"Be bold, wild and wonderful!" - From the daily life of an Equine Assisted Trainer

10 Questions & Answers to an Equine Assisted life Coach

Our Equine Assisted Coaching course is hosted by our expert coach Mareike Ahrend. As it is definitely an unusual profession, you might have wondered already "What do Equine Assisted Coaches actually do?". Therefore, we have asked Mareike for an interview to give us some insights on what her daily life looks like.

Dear Mareike, how did you get into coaching with horses?

I have been around stables since I was a child. As a teenager, my dream of owning my own horse finally came true and I really wanted to work with horses professionally. For obvious reasons I first learned something "proper" and I became a special school teacher, at the same time I did the training to become a Trainer C Riding. After a few years I completed my training as a life and social counsellor, became a trainer in adult education and a supervisor. From then on it was clear that I wanted to combine this vocation with my passion for horses. Since then I have been happy and successful as a coach and trainer and love my profession.

I have been offering horse- and donkey-assisted coaching for children, young people and adults for several years. I also give seminars on leadership and personal development.

What is your coaching speciality?

I work in a solution- and resource-oriented way. This means that it is not about "Why?" but about "Where do I want to go?" and "What is important to me?" This activates forces to achieve a goal, a new behaviour more easily. The horses provide wonderful support. Sometimes simply by "being" while they sense how a client is doing. Then they sometimes come very close and let you feel their closeness while someone, lost in thought, tickles their mane.

Other times, when it's about setting boundaries, for example, they are allowed to actively participate. If a client wants to make space for them, they can practice their posture, voice and charisma directly and, for example, send the horse away without touching it. This is easy with some horses, more difficult with others. Just like with other people. Some people perceive boundaries and respect them. Others see them, but go over them anyway. And it is exactly the same with horses.

I see one of my strengths in coaching as making the behaviour of horses understandable for the client and then creating the important transfer to everyday life in order to make the coaching process effective.

What challenges do your coaching clients face?

My coaching clients often come with personal challenges that are simply the next step in their development. Some want to be able to set boundaries and say "no". Some no longer feel comfortable in their current everyday life, want to change something and don't yet know how or what. And others come with concrete issues such as a decision-making situation that is very important to them at the moment.

What weaknesses can you work on particularly well?

When I am sometimes dissatisfied or stressed and go to the horses in that mood, they reflect it directly. Then they are also restless, they knock over the wheelbarrow, they don't stop when I'm grooming them. The more stressed I am, the more strenuous it is to work with horses. When my condition is mirrored to me, I now pay clearer attention to my state and try to arrive in the here and now. I stroke my neck calmly and consciously calm down. Again and again I have to smile at myself and think about the people who have already shown me how I am today. I can definitely take the feedback from the horses more easily ☺.

How can you recognise and promote talents with horses?

Horses react directly to human behaviour. They show strengths as well as development potential. Especially in seminars, when I work with several horses and people at the same time, this is also particularly noticeable to the participants. What looks easy and effortless with Hafist mare Luzia for person A, only works for person B after several attempts. But when Queen comes into play, suddenly everything is different. While with Luzia you can appear more determined, this does not work at all with the sensitive Queen. The calm and yet self-confident leadership can be practised excellently with Queen.

You can try yourself out again and again and get immediate feedback on your changes. This makes the recognition of one's own potential particularly clear.

How would you like to help other people with this?

I love to support people in their personal development. Sometimes you go round in circles and don't get anywhere. I find it very valuable to get new perspectives through a coach and the horses.
My personal motto is: "Be bold, wild and wonderful!" Life doesn't have to be hard, it can be easy. And supporting my clients to bring a bit of lightness into their lives is something I find wonderful!

What is the solution with horses to the problems of the clients mentioned above?

The solution is always individual.

A common denominator is new perspectives that we work out together. There is not only one or the other, there is much more. Having different ways of looking at things creates new ways of thinking and behaving. Clients gain new choices and feel more self-determined and free again. The horses are very helpful and important in this process. I cannot know beforehand how the horse will behave in the coaching. Sometimes it is the little things that horses do that can be decisive. For example, if the horse is very close at the beginning, but suddenly doesn't want to have contact any more and leaves. That can trigger a lot and contribute to new solutions.

What can horses NOT offer in coaching?

They CANNOT recognise the status of a human being. As much as a CEO might like to experience it or perhaps secretly expects to be recognised immediately in leadership training by the horses on the basis of their status.

And they are not the main coaches. They support the process wonderfully, uncover, inspire, challenge and make things visible. However, the coach/trainer has a very crucial role in the human/horse/client relationship triangle and steers through the process through specific questions, their observations, feedback, interventions and transfer methods.

What is the most beautiful thing for you in working with horses and how do you recognise that your clients are successful and satisfied?

I am always amazed myself at how much the horses reflect and sense. Supporting people together with them makes me happy and satisfied. It is the fulfilment of a dream to be able to combine a vocation and a "life hobby" and to do good in the process.

I notice that my clients are satisfied by their changed state. They often have "aha-moments" that change their view and immediately make them feel a lot lighter. They laugh with relief, reflect and think a lot. The problem they came with suddenly seems less big and they see the possible solutions.
And I notice it because they come back and recommend me ;-). Some also send me messages telling me about their success.

I can tell that my animals enjoy the work because they are already waiting outside the coaching hall when I call them. If I then take only one horse inside, the others usually watch with interest and knock on the wall because they also want to join.

What positive resources can the clients take away and implement in their lives?

I often get feedback that in situations in everyday life they remember certain moments with the horses and the corresponding feeling. For example, a feeling of strength, determination, lightness, and they can then transfer this reference experience into everyday life.

How do you prefer to spend your "private" time with horses?

I enjoy the time with my animals when something can be, but nothing has to be. I go to the stable or the paddock to watch them and enjoy their closeness. Some days several come here at once and want to cuddle. Other days, only one comes to greet me and then goes back to the herd. Then I can sit down somewhere and watch them, see how they are doing.

For me, it's like when others do their yoga exercises every day ☺.

It feels wonderful to spend the day with your horse and to have made a good difference together. I can combine all the things I love to do. My love for animals, the passion for coaching, supporting people. That makes me really happy.

We would like to thank Mareike Ahrend from our Equine Assisted Coaching Team for her willingness to answer our questions in such detail and to give us an insight into her work in coaching with horses.