time factor are of vital importance. This type of seminar assures long lasting learning success in an extremely short period of time.
The third challenge is Marketing. According to our experience, it isn’t possible to explain to someone in an understandable way, how horse-assisted training works, what it sets free in people, what mental blocks it releases and how it helps individuals and teams to progress. Even seminar videos that show content and atmosphere, don’t really help. And participant’s stories only give a partial picture of what happened on an inter- and intra-personal level, in the team, for example.
How can the vision of horse-assisted training and further education become a matter of course in human resources development under these conditions? How do you simultaneously prevent an attitude where this concept is misused or misunderstood as a joke or just hype?
We recommend those who are seminar providers of the EAHAE organized one-day seminar “The Art of Leading” to offer this seminar once a month as an open seminar. This is the best chance for participants to experience the seminar concept. We have found that the so-called Taster courses are not suitable due to the short time period, or the fact that transfer models and video reflection are omitted. This means that the participants never go through the whole learning process and therefore don’t experience most of the possible insights.
We recommend companies take out an EAHAE company membership. This allows them, among other things, to send individual members of staff to open seminars under special conditions.
This system presents itself as profitable for all concerned:
– The participant experiences the complete learning process of the one-day seminar.
– The company saves up to 75% of the seminar fee, per individual employee.
– The seminar provider fills places with participants who are potential customers for a company
in-house management seminar or team training, at a later date.
– The EAHAE receives additional financial resources to support its members, communication and the
increasing acceptance of the platform.
This concept is just in the introductory phase and should be implemented internationally after the 8th EAHAE annual conference that is taking place September 7 – 9. 2012.
The motto of the conference “Back to the Roots – Up to the Future” stands for our reflecting on the moral and ethical concept of our horse-assisted educational work. We worded it thus: “For the EAHAE community it is essential we hold and adhere to certain values. Above all is trust. Further we encourage caring, collaborative business and not competitive business. It is at the core of the EAHAE values that we collaborate on an equal level. Regarding our horses, we consider them as trainers not as tools.”
The motto also stands for spreading this approach according to a concrete plan that takes into account the interests of everyone concerned. It should achieve measurable success by 2020.
All support in line with the above-mentioned concept, is very welcome!
stead of generate. The basic work with the people is done by the horse. Welcome to a new world of learning!
Gerhard J. Krebs (May 2011)
HOW TO GAIN CLIENTS: THE HORSEDREAM WAY OF DOING BUSINESS.
Whenever somebody is on the phone asking questions about the HorseDream train the trainer seminars, for example “what is required to do the training and to be successful in the horse assisted education business afterwards?”, we answer: “The most important thing is to get clients.”
If you have management skills and horse knowledge, that’s perfect. In the 2-day seminar you get all the information to combine both. But that is only the basic requirement to do a good job. It is not sufficient to make a living out of our concept.
There is one page in the seminar manual covering public relations, marketing and advertising. This page contains our experiences from more than 14 years management training with horses. We summarised in a few sentences, what worked and what did not.
Our core statement is that ‘Traditional marketing and advertisement does not work at all with horse assisted education’.
Unfortunately most of the seminar participants do not believe this. Therefore they try out everything on their own. We guess some of them think: “Okay, if you just do it the right way, it will work,” or “I have the competencies; I know how to do it.” And when they start their marketing they realise after a few months, there is no real success in terms of paid clients. They attract a lot of attention, appointments, taster seminars with much interest but no bookings.
Perhaps you know this famous AIDA model:
A – Attention or awareness: attract the attention of the prospective customer.
I – Interest: raise the interest of the prospective customer by focusing on or demonstrating advantages and benefits.
D – Desire: convince prospective customers that they really want to do the seminar and that it will satisfy their needs.
A – Action: lead customers towards taking action and booking the training.
There is a whole industry fighting for attention, interest, desire and action. Advertising agencies employ thousands of very creative specialists to constantly think about new ways to sell products and services. Be honest: what is your reaction to direct mail, advertisements in newspapers or magazines? What is your reaction to TV adverts? And what is your reaction to internet banners and pop ups?
If you are not really interested in the product, in the service or in the company brand you don’t even notice this kind of information. That’s why marketing psychologists come up with new strategies. They try to get the sales information into your subconsiousness. This is a method that works with a lot of people. They order the product, not because there is a need for it, but because they feel there is a need.
Of course the more conscious people are, the less this method works. You know the advertising is manipulating you. Moreover, you think every marketing activity is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. With time you learn to ignore it. It is no longer your cerebral cortex which reacts to the message but your amygdala. And your amygdala immediately says NO to whatever shows up as sales manipulation.
