I was ill equipped to train a horse like Ripley. I had no experience with horses that had the type of fear response that he did.

Every single thing that he was even slightly concerned about rendered an over the top flight response. Fear as expressed from the horses' perspective is really something to watch. I had a really clear picture of what he was capable of and the danger I was subjecting myself to. 

What I wanted was for him to feel safe with me. And, me with him.

The elusive part of all of this was the "HOW". I had the problem, I had the goal, but the way to achieve what I was after was a mystery.

This is where all of the angels in my life come in. I had connected with some folks who knew about how to help horses like mine and I was a willing student. Their partnership with me and Ripley has been the foundation I really needed. I showed up when asked and for the most part, did what I was told. Learning the mechanics of setting things up to have Ripley develop confidence was my new religion. 

The piece that didn't come forward for some time was the concept of bravery. I spent so much time learning and trying hard to get things right. Trying to be neutral when Ripley was panicked. I systematically tucked away my fear. There didn't seem like a good time to acknowledge that I felt scared. What might happen? Would Ripley feel the fear and be afraid, too? And, then, what? I had been on his back enough times to know that when things got scary, they got REALLY scary.

Its only been in the last month or so that Ive been aware of that hidden fear.  For the first time I really let myself say out loud that I was afraid. I had been holding on to it and hiding it for what I saw as the good of us both (me and Ripley) . But, what I realized, is that it cost me.

It was fake bravery and pretend courage.

What I have realized is that the real bravery came from saying how I felt and asking for some help. I can't say that the sky parted or a rainbow shone down, but I can say that Im no longer carrying around a secret and that I feel lighter. Being honest with myself and with people who care about me created an opening for me to ask myself what is REALLY required for me to exhibit bravery and give my horse an opportunity to be brave, too.

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How can working with horses help me become a better leader?

This question has come up a lot in the process of developing Sincerus Leadership and its framework. Its something that I really have had to think through communicating about. How the horses have helped me become a better leader has been a no brainier for me. They give me instant feedback. I ask and then give them the opportunity to answer. How they answer tells me if I am being clear or not in my way of asking. 

Its the instant feedback that I find the most helpful. And, then, the practice of being honest with myself about the answer they are giving me. We humans have practiced dishonesty with ourselves so much that its hard to tell what is true and what is not. The horses do not operate this way. So, its this honest self appraisal that helps me to evaluate how effective I am with those I am leading. 

Take, for example, the exercise of leading a horse over a tarp. This may or may not be concerning to the horse. How I ask them to accomplish this task may or may not allow them the opportunity to perform the task in a way that works best for THEM. Am I willing to allow the horse to solve this problem in THEIR way? Am I so attached to the outcome that I miss the process? Do I guarantee that my equine partner is going to fail before I even begin because Ive communicated fear? Or, am I willing to ask my equine partner what they need in order to accomplish the task and then give it to them? Its most important for me to be more willing to inventory my part. How the horse responds is a reflection of how Ive asked.

These types of questions are exactly the kinds of questions that we need to be asking of our team. How can we become facilitators as a leadership style instead of "bosses" stuck in our limited way of doing things? How can a new and collaborative way bring us to a better than intended outcome?

This is, after all, what we all want.

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