How To Be A Trusted Leader Using Equine Assisted Coaching

(A Recap Of My Equine Coaching Retreat)

Wondering if your leadership skills are setting you up for success? How do you know if you truly influence people?

Your leadership matters. And what’s very interesting, is that leadership is one of those skills that are needed for everything we do.  As individuals, parents, and professionals. 

With leadership being such an important quality, refining those skills should be a top priority. At least it is for me! 

So, I learned about a leadership training that uses horses to help you become a better leader and was so curious that decided to give it a try! This has been, by far, one of the most fascinating experiences!

If you’re up to learning everything I got from my partner – a horse! Keep reading! 

The Story of Equine Therapy 

You might think that equine therapy is a new-age thing but actually it’s not. Horses have been used in therapy for a long time!

Hippocrates, commonly referred to as the father of modern medicine, wrote about equine-assisted therapy being used in ancient Greece. 

Therapeutic riding rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s in Europe, bolstered by Danish Olympic dressage silver medallist Lis Hartel, who claimed to ride helped her recover from polio.

Children with autism also benefit from equine therapy due to the motor, emotional, and sensory sensations that come with riding a horse.

Although equine therapy itself hasn’t been deeply studied, research shows that horses are acutely tuned in to human emotions, and anecdotal accounts of their therapeutic impact abound.

Recently, life coaches who are equine specialists are using horses to facilitate their coaching sessions with their clients.

Why horses?

Unlike smaller therapy animals like dogs and cats, these gentle giants have a calming effect that’s magnified by their size and empathy. 

Horses are herd animals known for attuning themselves to human emotion, often reflecting the behaviors of those around them. 

Since horses are herd animals, it’s important to have an understanding of their herd “rules”. 

When horses are in a herd, their behavior is hierarchical; the higher-ranked animals in the herd eat and drink first. Low-status animals, that eat last, may not get enough food, and if there is little available feed, higher-ranking horses may keep lower-ranking ones from eating at all.

Traditionally, scientists study how animals communicate with one another focused on traits that humans also have, such as body language. However, Jennifer Wathan, a Ph.D. student at the University of Sussex in the U.K. decided to study communication avenues that humans lack. 

For horses, moving ears is one of the fascinating facts on how do they communicate. Source: National Geographic. 

Horses are one of the most perceptive of all domestic animals. Since they are a prey species, they must be able to detect predators. A stimulus unnoticed by humans is often a cause for alarm for horses; as riders and trainers, we commonly mistake this reaction for “spookiness” or bad behavior. 

Horses are highly social animals. They are not happy about being alone. 

Benefits of Equine-Facilitated Coaching

You might think “do I really need to work with a horse”? I get it! I’m afraid of horses too! But the more I read about this topic, the more interested I became.

Trying to get a thousand-pound animal to do what you want is no easy task. 

If you are unaccustomed to being honest and communicating clearly, the task becomes more difficult. Oh boy! That made me nervous but intrigued at the same time. 

Why Is Equine Coaching So Powerful? 

Horses can be an emotional mirror for humans. They respond to the feeling state we show

Horses can help individuals identify their feelings. Addicts, in particular, are known for numbing their feelings through the use of drugs and alcohol. When they get clean, they don’t know what to do with, or often how to identify, their feelings. This is a confusing and frustrating period for addicts. The horse, however, provides information to the client. If one walks angrily toward a horse, snatching its halter or lead, the horse will yank its head back and pull away. 

During a session, the facilitator might ask the person, “What are you angry about?” Most of the time, the client will deny being angry and need to be shown the evidence of the horse’s behavior to identify the feeling. 

Addicts and other trauma survivors have to learn how to identify their emotions in order to work through them. Horses are a good tool for therapists to help clients do just that.

Equine Coaching  

Equine Therapy is commonly used in individuals who need to release from trauma. However, that’s not the only modality where horses can assist.

A life coach can be an equine specialist and coach their clients using horses as a resource to facilitate an experiential coaching session or coaching events and that’s where the term equine coaching comes from. 