You think your horse assisted education advertising is information? Your prospective customer thinks it is manipulation. Your target group is the conscious customer and, believe me, he does not react to classic marketing as you hope he would. He reacts as you do. His amygdala works just as well as yours!
Okay then, how do we get clients? We wait for them. It sounds strange but it is true. We want horses to follow us out of free will. We want employees working together with us out of free will. And we want customers to come to us out of free will. The positive impact of such an approach is: you only work with clients who are really interested in what you are doing. That’s much better than working with participants who have been convinced to come to your training by written or spoken promises.
There are many companies out there, unaware of how important horse assisted education is for the benefit of their businesses. And there are a few companies out there which are aware. Don’t focus on the former. You will not gain any paid participants by doing so. Wait for five more years and some of them will probably be in the latter group. Focus on the companies which are already open for our new world of learning. They are only a few in relation to all the others but only a few in this dimension means tens of thousands worldwide and at least fifty to a hundred just around you within a radius of two hours drive.
What is required to get into a position where you are able to just wait for those clients? First of all you have to be present. In the very beginning of all our seminars people get the information to be present one hundred percent. Because when you are working with horses you have to be present. The horse is a very present sentient being and it wants you to be present, too. So working with horses teaches you to be present all the time. And as a seminar provider you have to be present in the market.
The market is the place where you turn desire into money. It is full of offered products and services which are not really needed. And yet they are bought. Those companies which are aware of the outcomes of horse assisted leadership seminars, horse assisted change management, horse assisted team building, horse assisted personal development must have the opportunity to find you. You go to the market with open arms just to be there, just to be present.
The internet is our main communication medium. More than 75 percent of our seminar bookings come via the HorseDream homepage. There is a German and an international version. Further there are special websites covering special topics, like HorseDream Concept, which was launched to attract large companies and seminar organisations. We also deal with the statistical part of our homepages watching which path visitors take inside our programmes. And of course we search for new horse assisted education offers.
Do you know how many natural or unnatural horsemen and women have invented this revolutionary thing called horse coaching? Hundreds. And they all consider themselves to be very unique. Hopefully for them, corporate clients will visit their websites, because otherwise they won’t survive. Whenever you find someone who offers horse assisted education on the same website besides riding lessons, mum-and-kids-projects and similar clinics you can be sure that s/he’s not an HAE professional in the sense of providing corporate trainings.
From our point of view, competition belongs to what we call “the old business”. Our vision is not to compete any longer but to collaborate and cooperate whenever and wherever it is possible. Look at the market. There are hundreds and thousands of companies with millions of employees. What if only one big company finally comes up with the idea to train all staff with horses? Who would be able to do that? We would have to say “Sorry, we can only manage three courses a month – and two of them are already booked.” You see, we need many of us. We need to be prepared for these first huge orders. And we are sure they will come. Horse assisted education is not hype; it is not something that burns like a big straw fire and afterwards calms down again. Horse assisted education is like building a future. It is like being alive again. It is like being human again. When people experience that horses are bridges between people, when companies experience that horses are even bridges between countries and cultures, there will be no stop for our concept.
So how do we spend the time until this happens? Being present, being aware, being of help to others, offering seminars and trainings in our own region, talking about what we are doing. What I mean is, burning like a fire of passion – not just presenting a method. Horse assisted education is more than a business. Whoever asks us what is required to become a horse assisted educator gets the answer “You need a long deep breath.” And s/he gets the recommendation not to leave their present job. If you can make a living doing your present job and start with HAE seminars once a month or so you will not run into any problem. And you will be able to put your seminar price on the table. And this price is high.
There is one big delusion. If you think you have to start with a low price offer you are terribly wrong. Your horse assisted leadership seminar is worth the highest price ever. There is no way to learn faster and more profoundly. So you deliver very high quality – actually not you, but your horses. We heard people saying after our training “These two days have been worth each cent we paid,” and “It would have taken us 10 months coaching, to get to these fundamental results.”
So you and your horses are absolutely good value for money.
There is one more point. If a company books a training for executives, the HR people know well that quality requires compensation. So what? Horses are much more expensive than computer slides. And horses working as trainers are priceless!
