Horses Teach Leadership Presence | Barbara Alexander

Over the years I have seen business training programs come and go because it is virtually impossible to impart the intuitive skill necessary to embody leadership presence through books, traditional team building or motivational lectures.

Nothing can replace the value of somatic awareness and it’s impact on the ability to learn from experience. Equine experiential learning includes specific and unfamiliar work with horses that teach humans how to quickly develop intuitive intelligence and interpersonal wisdom.

The Value of Non-Verbal Communication

Employee exit interviews show that over 80% of employees quit because of management – not their jobs. It becomes clear in the equine arena as well as in the office as to what brings ease and forward momentum and what ultimately causes sadness, confusion, and chaos. Success and failure are directly linked to a leader’s skill in response to what each individual brings to the mix. Every community of individuals create their own unique culture, and that culture either blocks or empowers creativity and productivity.

Non-verbal communication offers vast amounts of information to a gifted leader. Strengthening these skills becomes easier to understand when you have an opportunity to move within an arena with a 1200 pound horse and complete a task. You quickly learn how to hear differently and intuitively respond to subtle dynamics.  Within a business, critical-to-success pieces of information can create the leading edge of development.

How Intuitive Intelligence Training Works With Horses

Horses are highly sensitive to nonverbal energy as a primary source of information. Through specifically designed experiential sessions with horses, participants learn to understand signature energy qualities and learn skills to modulate effectively in response to others. Interpersonal skills are quickly developed and transfer to the human arena to help empower others, strengthen clear direction and create group congruence.

Horses are perfect teachers of intuitive awareness providing practice in personal control and clarity of non-verbal skills. Each equine encounter is different – resulting in greater agility and balance; tools that are imperative especially under pressure. The result builds courage, fortitude and strength of character as we step outside our comfort zone and experiment with new ways to embody leadership.

Steps to Build Leadership Presence

Confidence and Emotional Intelligence:

Great leaders have a well-developed ability to manage emotion under stress. Leaders gather the needed information and act appropriately providing insight and guidance to the other members of the team. Without the skills of emotional intelligence, challenges can quickly escalate to unhealthy levels and often create unnecessary office drama and wasted valuable time.

Emotions are not usually discussed in a business environment, nor tools in which to get the messages behind the emotions so that individuals can respond appropriately. Emotions carry important messages, that when understood, provide needed information to effectively free individuals and teams so they can release the unproductive focus and move forward.

Intuitive Intelligence

The leader must learn how to read the environment.

When we master the skills of intuitive intelligence, which is the wisdom to feel and then appropriately respond to information, we can access the critical to success information that informs our most accurate judgment.

It is only through our ability to feel information that we can learn the difference between appropriate response –  for example, the difference in the need for boundary setting and assertiveness when: 1.) The goals can be very different. 2.) The timing and the positive feedback are different. 3.) The emotions that arise are different.

Skills to Nourish Relationships

We are so often focused on the goals at hand that we forget that we have to earn trust in order to have any real influence.

In the book The Five Roles of the Master Herder, Linda Kohanov studies the key roles of great leadership. Her work outlines the need for a skillful balance of 5 different roles. Many leaders abdicate various components of leadership roles, especially where they find discomfort. For example, a nurturing leader my find confrontation more difficult and so they try to avoid it all together. A dominant leader may find nurturing difficult because they may have undeveloped interrelationship skills and poor boundary awareness.

A predatory leader, a concept that most see as negative, is actually necessary to cull the herd or let people go who are not able to do the job. It’s interesting to note that even dominate and predatory leadership roles are appreciated by team members who have sufficiently nourished relationships with high levels of trust and respect.

Clear Direction, Precise Action, and Consistent Rules

In the equine herd, you must earn the position of herd leader through the consistent demonstration of superior leadership skills, courage, and trustworthiness, but it doesn’t stop there.

Once a leader is accepted they must continually stay attuned to the members of their herd or they will soon lose their influence. Without clarity and precise rules, the herd becomes fragmented, chaotic and unproductive just like our business teams with unskilled leadership.


Desire is what drives us forward, offers us hope and keeps us focused of an even greater tomorrow. Without desire, we are no longer growing and are prone to stagnation.

The mindset of Freedom and Possibility

Great leaders inspire creativity and freedom by empowering others to embody leadership within themselves. This is the key to creating and expanding human potential.

Willingness to See the Best in Others

What you think matters more than you know. What a leader projects is received by those in their sphere of influence, even if it is unintended. What we choose to see in others sets the stage for actualization and self-fulfillment. This is something you cannot fake, studies have shown that the electromagnetic fields around us are palpable. 

What if we could lead in a way that empowers inspiration, accountability and creative problem solving, What if coming to work was something that we all looked forward to because we knew we brought meaning and purpose to ourselves and to each other?

Find out more about workshops to develop leadership presence