Equine Coaching in Central Texas 

Central Texas is blessed to have Genesis Farm, founded by the Hollywood actress Sandra Dee Robinson whose mission of making a difference by empowering others to find their passion and live the life they’re supposed to live.  

Sandra is a motivational speaker, corporate trainer, life coach, equine specialist, and part of our amazing Inner Circle of entrepreneurs. When she first spoke about her leadership workshop and communication training program assisted by horses, I couldn’t help but research. 

Sandra’s Leadership Retreats are very special, as they can only be hosted when Texas’ weather allows it. So I’ve been patiently waiting for this retreat! 

Since Austin ranked No. 4 in the country among the top cities to start a business, I believe that Genesis Farm’s location attracts professionals and business owners who are driven, motivated, and always open to receive growth strategies. 

Recap of My Retreat at Genesis Farm

First and foremost, this recap is totally coming from my personal experience and I am pretty sure that if the other ladies that came to the retreat write their recap, it will look completely different.

We were a group of 6 amazing ladies. Sandra welcomed us with a refreshing breakfast at her cowgirl barn, followed by caffeine of course! It was a cool morning, but we had plenty of resources to stay warm.

After receiving a brief overview of how horses can help us grow, we were ready to go to work! At that point, none of us had no idea of how “working with a horse partner” looked like. But 100% of us were totally curious.

The retreat consists of 4 exercises directly interacting with horses which I totally loved! Then we had other dynamics that encouraged us to reflect on what we learned. The best part? You walk away with a breakthrough that will impact your life forever. 

The fact that you’re able to get so much wisdom within hours of interacting with your horse partner, it’s just great. It reminds me of SI (strategic intervention) method used by Tony Robbins

In a nutshell, SI is a healing methodology that consists of ground-breaking strategies incorporating the revolutionary Human Needs Psychology and other high-quality disciplines, to release stress, anger, fear, overeating, depression, pain, negative patterns, sexual dysfunction and even long term addictions. Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi are examples of masterful Strategic Interventionists that transcend religion, culture, institution, job description, or political philosophy (as Strategic Intervention should).

While we can’t quite say that equine coaching is a methodology under the SI umbrella, I’ve personally worked with facilitators of the SI method and their ability to help others change habits and overcome limited beliefs is just as impressive as the horse therapy I experienced at the retreat.

Learning From Horses (Lessons From The Hoard)

Our first exposure to the horses gave us the chance to observe the herd. One thing that Genesis Farm does is that they make sure their horses rotate. This is important for both the participants and the horses. 

We were asked to pay attention to how the horses were using their body language. Some horses were together, modeling, pretty much, what one horse was doing. Then, another horse was in the opposite direction.

Who is the leader? If you think it’s the dominant horse, think again. The dominant horse is rarely the one who makes the first move to get the herd going. The first lesson is there! So… if you’re the type-A personality who is used to be dominant and strong, to show others who is boss, this will make you reconsider your leadership style. 

So, who is the leader then? Leadership, in a herd, has been defined by experts as the ability to initiate, recruit, synchronize, and coordinate the movement of others. Horses are prey, so the leader is the one who is able to keep calm and lead the way. 

In the horses world, leadership has nothing to do with gender. It can be male or female. So here’s another instant lesson that I took as a woman. We have the ability to lead and take charge, no matter what.

Another lesson we learned by observing the herd is that great leaders are highly intuitive. The intuitive nature of horses can be easily understood as it is a prey animal. In order to survive it has to know the intentions of all those within its proximity. “Am I safe?” is a question the horse is constantly asking. The horse actually intuits whether or not it is safe, if it can trust those around it to support its safety and, rather than thoughtfully analyzing its situation, actually feels through its intuition the correctness of its actions.

Our First Challenge: Show The Horse Who is Boss

In theory, all you need to show the horse who is boss is to project safety for your horse. But how can you project safety when you’re afraid?