Let me tell you a short story. When we started with top management seminars for chief executives we set a price of 1,995.00 euros per person per day. Nobody signed up. Our thoughts were: if nobody signs up at 1,995.00 euros it will make no difference at all if nobody signs up at 3,995.00 euros. We had just changed the price on the website when the first vice president registered on a two-day course. In the meantime we take 4,500.00 euros if someone wants an individual one-day training. Why? Because it is worth this price. Do people still sign up at this price: yes, they do. Not very often, but once or twice a year.
That leads me to the next crucial point of our market approach. We won’t do more than three or four seminars a month. The horses need time between the dates. They have to recover from their work with the clients, which is not of physical but of psychic and emotional stress. As the horses are most important in our seminars we have to look after their psychical, emotional and physical well being all the time.
This does not mean that we are on holiday between the seminar dates. Just the opposite. We need the time to work on our websites, to network with business friends and those who might be interested in attending our open seminars or a corporate training. We need the time to run the International HorseDream Partners Community and the EAHAE network. I spend about four hours a day, just answering emails, giving support regarding special seminar issues, talking with EAHAE members and HorseDream Partners. The rest of the day is developing new ideas, working on seminar videos, preparing the next workshop or train the trainer seminar.
Considering all our train the trainer seminars it is like lighting candles everywhere. In the first three or four years people had to travel from the north to the south to attend a HorseDream seminar. Now they find the nearest HAE seminar provider in Germany with two clicks on the internet just around the corner. In the next few years they’ll find you worldwide, everywhere.
The base of qualified HAE seminar providers is becoming larger and larger. And this means the base of HAE seminar participants is becoming larger and larger, too. Word of mouth information about the incredible success that can be the result of continuous horse assisted trainings, will spread. That’s the way we attract companies. It is not about pushing, it is about pulling. Traditional marketing is a numbers game. The more you put in, the more you get out. But Horse Assisted Education marketing is not a game. It is a vision. And we will all keep this vision alive until the very last person can see it.
Gerhard J. Krebs (December 2010)
WELCOME TO A NEW WORLD OF LEARNING
"Better a boss who’s always nagging, grumbling, exploding and mistreating us than a boss who has mutated into a horse whisperer.” That could not be true! It was 11th March 1998 and we were reading the summary of our carefully formulated press release in the local newspaper, having just successfully completed our first open “Motivation Seminar for Managers” with horses as medium and we were excited by the prospect of interest from not only hundreds but thousands of new participants in the future.
What was it that upset “pat”, the columnist? Why should his boss not “learn from horses”? Why by no means from “Friesians, possibly East Friesians”? He did not want to be compared to nags. He did not want to “always take higher and higher hurdles of work motivation and job performance, like these highly-bred willing four-legged animals” and “at the end gratefully eat from the palm of somebody’s hand! No never!” Was he not right?
He could not know that even more renowned press and TV journalists would approach this topic in much more detail in the following years. For example the seminar reviewer Baerbel Schwertfeger who published six pages in the German HR magazine “wirtschaft + weiterbildung” (“The seminar is an impressive experience”), or the journalist Dagmar Deckstein who wrote a three-quarter-page in the business section of the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” with the sub-heading “The Rediscovery of Intuition”.
And we ourselves could not know that neither the mocking contribution of “pat” nor the well founded articles in the national press and the professional journals would be helpful to bring managers to our horse seminars at this early stage. Then, when even the famous news magazine “Der Spiegel” and the second channel of German broadcasting “ZDF” came we simply had to guess: Now we have got it! But no – it took four more long years for the prediction of a marketing magazine chief editor at one of our seminar evenings to come true: “It takes exactly seven years to get such a new concept into the market.”
In fact we never claimed that we had developed anything really new. One can already read that the horse is a mirror in the writings of the old masters on the art of riding. Observations that horses are skilled in extrasensory perception were already published by Henry Blake (“Talking with Horses”) in the 1970s. The fact that human beings were not able to imagine a life without horses for thousands of years is reason enough to think about the increasing distance between mankind and horses over the last sixty years.
“There is nothing good, unless you do it,” Erich Kaestner says. So let’s do it. Let’s take the horse back to the development of human beings, back to their raising of consciousness, their character building, their way of behaviour, and their leadership concepts.
Why the horse? Because it combines reality and vision. Because it is a mirror. Because it requires one hundred percent presence in every moment. Because it shows up boundaries. Because it opens horizons. Because it can be a medium to the universe.
