"It's Not About The Horse, Ed!"
|Discover how a horse can teach leadership, self-awareness and how an experience at a Colorado ranch changed a family's life.
What began as an out-west horse ranch vacation for our family (including my husband and two daughters, ages 8 and 12), resulted in a family journey into self-discovery and professional growth. Are you aware how many ranches (and related Web sites) can be found on the Internet? The choices are vast, but the offered experiences all seem to revolve around the activities of riding, relaxing, and eating. Our family wanted something deeper. We found what we were seeking at the GREY WOLF RANCH in Victor, CO and ranch owner Daniel Grey.
Unlike activity-focused ranches, Daniel's approach focuses on relationships, allowing the horse to lead the person into discovery. He calls this a "ride to learn" method, and as far as I know, few, if any other, ranches offer it. Of course, an Internet Web site can be deceiving, so I called Daniel, and he led me through his approach to coaching, and through our conversations I became comfortable about taking my family to his ranch.
His mantra is, "You will leave here a changed person... the horse will teach you something about yourself."
When we arrived at the ranch, naturally our first interest was riding (get on and go), but Daniel had other priorities for us. The night before our ride we spent over two hours in a workshop discussion, where Daniel calmly led us through concepts that we would be applying the next day. As I participated in his mentoring experience over the next few days, I discovered that his concepts not only applied to riding a horse, but they also applied to running a business and living everyday in simple but powerful ways.
Insightful as he may be, Daniel apparently knows his limitations as a teacher, and he delegates much of that task to the horses themselves. We were ready to mount up and go, but before we were allowed to ride these 1,500-pound beautiful, spirited, and amazing companions, Daniel drilled us on the horse's anatomy and the riding tack.
We learned how to tack the horse, to be around the horse in a safe manner, to pick the hooves clean, to stand behind and even kiss the horse's big butt, and to know when we were outside of the horse's field of vision and were in danger of startling the horse and being kicked.
His accident-free record is a testament to his methods.
We rode western; reining with one hand, our butts planted in the saddles, with our opposite arm relaxed and moving with the horse's gait. All along the ride, Daniel and his ranch hand Jeffrey coached us on our form or lack thereof. We learned how to go, stop, turn left, right and back up. All of this in a couple of hours.
We had a fantastic time riding in a majestic part of our country: through the hills, fields, valleys and streams of Victor, Colorado. Sometimes the beauty around us seemed surreal, completely overpowering us. The setting also presented unexpected challenges (for us, but I expect not for Daniel and Jeffrey) in the form of lightening, booming thunder, hard cold rain, and hail all in one day.
Seeing it coming, Daniel gave us the choice of turning back or continuing on. We discussed it democratically, and then on we went. Storms came and Daniel instructed us to dismount and stand by our horses, waiting for the storm to pass. We quickly became cold and wet (and a little scared), but before long the sun came out again, we got back on our horses, and we rode on surrounded by indescribable beauty.
A special part of our adventure was being able to observe each other facing our fears, taking action, making corrections, and experiencing success outside of our normal environment. A horse gives you immediate feedback-- if what you are doing isn't working, you suffer an immediate consequence; of course, the reverse is true, too. Therefore, you learn quickly.
At the end of our riding experiences, so that we could take our lessons home with us, Daniel led us in reflecting on our rides and the fun that we had had. He reviewed the concepts that he had first taught us, and we took turns sharing what we learned. Focusing on how we each benefited, he wanted to make sure that we were satisfied with our investment of time, money and effort.
I expressed to Daniel that I learned that I will be tested and tested and tested in my life: by my children, my husband, my career, and by the economy. For me to respond to those tests with anger, by taking it personally, and by resisting the situation, I'm in effect creating more frustration for myself and those around me. Life must be lived in the present, and I must go with the flow. So, now, when I'm tested, I think about the trees that bend in the wind: if the trees didn't bend, they would snap and break. Another lesson I learned is that I need to be consistent, and "firm but gentle" when working with others. I now understand that my first solution to a problem may not work, so I can make adjustments. I've learned that stuff happens, and I don't need to take it all so personally.
Edwards, my husband, saw this journey as both benefiting his professional and personal parts of his life. He enjoyed when Daniel stressed over the three days about being results oriented, not excuse oriented. That really struck home with him on one occasion. Because he is someone who is used to being out in front of the pack, when his horse wouldn't go as fast as the others, he complained to Daniel, telling him, "You gave me a slow horse!" Daniel looked over to him and gently replied: "You're on Tonto, he is one of my fastest horses. It's not about the horse, Ed."
Our older daughter, Sarah, also learned some valuable things about herself. For example, her sometimes selfish desires can severely impact the group. Once, when she went galloping off, the other horses, acting as herd animals, wanted to follow, which caused stress for the rest of us. She also learned that little things matter, in fact sometimes her safety depends on it.
Our younger daughter, Elizabeth, surprised us because she's very independent and used to keeping up with her sister. However, on this journey, most of the time, Daniel had her tethered to Jeffrey and his horse. I expected her to moan and complain, But, she willingly accepted a lower degree of freedom and let go of control. And she still had a great time. When they cantered, her smile was priceless.
At the end of our three days and before we departed, we spent some time with Daniel discussing how we could partner with each other in the future, as he already works with corporate leadership teams, couples and families.
I look forward to returning to the ranch on a collaborative project. If this experience sounds like something that would benefit you and your team or family, and you may have an interest in being a part of a future group to experience Grey Wolf Ranch with us, please contact me.
Contact Melba at 301-854-2388 or
Or you can reach Daniel Grey directly at (719)302-5906, and tell him the Hollidays sent you.
CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE GREY WOLF RANCH WEBSITE
© Copyright Melba Sammons Holliday 2009
Photos: Copyright Edwards Holliday 2009