If you think for a second, this is a very common scenario that we get to practice in real life, every time that we are exposed to any of the following:

  1. A job interview
  2. A sales presentation
  3. A public talk
  4. A workshop
  5. Your first date
  6. A difficult meeting 

All of the scenarios above expose us to be nervous! How many times you’ve been so nervous that you turned yourself into a fool and showed no presentation skills? I’m sure you think of that moment and you wish you could disappear from the scene!

I’m glad I gave myself permission to stretch from my comfort zone. This was my very first time interacting with a horse. I’m not a horse lover and had very little information about horses, prior to this event. But I wanted to try something different! 

Using our intuition, we picked our horse partner, and with Sandra’s assistance, we were told to “show the horse who is boss”.

For all of us, the first couple of minutes were very difficult. Our natural instincts made us be gentle, soft, and careful. However, that’s not being the boss. 

Some of us during that first session had a very difficult time taking charge of the 1,500 pounds animal when you simply don’t know if you’re getting them upset.  And guess what? This is another lesson that you can apply in real life to develop your personal leadership, especially if you’re a mom.

Do you feel like you give in too fast? Are you not taking charge and making difficult decisions to discipline your kids, simply to avoid chaos? These are all life skills we can learn.

Sandra guided us on how to use our voice, energy, and body to make the horse feel connected and trust in us. She also gave us pointers to understand the horse’s body language.  This was so interesting! 

It turns out that, every time we get angry, scream at our kids to project authority, to ask them to do something, we are failing at parenthood. This is why kids don’t do what we ask them to do. They either ignore us or avoid us. We get mad and the cycle continues! This is where a communication skills training comes handy!

When your kids avoid you, what do you do? Scream louder? Punish them? Threat them? Those seem to be the most common options. Well, horses can teach you that there is a different way to parent your children.  Wait, that too? 

Yes. When the horse is not paying attention and you want to show them who is boss, you reclaim your connection and gain their attention. Then you reclaim trust in the relationship. This is exactly how you do it with your horse.  And of course, you can do this with pretty much anyone! This first step – how to show the horse who is boss was my entire lesson for the day!

This first challenge made us taking a leadership practices inventory!

After seeing the dynamic of showing your horse who is boss with all the participants, I was able to see patterns and develop my own leadership lessons. I called it how to be a loving leader.

Becoming A Loving Leader

Projecting trust and confidence requires more than knowing what to do. A recent study by Bloomberg revealed that four in 10 corporations and almost half of the academic institutions believe that recent graduates lack certain so-called “soft skills” needed in the workforce to be successful, including emotional intelligence, complex reasoning and negotiation, and persuasion.

Becoming a good leader is about influencing others to follow you in a positive way. I personally added “loving” leader because I personally prefer a leadership style that is gentle but assertive and clear, rather than dominant and based on fear. 

The way we lead the horse reminded me of some of the lessons Dale Carnegie revealed in his book How To Win Friends and Influence People:

  1. Begin in a friendly way.
  2. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  3. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Arouse in the other person an eager want.
  6. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  7. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest. 

So How Do You Show The Horse Who Is Boss Without Getting Hurt?

It took us 3 interventions with the horses to really learn the lesson on how to show the horse who is boss. 

To me, during the first intervention, I needed to control my fears in order to connect with my horse partner. The way I was able to connect was by simply ask her questions like “can I touch you?” “is it ok I stand up here?”. Those lead me to gain more confidence in the process. 

Once I gained confidence, my next task was to make the horse follow me. Keep in mind, there are distractions. 

How can you get the horse to follow your lead? 

You increase your energy, your connection, and keep focused so the horse can “sense” that you’re the boss. 

The 5 Elements Of Leadership (Learned From The Horses)

  1. Connection– this connection needs to be honest, transparent. The horse will sense if you’re not honest. You need to be “grounded” and present. 
  2. Belief– you need to believe you’re a leader, or else the horse won’t sense that you’re the leader.
  3. Trust– the horse needs to trust you, in order to follow you. Sometimes this step is all about you trusting yourself.
  4. A plan of action- the horse will take you up on the leadership charge and is expecting that you tell them what to do. You need to take action!
  5. Congruency– once you get the horse moving, you must keep up your connection, belief, trust, and execute your plan of action, or else the horse will stop following your lead. 

