In advance of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the gift of a fellow leadership coach, Jon Veazey. Always seeking new ways to learn, I was intrigued by his newest offering, “Equine Guided Therapy.” My curiosity and enthusiasm triggered his invitation to meet Pearl at Jon’s place in Olive Branch, and the results were startling.
More than humans, horses must rely on visible body language and invisible energy to give and receive messages, Jon explained. Before introducing me to Pearl, Jon talked about horse herding and instinct, and the variety of behaviors I might expect, depending on my communicating congruently vs. sending "mixed messages."
I admit I was a bit nervous, knowing that her “read” of me could result in behavior as varied as shunning, walking away, or showing compassion and approval. As it turns out, I experienced even more textured nuance, after talking to Pearl about three different challenges. After each, Jon would approach us at the fence, ask what we had discussed, and explained what Pearl’s behavior meant. Each time, Jon asked me to reflect honestly and deeply on the exchange and to express how I interpreted it, from Pearl’s point of view.
Happily, two different topics resolved into confident declarations for next steps, which Pearl accepted and affirmed as we walked together.
Jon had already explained that Pearl had “acted differently with every person she has met.” He was particularly interested when her behavior included cuddling up next to me as I spoke into her ear, my cheek on her shoulder. Her chewing action showed that she was totally engaged in our exchange, Jon explained.
Another time, she walked to the other side of the pen, as if to say, “Whatever…” with some additional behavior I will not detail here.
Too bad the photographer left before Pearl accepted my gratitude gift of a sweet, crunchy apple. Again, Jon was delighted with the “dainty way she ate the apple from your hand, bite by bite” – which he had never seen before!
A smile fills my face and heart as I reflect on my time with Pearl; she proved to be an early Thanksgiving gift for me. Thank you both, Jon and Pearl.
I hope you decide to meet Pearl, too. Turns out that we have lots of interesting lessons to learn, from human beings and horses alike.