I was a different person before horses came into my life. Actually, let me rephrase that. I was a different leader before working with horses.
In high school I was told I was a leader and that others followed me, but I didn’t see it. I thought of myself more as an outsider from the group. Never really felt like I fit in. I travelled overseas and the experience felt pretty similar. Team work came easily to me and I loved to make people laugh, but I never saw myself as a confident leader in any group.
From the first time I rode a horse at 19 years old until I was the Horse Program Director at a small camp, the changes my leadership style underwent would blow your mind! The biggest shift occurred during my employment at a breeding/training stable with show horses for the AQHA.
Those horses knew how to push buttons and were constantly trying to get away with ornery behavior. They required confidence, sternness, and consistency. At first, they kind of got the better of me. . .I didn’t want to correct them unnecessarily and I wasn’t familiar enough to know when they crossed the line. That changed over the next 3 years!
As I stepped into a new position of Horse Program Director at a small camp in Missouri, I was a much better leader. I walked into our small herd of 10 horses and fed them safely and confidently. Not only had my horse leadership blossomed, but I was able to carry it over into other areas. I was able to train, lead, and disciple the young people who worked with me at the barn. My leadership was not a bossy kind, but I realized I loved teaching and investing in others–whether equine or human!
Horses had helped me learn how to be confident, but not cocky. I had to be stern, but not dictatorial. Consistency was king, but I had to read context quickly and effectively so I could be flexible if need be. What amazing skills to learn from these large equines.
My work with them had taught me to enjoy the teaching process as much as the finished package. Sitting back and watching them relate with each other equipped me to read a situation much more deeply and not make snap judgments. Quick thinking is important and being decisive in tense moments is necessary, but we all respond best when the full situation is understood and taken into consideration.
These leadership abilities I collected from them have also helped me as a parent. . .but that is a story for another occasion.
Do you think of yourself as a leader? What is something in your life that has shaped your leadership abilities in profound ways?