These lessons were transformational for me and I could immediately see opportunities to improve some of my most meaningful relationships and roles. 

Learning How To Set Up Boundaries

Have you ever been in a relationship where the other person took a lot from you, and you ended up receiving nothing? Not even a thank you note? Has this happened more than once?  Is there a chance that you can see a pattern? 

Our belief system has been programmed for so long that we no longer notice that something is necessarily wrong. We just learn how to live like this. The longer we accept the “just ok” living, the farther we get from living the life we truly want. 

We become a people pleaser, complacent, and others take advantage of us. Or, on the other side of the spectrum, we close our lives and decide not to trust anyone. We become isolated, depressed, frustrated, and unable to keep a healthy relationship. 

Horses can teach you how to set up those boundaries!

This intervention was fun! Our buckets had food and we needed to show the horses that they can’t get it.

During this exercise, I was able to “channel” all my energy to ignore the horse completely. At first we had just one. Then we had two! 

I feel like my plan worked out! Both horses tried to distract me but quickly realized that I wasn’t gonna give in. I wish I can do this with my kids when they ask for things and put that irresistible face!  No is no! 

This was, again, another lesson we all can use forever! 

Can you notice in the picture below the body language? By the way, the beautiful white horse’s name is Blue. And the smaller one is Coco. They are both so cute. It was hard to say no!  But we did it without feeling guilty!  This is another area where having a life coach comes handy! They see what you can’t see.

Keeping Up Your Great Energy

Interacting with the horses the entire day made me realize how important is to keep a great energy individually and collectively. 

We saw how the horses were stressed when we, as a group, were nervous and afraid. 

In the afternoon, the energy was different. All of us experienced different experiences with our horses. It was easier to lead for sure. I wasn’t afraid. I was convinced that I can take charge! The horses were way more relaxed too! 

For someone who has never been comfortable around these big animals, this picture is for sure the breakthrough. 

I’m definitely coming back for more!

What are your thoughts? Do you consider yourself a great leader? What do you think the horses will say? 

Everything You Need To Know About Experiential Marketing

If you’re a business owner, no matter if it’s small or big, you crave 1 thing: brand loyalty.  A strong brand loyalty transfers into repeated customers who buy your products or services, regardless of changes in price or convenience. 

Brand loyalty isn’t about likes and followers. You can’t deposit likes in your banking account! So we need to make sure your marketing & sales efforts translate into steady cash flow and profit, of course. Make no mistake, your focus needs to be on building a strong brand, followed by developing brand loyalty

Does that make sense?

If so, experiential marketing should be part of your next marketing strategy. What is experiential marketing and how can you start running some experiential marketing campaigns? Keep reading, because I’m covering it all.

What Is Considered A Strong Brand

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos defined brand very simply as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” 

Seth Godin, a popular entrepreneur and blogger, gives a longer definition:

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter, or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection, or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”

Your brand gets represented through in pretty much everything that your business does on a regular basis, including the following four areas:

> Visual Brand Identity, such as your logo, website, and color scheme

> Brand Voice, such as your blog posts, mission statement, social content, and website copy

> Brand Values, such as the types of causes your company supports

> Brand Personality, such as your company’s culture and customer service philosophy

The path to build a strong brand doesn’t need to be complicated. Many marketers make the mistake of narrowing their efforts to customer acquisition. If this has been your approach, you’re doing exactly what your competitor is doing. How can you stand out? 

The way you overcome this obstacle is simple. Build something money or products can’t get you: a genuine connection with your customers, or community.

A strong brand is a result of connection and community. You can have the most beautiful website or write the perfect sales page, but you won’t build a strong brand or reach your revenue goals effortlessly until you build a strong connection and community.

Kendra Scott – A Strong Brand Example

When I think of a strong brand, I like to think about Kendra Scott, for example. If you know of her jewelry, chances are you know about her story. How she went from a $500 project in the spare bedroom of her home to a billion dollar fashion brand loved globally. 

