Life Lessons From Horses – Understanding Another’s Point of View

One of the big mistakes that people make when working with horses is assuming that a horse thinks like a human. As a matter of fact, horses perceive the entire world differently than we do. If we acknowledge that fact, and try to understand that, then we can communicate more effectively with horses.

A horse is a prey animal. He is built to stay safe in the wild. His eyes are on the side of this head so he can see almost 360 degrees around him. Those eyes are also a long way from his mouth so he can see farther when grazing. But, most of all, a horses is programmed deep in his bones to run away from a perception of danger. It is easy to make a horse afraid because it is in his nature to be afraid. For example, because a horse’s eyes are on the side of his head, he doesn’t have very good stereoscopic vision or depth perception at close range. He can’t tell if a puddle or stream is 2 inches deep or 20 feet deep. If you ask a horse to cross a small stream, he may balk. To our eyes, it should be simple to see that it’s just a little water. The horse doesn’t know that and may refuse. It may seem like the horse is refusing because he is obstinate or disrespectful. But, in reality, he is afraid. And he’s not afraid he’ll get hurt, he’s afraid he will die.

As humans, if we approach the issue as if the horse is being disrespectful and won’t mind, there is a danger of the episode escalating to something ugly for both parties. However, if we acknowledge his fear and understand his perspective, we can work with the horse to show him that the stream is nothing to be afraid of. Our understanding if his point of view makes all the difference. When it comes to people we assume that others think like us. The business owner doesn’t understand why the employee doesn’t want to work all weekend. The boss thinks about her business all the time and how to make it better. The employee only wants to do his job from 8:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, then go home to his family. If the boss doesn’t understand this difference of perspective, it can lead to friction and resentment in the relationship.

My horses have taught me to try to understand everyone’s point of view and that not everyone has the same perspective I do. When we understand each other, we can work together.

You don’t have to have a horse to learn how horsemanship will help you be a better leader. Let me share my life lessons I learned while astride my horse.

Jay Koch

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