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The EQUINE ENNEAGRAM…it’s not about the HORSE

A Guest Blog by Jane Strong

Part 1: Equine Enneagram Overview

I’ve been studying the Enneagram since 1994 and using it in my work as a facilitator and coach since 2004.  I’ve also been studying natural horsemanship since 2003 with several “Horse Whisperers” who have changed the way I understand and relate to horses.  Horses had been a part of my life growing up, but I never understood how they see the world and what they can do for our own self-awareness until I met a woman named Linda Kohanov in Tucson.   Her books and trainings focus entirely on what horses can do for us rather than we can do with them.  It was in one of her workshops that I realized I could “see” which Centers of Intelligence – Head, Heart, or Body – were blocked among my fellow students and which were most open.   Needless to say, my SEVEN mind went to work right away imagining ways I could combine these seemingly disparate worlds, and it didn’t take me long to develop several simple style-appropriate exercises designed to help my clients gain access to their repressed centers.   No prior experience with horses is necessary.  In fact, the less my clients think they know about horses, the less there is to UN-learn.

Why horses?  Well, as non-predatory animals who live in herds, their survival depends on being able to read and interpret the intentions of anyone around them. They can actually sense your heart rate, muscle tension and the depth of your breathing from 30 feet away.  Why?  In nature, a predator who makes a mistake misses a meal.  If a horse makes a mistake, he’s dinner.  These instinctive responses haven’t left the species at all, despite the fact that they rarely face this kind of mortal danger at the barn.  In addition, they have 340-degree vision, 140-degree range with their ears and can sense any kind of change in their surroundings through each other.  Linda calls this socio-sensual awareness.  It’s the same as when we “feel” the change in a room when someone gets angry or upset.  We just don’t talk about it very often.  Horses on the other hand, act exactly the way they feel.  They reveal to my clients the instant they’re being congruent and effective by how they respond.

They also teach us that we have much more control over what we “put out” through our heads, hearts and bodies than we think.  The moment we shift our attention, they do.   They’re kind of like SIXES…always scanning for danger and questioning authority.  They seem to love engaging with us, however, and have a great deal of patience as we struggle to get clear in communicating exactly what we want from them.  Coupled with the Enneagram, clients get both a somatic experience of how s/he comes across to others, as well as some powerful insights into the underlying motivations that keep habitual patterns in place.

For example, it’s often apparent to HEAD STYLES Five, Six, and Seven that they have a hard time getting into their bodies to reinforce what they want.   It then becomes obvious what we need to do to bring their energy and intention into their hearts and bodies to make a horse move forward, draw him closer or set a boundary.

For HEART STYLES Two, Three, and Four, exercises usually focus on teaching clients to be aware of their own emotions and to let go of their image-based defenses and just be with the horses.  (We promise to give them back after our sessions and workshops.) Twos, Threes, and Fours are usually amazed at how much awareness and control they really do have over their own responses.

For BODY STYLES Eight, Nine, and One, we teach them to modulate the energy they put out through their gut centers and allow the process to unfold.  Obviously, NINES need to focus and direct their intentions with clarity.  EIGHTS need to modulate their intensity, and ONES need to relax and let go of their need to display competency and control…to simply be with the horse…easier said than done.

Adding horses to the mix not only accelerates the process of discovering and moving beyond barriers to more effective communication, teamwork and leadership, but they’re also masterful at teaching us how to set healthy boundaries.  We learn to use something my friend Penny calls “minimum essential pressure”…big news for EIGHTS!  And, as many of us have discovered, “How we do one thing is how we do everything.”

As one executive reported to me after working with my big quarter horse named Black Jack, “This is like having my own biofeedback machine. I get an instant response to how I come across, and what happens when I change, just by watching this horse.”

This is the first of four blogs on The Equine Enneagram by Jane Strong. An Enneagram teacher, business consultant, coach, and Senior Member of the Enneagram in Business Network, Jane is pioneering the field of the “Equine Enneagram.” An Equine Learning Instructor since the early 2000s, Jane combines her Enneagram expertise and her work with horses to accelerate her client’s growth, transformation, presence, and leadership skills. Jane can be reached at jane@equineenneagram.com.

The next Equine Enneagram blog explains how to work with Head Center style Six.

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