If you have visited one of her stores, chances are that you have a memorable experience. 

And just in case you still haven’t heard about Kendra, let me give you some context. She’s one of the top America’s richest self-made women and she ranked higher than Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Donna Karan and Diane Von Furstenberg.  It’s amazing when you think that beading classes and $500 we all she needed to start a business.

There’s a reason why Kendra Scott’s locations are flourishing in the middle of the retailpocalypse.  She’s been able to create a connection and a strong community, using experiential marketing.

What Is Experiential Marketing  

Experiential marketing, also called “engagement marketing,” is a marketing strategy that invites an audience to interact with a business in a real-world situation. Using participatory, hands-on, and tangible branding material, the business can show its customers not just what the company offers, but what it stands for. Source: Hubspot.

Research conducted by McKinsey shows that word-of-mouth recommendations drive 20% to 50% of all purchase decisions, and experiential word-of-mouth recommendations account for 50% to 80% of all those recommendations.   

Experiential Marketing Examples

Experiential marketing is all about facilitating consumer interaction so they can have a brand experience. And this can be achieved when consumers can meaningfully connect with your brand, and, of course, can also meet and mingle with each other. 

Let’s not forget the 2 important elements of a strong brand that lead to brand loyalty: meaningful connections and community.

Here are some of the experiential marketing examples:

  • ✔️Classes or workshops
  • ✔️Product testing or tasting
  • ✔️Factory or headquarter tours
  • ✔️Giveaways and competitions
  • ✔️One-time phenomenon like street art, installations, pop-up concerts, and even pranks.

How To Build Successful Experiential Marketing Strategy 

In order to have success in your experiential marketing efforts, you need to see it as a strategy, not a tactic.  

The terms tactic and strategy are often confused: tactics are the actual means used to gain an objective, while strategy is the overall campaign plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that govern tactical execution.

A tactic is something you do a few times, but there is no repeatable system that can be duplicated. A strategy consists of a series of steps, all connected, aligned with a main goal, that can be duplicated.

Now let’s discuss the key elements for a successful experiential marketing strategy. 

Design Your Experience

How do people feel about our brand? is a fundamental question that every product or service creator must answer.

Without getting too technical, there are some basic UX principles that can be applied in order to plan your experiential marketing strategy more efficiently.

User journey mapping is an excellent exercise that can shed light on that. User journey map is a visualization of an individual’s relationships with a product/brand over time and across different stages of their journey.

Below is a map of the user experience journey that we designed to enhance the experience of our Networking Events for our Austin Networking Community.  

User experience map to build networking events

Our map traced the different stages of the users, from their first contact with our community, all the way up to brand loyalty. Then, on each step, we map the user’s mindset and identify opportunities to make a better experience for them.  

Make sure you keep your map visible so you build your experiential marketing strategy according to your design.

Purpose Driven Instead Of Revenue Driven 

Have you been invited you to a party and you ended at a business presentation? This is exactly what not to do

When you’re opening your doors to receive people, you can’t do it with the sole idea of turning everyone into a client. Your goal is to build connections.

A connection can give you introductions, ideas, and can also turn into a client. But don’t just focus on the third one. 

The most successful experiential marketing campaigns leave attendees with a great story to tell.

Kendra’s brand leverage charity events to bring their customers together at their location.  

Take a look at their invitation and note how their message is all about giving back. This makes consumers coming for a reason beyond than buying an accessory they want.

If you adopt a purpose-driven strategy instead of a revenue-driven, you will be able to serve others, have fun, and create a much pleasant experience. Just trust the process. You are building your brand. Users will help you build revenue. It will happen!

Narrow Audience Over Broad Audience 

Since you will bring people together, you want to think about an audience that actually blends well. 

Think about their interests, behaviors, demographics, and location.

Facebook Ads are a great resource to find your target audience. Using the saved audience feature, you can target your audience. However, you don’t always need ads to find your target audience.

Let’s explore briefly the 4 categories:

Interests: People’s hobbies, favorite activities, and favorite sources of entertainment. For example, if you’re hosting a beer festival, you might include people who list beer brands in their interests.