We were not the only ones thinking these thoughts. From the year 2000 on we found similar approaches on web pages in several countries. The number of seminar providers working with horses in management seminars in Germany increased. Sometimes we detected sentences just copied and pasted from our HorseDream homepage on new websites. As a consequence in 2003 we decided to teach other trainers our seminar approach and to give them permission to use our concept and anything we had written on our website. One year later, in August 2004, we founded the European Association for Horse Assisted Education (EAHAE) together with seven other European trainers and coaches. When we started with our G&K HorseDream GmbH in 1996 we did not imagine that there would be more than 200 trainers, coaches and seminar providers with us, sharing the “vision to establish and develop Horse Assisted Education as a general form of personal and professional development in (not only European) enterprises, organizations, institutions, societies, and for personal purposes”.
But it becomes even more exciting. Nearly at the same time that the first horse assisted seminar providers in Germany, England, Austria and Switzerland dared to go to market, similar concepts were developed in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In January 2005 Ariana Strozzi held her first annual conference of the newly founded Equine Guided Education Association with participants from three continents. Shortly before this she had published her book “Horse Sense for the Leader Within. Are You Leading Your Life or is it Leading You?” Horse sense means common sense. In the meantime this term has been used as a book title or company name many times. The Austrian management trainer and leadership lecturer Fritz Hendrich gave his book “Horse Sense” the subtitle “How Alexander the Great first conquered a horse and then an empire. Three steps to the charisma of leadership.”
Well, we don’t have anything in mind about empires and their conquest. And actually we don’t think about charisma. In HorseDream seminars normality plays the lead. Our subject is reduction. Reduction to the essentials of leadership. And for us this means authenticity. Our horses accept the participants just as they are as long as they express themselves as they are. Our horses don’t engage in play-acting. There are extreme examples.
Peter stood together with Benetton in the picadero. Peter is a key account manager in a large telecommunication company. Benetton is an athlete; high and upright, muscular, glossy black, big – actually too big for a Friesian horse.
Picadero, a square pen of about ten by ten meters, comes from the Spanish language and means “small riding arena”. The exercise is called “Distance and Nearness”. Leading with distance, leading with human nearness. What is it like to push somebody to a distance? Am I able to do it? Without overacting? Am I a hurrier? Peter waves the flag, the “leadership instrument”, or better the “tool of power”. Benetton is moving around him in a circle. First walking, then he trots a little bit. The whole thing lasts for one or two minutes. Peter follows the instruction for the exercise and drops the flag behind him. The pressure is gone. Benetton stops. He looks towards Peter. He turns his head forward. Peter steps up to the horse. He holds a long lead rope, the “leadership structure”, in his hand. He hooks the rope to the halter and waits.
Maybe the horse follows you, at the loose rope, without pressure, without pull, without a word. Only based on the trust you gained in the first phase of the exercise – the phase of distance, respect. Because you did not play the boss, you did not need to prove your power. You just asked for distance, quietly and easily. And then you got intuitively that respect is present; that out of distance may come nearness. Without distance there is no nearness. Whoever wants nearness must be able to demand distance. Whoever wants distance must be able to allow nearness.
Peter is still waiting. Benetton stands in front of him like a statue. No muscle is moving. Peter’s hand moves to his pocket. Carrots are not required. We want the horses to follow us out of free will, not because they get something to eat, but because they like us; they trust us; because they love to be with us; because they know that we know where we want to go.
Peter pulls a tissue out of his pocket. He puts out his open hand toward Benetton. No reaction. Peter takes one step back. Then one step sideways. No reaction. The rope hangs loose. Once it is taut, the exercise is finished – that’s the agreement.
Peter steps up to Benetton. He takes off the rope from the halter, moves to the middle of the picadero and takes the flag again, his leadership instrument of power. He points the flag at Benetton and the horse begins to move. Round and round he trots. From time to time he throws his mane with a short head movement towards Peter who holds the pressure constant, walking with a firm tread in a small circle in the centre of the quadrangle. Then he drops the flag abruptly. Bennetton stands still.
Peter walks up to the horse, fastens the lead rope to the halter, makes an inviting gesture and takes a first step. Benetton stands still. Immovable. No reaction. A key account manager who sits facing his customer? Distance works but nearness does not? Ability is present but willingness is not? I hear the message well but lack Faith’s constant trust?
What is it that the horse wants to tell Peter? We don’t know. We cannot look inside the heads of our horses. We don’t interpret. We leave the situation as it is. But we know one thing very well: The experience with Benetton in the picadero will trigger something in Peter. Maybe it will come up in discussion during the seminar; maybe he will take it home, to the next customer conversation, or to the next sales meeting.
