RENÁTA FOLDYNOVÁ, CZECH REPUBLIC
Renáta Foldynová, MSc.
My journey to horse assisted training for managers’ groups and individuals was through a long experience of managerial positions in five star hotel catering and in prestigious retail companies, and of course my love for horses.
Horses Are Mysterious Creatures (February 2011)
Phone: +420 603 575 004
Renáta Foldynová (February 2011)
HORSES ARE MYSTERIOUS CREATURES!
“Horses are mysterious creatures,” a friend of mine told me when we talked about her project of horse assisted management training, and I felt this phrase in my mind suddenly opened the door to another world. Until then, the horses were for me like other domestic animals. I was not particularly interested in them; my interest was strictly neutral. But I was intrigued, attracted and inspired by the mysticism. Now, horses entered into my world of mysticism by the main gate in all their grandeur and splendour. From that moment I knew that I would take the first opportunity for contact with this leadership trainers shrouded in mysticism.
Finally the day came when I parked the car on the farm Heroutice that offered ideal conditions for the natural leadership course with the assistance of horses – accommodation, restaurant with lounge and garden, indoor and outdoor riding school, horses in pens, beautiful countryside 70 km from Prague. I got out of the car full of curiosity, what to expect. Just somewhere on the edge of curiosity, I felt the vibration of fear, how am I going to hold out as a leader face to face with these large animals.
The very first lesson – the observation of three horses from the gallery of the covered riding hall – was unforgettable. Our task was to observe the behaviour of this small group of horses and determine which of them is the leader. It was interesting to observe how the behaviour of the group reflected different character traits of these three animals, Master, Merlin and Louise. Even more interesting was to share views and insights with other students in watching the video after returning to the classroom. To my surprise, we didn’t agree on the leader of the herd. Each of the three horses was the leader in somebody’s eyes and each participant had strong and convincing arguments for their choice. The best example of the diversity of views on one and the same situation I had never experienced.
Another activity was leading the horse by the bridle near its head. At first glance, nothing complicated. We were outside. My colleagues fulfilled their tasks excellently and I took Merlin’s rein with confidence. Problems, however, arouse after a few steps, when Merlin saw a group of horses who just then had driven through a nearby meadow to the farm. These horses caught his attention, so that to fulfil a simple task for me was virtually impossible. I tried all possible ways to attract his attention back to me and our task, but in vain. Sure, it was the outside influences that made a real challenge from a simple task. But when analyzing the video with the teacher and other participants I clearly realized that my behaviour was lacking conviction. Merlin did not mark my words, he might have been more convinced by my body language, if only it were more expressive.
A more complex task was to get the horses to run around. It was an example of leadership at a distance with a tool – a riding whip with a flag. I had never tried anything like this before, so I had no idea how to use the riding whip. I tried different strategies, but with only partial success. Later the colleague, who had dealt with horses for years, demonstrated how to do it. Wow! Why are we looking for some complexity when the solution is simple and vivid, I thought to myself. What a lesson of humility this was! And what a lesson I learned to put into practice effectively! As a manager I have a set of different management tools, and often use them in a complex manner with little effectiveness…
After leading the horse from the front and from the side came leading from the back using the reins. After the previous experience, I was really worried. How should I handle this? I do not suffer from a lack of confidence and courage, but I was prepared for the worst. And again the surprise came – me and Master completed the task as easily as if it were the simplest thing. Sensational! Another surprise came in the analysis – this kind of leadership is an analogy of coaching. Even though I had already some coaching experience, this experience of coaching effectiveness was much more expressive. Instead of drawing a sail-boat and discussing wisdom and control as in a standard training, here I was standing on the swinging deck with the wheel (or reins) in hand.
I know that management is in part science and in part craft. You can read hundreds of books and not be a good manager, because a substantial part of the art of management is not transferable. This craft part we gain by practical experience through feedback from others. At the seminar with the assistance of horses, I found that feedback from these animals is much more vivid and goes deeper into my heart than feedback from other people. Words and logical arguments were not understood by the horses. They responded to the language of my body and to what my inner being wanted. With Master, Luis and Merlin I could go through some shells of sophisticated ideas to the foundations of my managerial skills and within two days realize my strengths and weaknesses, which had accompanied me for several years undetected. Horses are really mystical beings!
Lubomír Straka, MBA (*1970) works in corporate governance and international coordination division of Air Navigation Services of the Czech Republic. As a head of the strategic planning department, he deals mainly with performance measurement and management of air navigation services and with the application of performance-based management within the organization.