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From The Horse’s Mouth: How Horses Can Teach Us Effective Communication

by Kate Neligan

The idiom “straight from the horse’s mouth” means that we receive the facts and information directly from the most dependable and trusted source. As a life and career coach who specializes in equine-assisted personal development, I find this idiom fascinating and accurate.

Group session with CowboyFrom my experience, this is exactly what a horse does when we partner and work with people on the ground in an equine coaching session. Horses operate as mirrors. They simply reflect who we are and what we need to see. They have a gentle yet powerful way of telling it like it is, without any judgment or any expectation for change. In many ways, they are the perfect coaches and therapists.

Horses have an effective and clear communication system that consists mostly of body language. They are prey animals so they are sensitive and completely aware of everything in their surroundings. Due to this, they have a unique and profound way of showing us how we can have a deeper awareness of our environment and communication systems. As human animals, we also communicate non-verbally. When people ask a horse to move in an arena they have to be present in their bodies and communicate with clear intention or a horse simply won’t take them seriously. Horses test our boundaries and our leadership, and by doing so make us better people.

Horses also acknowledge authenticity. All of nature is actually a representation of authenticity. A flower never tries to be anything other than a flower and neither does a horse. When clients speak from their heart and release challenging emotions like grief or fear, the horse is fully present and next to us. When we go into our heads and try to figure things out they often walk away and are no longer interested. It is a game-changer when they move us out of illusion and back to truth.

One story that illustrates this is when I facilitated a large corporate team (I also work with the general public) and most ofListening to Missy the group could not achieve the goal in one of the exercises except for one woman. This woman was terrified of horses. She owned her fear and feelings out loud and moved forward anyways. The horse willingly followed her directions and she quickly accomplished the goal. The rest of the group was inspired by her courage. I told her that if she could face her fears here then she could face them anywhere. She learned that being vulnerable yet courageous and owning her feelings were her success strategies.

When people come to work with a horse there is no hiding. We communicate our personality, our weaknesses and our strengths often within the first five minutes of being with them. The arena is just a metaphor for our lives. The relationship with the horse is a metaphor for other relationships. We have so much default programming and the horses help surface our old stories, limiting beliefs and behaviors that no longer serve us. Then we can look at and test new choices that create better results in our lives, ones that make us happy with what we see in the mirror.



Kate Neligan is a Conscious RockstarTM ( life and career coach. Kate’s specialty is in equine coaching, where she teaches and trains people to develop effective communication, inner power, and leadership skills.

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