What is it that is so extreme in this example? “By the way, I was trained as an actor and was onstage for two years. A bad income. Too less to live, too much to die,” Peter tells us during the smoke break. Short silence. Then the question: “Well, could it be that you just played a role in the picadero? Did you wear a mask?” “I think I did,” Peter says.
We are used to acting behind our masks. We are even recommended to do so. Just do not let anybody come too close. Business is really tough. Who reveals themself is already lost. Authentic leadership! For sure!
“In the army I did not have any problems with acceptance from the very first moment,” Mayer tells the seminar group. The audience listens with interest. “It started with the clothing. With my name badge. My first name Christopher was too long. So it was just C dot Mayer. Know what? The newbies always thought this meant Captain Mayer.” Everybody is laughing. The moment Christopher is in the picadero together with Benetton nobody is laughing any longer. He holds the flag diagonally upright to the croup of the horse and runs. Accentuated paces. Benetton trots with a high knee action, like a Friesian who is being presented by the so called Monsterknecht at the stallion licensing. He loudly puffs the breath from his open nostrils so that everybody can hear it. The seminar participants back off involuntarily, expecting the horse could be driven across the borderline. The giant Benetton gallops through the ten-meter quadrangle. And Captain Mayer keeps up the pressure. Shortly before we give the signal to end the exercise when the flag is dropped. Benetton stops from full speed and turns his mighty body towards Christopher in the middle of the picadero, tossing his head, snorting wildly at him. You’d almost think Benetton is a dragon who spits fire.
Christopher does not even try to fasten the rope to the halter. What nobody considered possible in this moment happens: Christopher starts walking – and Benetton follows him. The horse now holds his mouth at head height of the man at maybe a foot distance. Christopher walks – and Benetton follows. No uncertainty on the horse’s part, no doubt, no resistance. Just nearness. “Typically capricorn,” Karin says, “hard on himself and hard on others.”
This is authentic leadership. The horse accepts the human being if he acts like he really is. We have experienced a lot of such examples in the last 14 years of horse assisted trainings. We saw men full of self-doubts and those pretending to be omnipotent. We experienced arrogance and humility. “Be yourself,” Karin shouts into the picadero as man and horse are facing each other stockstill for two minutes. “Then I would have to hug him now.” And precisely at this moment, the horse moves towards the human.
We don’t know any better way to let leaders experience the difference between distance and nearness. The picadero exercise is the emotional highlight in all of our trainings.
Emotional learning is deep learning. It is effective learning. And it is learning in a very short space of time. Emotional learning is also motivation and self motivation. Very often, the motive of leaders to attend a horse assisted leadership seminar is curiosity. The outcome of such a seminar, very often, is the insight that you cannot learn leadership because leadership is learning.
“When I was back at my company on the Monday morning after the seminar, the people in my team were totally different,” Maria tells us on the phone two weeks after the seminar. She is a manager in a large automobile company. “Actually I just wanted to be around horses once again for a day. And now all of a sudden everything has changed!”
In our seminars it is not the point to realise how many parallels there are between horse and human socialisation – that the lead mare is in charge and that she forms a dual leadership with the lead stallion. It is not about all the metaphors. Not about the symbolism from thousands of years history of horse and mankind. There is nothing wrong with all this.
“The map is not the territory.” The horse is reality and an explanation model. We take the horse as an “As If” and we place it in the centre of an emotional recognition process. Whether there results any change potential for the participants – and if so, in what way – stays consciously outside our influence. We try to enable instead of generate. The basic work with the people is done by the horse. Welcome to a new world of learning!
EAHAE International (former "European") Association for Horse Assisted Education
Non-profit business-unit of G&K HorseDream GmbH Private Academy for Horses, Leadership and Communication
Lichtenhagener Str. 8
Phone: +49 5685 9224233
EAHAE was founded by Gerhard Krebs (HorseDream) in August 2004. Since then HorseDream leads EAHAE as a part of its business. Membership fees and payments for special services go directly into the support of the community, namely administration of all EAHAE activity (website, social media) promoting EAHAE, sponsoring the conference and coaching and supporting the members.
EAHAE is a support platform, on which every member can develop her/his own horse assisted education business. For the EAHAE community it is essential we hold and adhere to certain values.
Above all is trust. Further we encourage caring, collaborative business and not competitive business. It is core of the EAHAE values that we collaborate on an equal level. Regarding our horses, we consider them as trainers not as tools.
These core values are a substantial and essential facet of the HorseDream Train the Trainer Seminar, which qualifies for EAHAE membership. If it is felt by the board that these values are being compromised then membership can be revoked.