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L-E-A-Ding the Way with Horse Therapy

horseMantua - Frustrated? Anxious? Overwhelmed? Resentful? Restless? Confused?

If so, it’s time for a change — a retreat from the everyday, surrounded by nature, so you can clarify the root of what’s nagging you, then identify the goals and objectives to help you chart a new course that will bring you lasting satisfaction. It’s time to bring in the horses.

Yes, horses.

L-E-A-D is an unconventional approach to leadership, team building, coaching and personal growth developed by human resources management professional Sue E. Thomas of Mantua. She utilizes horses in a unique experiential approach to awaken one’s potential in personal and professional development.

Thomas founded Leadership Equine Assisted Development, LLC in 1999. She has extensive experience in business, human resource management, and with horses. Certified in a number of counseling disciplines, Thomas is is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation and holds a master’s degree in Organizational Development and Analysis.

Thomas combines her backgrounds in executive and life coaching, organizational development, and personal/leadership development, to connect people to their life purpose, vision and values. “Working with the horses provides awareness of what holds you back, to be successful and obtain the life you desire,” she said.

At a recent What About Me? Workshop at her 40-acre farm, Thomas led a group of women through a two-day exploration in personal development, defining personal struggles, boundaries, dreams, frustrations, goals and objectives. Horses Flash, Jazz, Boss and Whiskey provided helpful feedback every step of the way. (The resident cats and golden retrievers provided comic relief.)

“This workshop provides space and a comfortable environment to look at the ‘who’ you are today by gently peeking at the past, living in the present, and looking at your future desires,” Thomas explained. “We guide you in self-exploration, and provide room for you to release what no longer serves you, strengthen what does, and gain awareness needed to direct your desired future.”

By placing each woman in a vulnerable situation with a horse — and a specific objective to accomplish inside the arena with that horse — participants quickly learned to use clear, concise, consistent modes of communication to prompt the horse through a particular exercise or obstacle course.

For example, in one exercise, each participant was instructed to take a raw egg and draw symbols or write words that identified their most valued elements of life (faith, family, health, a career, etc.) on the shell. Then, each person had to balance their egg on a spoon while leading a horse (which represented “the stuff in life you’ve got to get done”) through an obstacle course — without dropping their egg. Unfortunately, the horse was skittish about walking over the white poles along the course, and tended to shy away, pushing or pulling the participant off balance. It was a good metaphor for the common struggle to achieve balance in this life while pursuing dreams, despite stresses at work and demands from loved ones, or whatever the situation may be.

Results were mixed, depending on the approach each participant took. Two made slow, halting progress with close calls along the way, but crossed the finish line with victorious smiles. Another paid too much attention to the horse, lost track of her egg, and was horrified when she lost control of all she held dear, just to see it drop into the mud. Yet another participant marched her horse through its paces in record time, holding her egg in steady balance from start to finish (the sign of a chronic multi-tasker).

Other exercises involved leading horses while blindfolded; depending upon a partner’s verbal instructions to accomplish the task. Some activities focused on personal initiatives; others on group dynamics, trust and cooperation skills. Depending on each person’s body language, personal boundaries and subconscious cues, the horse would respond agreeably, or with stubbornness, playfulness or aloofness. Working with the horses heightened each participant’s awareness of their environment, their fears and vulnerabilities, their potential for growth, and their opportunity to change limiting behaviors that provided measurable results.

The most cited result of the workshop was clarity: the ability to clear the cobwebs and concretely identify the root of frustrations, learn how to put it into words, then devise a concrete plan to resolve the issue.

Through it all, Thomas’ mission was to inspire and nurture growth in individuals so they might reach their potential with integrity, respect, trust and honesty. In addition to personal growth workshops like this for women and at-risk youth, Thomas also provides leadership training, consulting and coaching services to corporations, organizations and other professional groups to encourage leadership development, team building and employee development using horses.

To explore L-E-A-D further for your personal or professional development, contact Sue Thomas at (330) 274-2693 or visit LeadershipEAD.com.

 

Estelle R. Brown is a freelance writer who lives in Garrettsville with her family. She has written and taken photos for newspapers, magazines and e-zines for the past 25 years. She also enjoys working on public relations projects, including web content, newsletters, posters, brochures, press releases, and other creative endeavors. She enjoys writing compelling stories about her community as a contributing reporter for the Villager.