Behaviors: Device usage and purchase behaviors. If you’re hosting a tech conference, you might target people who have the latest models of devices or complex purchasing behaviors.

Demographics: Traits like age, gender, relationship status, education, and job titles. A leadership workshop might want to target individuals who have “manager” or “director” in their job title.

Location: Where people live (for example, your event’s city or neighboring cities). If you host an event in Austin, you can easily target anyone in the Austin city + 25 miles around it.

Research! Don’t just rely on what you believe. Take some time to research the audience. One of my favorite tools for audience research is Facebook Audience Insights.  

How to use Audience Insights to find your target audience, free?

Let’s say you want to attract women who are into holistic health from ages 25-40 who live in Texas.

Using Audience Insights you will be able to see the communities or pages they already like. Take your time to explore each of these recommendations. You will be able to get an idea of the kind of experience this audience is used to. 

Audience Insights also reveals your audience’s digital behavior. How do they consume digital content, what things they like, comment, and share.

Knowing their behavior will allow you to make smarter decisions of what channels to use and even the format of content you should create to get their attention.

Narrow Your Channels 

You don’t need to have a campaign all over social media. The more channels you have, the harder it will be to create meaningful connections.

In other words: less is more.

I’ve been hosting networking events for professionals & entrepreneurs of Austin for over 2 years now. Our key channel is our Facebook Group. We build meaningful connections and invite our members. We get sold out 100% and it’s all organic. 

If you notice our experience journey map below, we only planned to use 4 channels to attract users: Facebook Group, Facebook Ads LinkedIn, Eventbrite.

As a matter of fact, we haven’t needed any Facebook Ads at all.

Our community grows by 30-40% each month, organic.

Take the time to identify which of your current channels can bring you more opportunities.

The best efforts are those who can be implemented effortlessly. 

Always Lead With Authenticity 

The more virtual our lives get, the more we hunger after something genuine.

Gone are the days when you could succeed with flashing big checks, luxury cars, and a picture-perfect lifestyle.

Simply put, being authentic means staying true to who you are, what you do and who you serve. In an environment in which more human elements matter it creates value and benefits for your connections as well as improving your business.

Authenticity works because…

It elevates your business above the competition

It builds your identity and image into something influential

It gives substance to your business, services and products

It enables people to relate to your business

It helps people understand how what you offer is of benefit to them

It tells people that what you offer is of high quality

It marks you out as a reliable, trustworthy company

It encourages engagement and can turn audiences into advocates

When you lead with authenticity, you will find that your users will feel free to take your brand as it belongs to them. They feel connected. It’s because they are part of it. 

Kendra Scott now opened a Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute. Make no mistake, this has been possible because of her strong community. It goes beyond a product. It’s a mission that every Kendra’s jewelry user feels like it belongs to them.

To Recap

You will design an experiential marketing strategy because you want to develop a strong brand and brand loyalty. You want acommunity. 

Some of the experiential marketing activities can be:

  • ✔️Classes or workshops
  • ✔️Product testing or tasting
  • ✔️Factory or headquarter tours
  • ✔️Giveaways and competitions
  • ✔️One-time phenomenon like street art, installations, pop-up concerts, and even pranks.

The first step to a successful experiential marketing strategy is design. Start with a basic user experience journey map so you can craft the user experience with all the details in mind.

I hope you get inspired to adopt experiential marketing to build your brand. It’s one of my favorite strategies. 

Just in case you want to learn more about me, here’s part of my BIO.

Jessica Campos, JD, BBA is an educator, author, forensic digital marketing expert & strategist who is passionate about UX.  She traded in her law career in order to pursue her passion: helping entrepreneurs build wealth by taking advantage of the thriving content economy.

Jessica‘s 15+ years of experience in entrepreneurship, background in law and business, tracked online sales record, and her network, represent a wealth of resources for professionals and entrepreneurs that want to attain success.

Want to discuss your future experience marketing strategy?

Request an appointment here.