The Power of Coaching with Horses for Personal Development

by | 11 May 2023

Recently, I posted on LinkedIn about my experience with coaching with horses. How amazing it was, and what an enriching experience. This made me think that it would be nice to reflect a little bit more on this experience and on personal development in general. Just a note: it is my observation and my experience; it may well be that a professional coach in this field would phrase it differently.

The path of self-discovery

I am of the belief that it is really important to go down the path of self-discovery and figure out where things that you sense, or blockades that you have are coming from. There are so many ways of doing this, but I have to say that the experience I have had so far with coaching with horses has proven to be very effective, and a honest one for me.

Truly, when you walk into the ‘arena’ so to speak, the whole experience starts from the beginning; there is really no chitchat time. From the moment you are with the horses, the fun begins. They immediately reflect upon your behaviour, what intentions you have brought with you that day, and what appears to be on your mind.  Admittedly, sometimes I really wonder how this is actually possible — how can it be that they reflect what needs to, or wants to ‘surface’ so well? Is my interpretation or that of the coach actually correct? But then, when I notice that it resonates so well, it just makes sense. So, who’s counting…

The different horses each have a role to play; they represent certain elements of yourself, for instance, the heart, but they can also represent a person in your life, or the emotional flow that this person brings with them into your life. You can subsequently work with that; the horses mirror how you respond to them and, therefore, what they represent in the session. The coach is there to help you read the situation and to keep you comfortable. I have to say I do find them big animals, and being so close to them is, well, a bit overwhelming at times. Sometimes you have to reflect a bit on what is going on — does it make sense what we see, do we need to interpret it differently? Ultimately, you have to follow your heart.

Truthful and vulnerable

I think one of the most valuable things for me here is, as I mentioned above, that they seem to mirror you so well, be it a situation or emotion. This makes the session much more intense than, than say in a regular discussion with someone. It lands at a deeper level, so to speak. Maybe you also need to be a bit brave; at least I feel I have to. You need to open up, face your emotions, and live them there and then, together with your new best friends. That alone is already a big win.

Every time a session is finished, I have truly deepened my understanding of myself, often at an emotional level, and it helps me develop myself. What is so interesting is that certain belief systems that I have, or ideas, really get challenged in a compassionate way. And if you are willing to reflect on it, it seems you are given a chance to discover something new. That ‘something new’ is helpful in your approach to things in life.

Now that I am starting my own coaching practice with the use of music, I can easily relate to using ‘alternative methods’ to deepen your understanding of something, or someone. I will touch on the music some other time. Fascinating subject as well 😉

What is overall intriguing is that we all want to find out what we really want to do in life, at least if we have the ‘luxury’ to do so. I want to be a bit careful here. Generally speaking, if you are working within the realm of what resonates with you, you feel more well placed, and you can potentially really make a meaningful contribution in a way that is befitting for you.

Finding what’s important

When I did the personal development programme the Passion Profile myself, it really helped me to understand what my intrinsic motivators are and what is of essence to me in whatever it is that I do. From there, it is indeed easier, and it makes more sense, to derive what kind of role or job it is that is most suited for you. Or what kind of focus.
This brought me a lot, and actually confirmed what is really important to me and how I should do the things I do ‘out there’. So yes, I am grateful that I can now use the Passion Profile methodology myself in my coaching practice. On the other hand, with the horse-coaching sessions, you can actually dive more deeply into some unconscious areas that you have and, on an intuitive level, let certain ‘issues’ surface and work on them. At least, that is how it is for me.

You may have noticed that I have not used specific examples – I know, this would not do well in an UN interview :-).  This is because I am still digesting the experience, and yes, it is work in progress. If you have a chance, and by no means is this meant as a sales pitch; I truly mean it from the heart, try and have a horse coaching session once. From my praise above, you can guess it is an enriching experience. And did I mention it is just good fun as well?!

Speak soon!

OVER Merlijn

Met Musical Minutes breng ik twee elementen samen:

muziek en persoonlijke ontwikkeling.

Al meer dan 20 jaar heb ik een carrière in zowel muziek als HR en persoonlijke ontwikkeling. Muziek is voor mij essentieel omdat het zo’n sterke verbindende kracht is; werken met mensen en hen helpen met hun loopbaanontwikkeling staat aan de basis van hoe ik mijn HR werk benader.

Het idee voor Musical Minutes ontstond uit mijn improvisatiesessies tijdens workshops, waar ik samenvatte wat er was gebeurd in een muzikale piano-improvisatie.  Het waren de ‘musical minutes’ van die gebeurtenis.

In mijn werk voor de internationale gemeenschap in talent acquisition vind ik het essentieel om uit te zoeken wat mensen werkelijk drijft en motiveert.  Voor mij gaat het erom ervoor te zorgen dat de mensen met wie ik werk het gevoel hebben dat ze worden gezien om wie ze zijn en op welke plek en rol ze het beste kunnen bijdragen, met echte voldoening.

Ik geniet van de combinatie van werken als componist en muzikant, als coach en HR-professional. Beide hebben elkaar verrijkend effect. Met de coaching en het Passie Profiel breng ik zowel muziek als coaching samen. Hiermee is het mijn oprechte wens om bij te dragen aan het leven van mensen, hen te helpen hun doel te vinden, en hen muzikaal in beweging te brengen, als begeleider van hun persoonlijke reis.


Musical Minutes was founded

to merge and combine two elements: music and personal development.

For over 20 years I have had a career in both music as well as HR and personal development. Music for me is essential as it is such a strong connective force; working with people and helping them with their career development is at the core of how I approach my HR work.

The idea for musical minutes arose from my improvisation sessions at workshops, where I summarised what had happened in a musical piano improvisation. They were the ‘musical minutes’ of that event.

Whilst working for the international community in talent acquisition I find it imperative to find out what actually drives and motivates people and to make sure they feel that they are seen for who they are and where they can contribute best, with fulfilment.

I enjoy the combination of working both as a composer and musician, as well as coach and HR professional. The both have an enriching effect, and with the Passion Profile coaching, I bring both music and coaching together. With this combination it is my sincere wish to contribute to peoples lives, to help them find their purpose, and to musically move them, to the benefit of their personal journey.