There are many elements that make horses special animals, mystical even, but one of the most fascinating characteristics of a wild horse herd is their ability to naturally self-organize. Do you want to know the irony? Self-organization is at the forefront of today’s corporate world. It is the element all industry-leading CEOs and executives desire, and even require within their teams. It is often the determining factor in the growth or entropy of a company.
Horses also have a social hierarchy that is very similar to humans. Historically, most people thought that the stallion’s role was to protect the herd. But contrary to popular belief, the stallion plays a secondary role in the dynamics of the wild herd by mediating disputes between the horses. Studies have since revealed that it is the lead mare who is responsible for most of the herd’s management. Like women in leadership, the lead mare will frequently be referred to as a “bossy mare” or even the “b” word. She is resilient, though, because the survival of the herd largely depends on her. Oftentimes, it appears that she is being harsh when in reality she is acting in the best interests of the entire herd (team) at that particular time. After learning great wisdom from these sentient beings, Amanda Held, the founder of H.O.O.V.E.S. and CEO of The Equine Wisdom Institute, always asks herself, “Is this for the greatest good of the people we are serving?” and the decision is reflective of that answer. From time to time, people are offended, but in her heart, she knows the decision is in everyone’s best interests.
Route to Destination
To grasp Amanda Held’s journey think “Erin Brockovich” meets “Pursuit of Happiness” meets “We Bought a Zoo”. Amanda joined the Air Force straight out of high school and served on active duty for four years. After leaving the service to become a stay-at-home mother, she struggled with the loss of connection and purpose she had while serving. However, her life took a significant turn when she adopted and trained a wild mustang in 2003. Through the process, all her shortcomings and concerns were exposed. During each training session, she worked through a different personal obstacle and gained a fresh perspective. Over time she gained self-assurance and started to realize her leadership potential. Following her personal transformation, she committed her life to introducing the world to the magic of horses.
It hasn’t been an easy road, frequently faced with difficulties she questioned, “God, why is this happening to me!?” People have slammed doors in her face, said that her objectives were too lofty and unattainable, and told her to just give up and find a “real job”. Even she herself questioned her dreams at times. There were even where moments she wasn’t sure she had the stamina to continue. But every time she was about to give up, a tiny miracle would occur and give her the courage to simply keep going.
For those who seek to overcome challenges and gain self-mastery, Amanda is the go-to leader and teacher. She works with teams and corporate executives who recognize that strong teamwork and communication are the keys to producing the best results.
The inception of the Equine Wisdom Institute
After spending over 10 years running her nonprofit organization H.O.O.V.E.S. (Healing of Our Veterans Equine Services), where she leads healing retreats for veterans, she was enamored by how profound the healing she witnessed was, and realized her research and work were required not only in the veteran community but also beyond. In addition to providing personal growth and leadership services to businesses, professionals, and women seeking empowerment, she has put her powerful facilitation process into a certification program and now trains individuals who want to provide equine-partnered coaching and healing services themselves. In the end, The Equine Wisdom Institute is a movement and a resource that links people to the powerful wisdom of the horse, so they can realize their full potential and, through the ripple effect, raise the consciousness of humanity.
The Equine Wisdom Institute provides life-changing workshops and retreats for leaders as they actualize their true, authentic leadership potential. Horses, according to Amanda Held, reflect the life inside of the human. They serve as a gauge of our sincerity and interpersonal skills. You can lie to your boss, coworkers, friends, and family, but you cannot lie to a horse. Through a potent, equine-guided activity, the herd reflects the leader’s blind spots, and the individual horses often take on the role of a difficult employee or partner. Then, during a guided process, new awareness arises, solutions are integrated and incorporated, and instant and long-lasting transformations take place.
Unbridling Our Strengths
The reality is that no one can achieve success on their own. In Amanda’s opinion, a team is essential for the advancement of a person’s dream. For a company to succeed and last, the team must work well together. People frequently discuss how difficult it is to motivate others. Amanda Held thinks it’s quite easy. She says, “If you take the time to observe people’s actions, you will quickly see where they spend their time and attention and what’s most meaningful to them. “If you make an effort to help someone see how what they are doing for the mission supports the things they value most, their motivation becomes intrinsic, and they will never need external motivation.”
A wise leader is aware of their own areas of weakness and surrounds themselves with people who excel in those areas. Making sure that everyone is working in a capacity that benefits from their greatest strengths is the goal, rather than being superior to or inferior to anyone else. That is the best strategy Amanda has discovered for creating a capable and productive team.
Lessons from Difficulties
Although Amanda encountered numerous obstacles on her quest, she now realizes that they were all simply lessons that showed her where she needed to improve. Each challenge has a priceless gift in it. She views every obstacle as a learning opportunity, but some lessons have had a significant impact on who she is and how she behaves.
When someone says “no,” Amanda first learns to try another approach. People will constantly offer you suggestions, assistance, or cooperation, depending on their viewpoint. Therefore, if someone refuses to assist her or says “no,” she looks for another choice that is more consistent with her vision and values rather than taking it personally or trying to modify herself to match their narrative. Many individuals along the line urged Amanda to alter or moderate herself, and in retrospect, if she had heeded their advice, she would not be in the position she is. The most significant lesson she taught, in my opinion, it’s possible to be true to your values and goals without making other people wrong. Life has many detours, and occasionally people come full circle. Amanda makes an effort to always maintain a respectful demeanor even through a difference of opinion. When you can ask quality questions from a place of true curiosity, and truly take the time to hear someone, you gain a lot of empathy for people. Taking the time to connect in every situation has a way of helping it turn out for the best.
Amanda enjoys working in partnership and collaboration with other consultants and facilitators who focus on heart-centered work. To provide her clients with a comprehensive view of true leadership, she frequently invites yoga, meditation, and other holistic specialists to work with her at retreats. She has discovered through herd dynamics that the head mare always leads from behind, pushing her herd forward to shine. She encourages the group to take the lead through their unique talents. She wants them to succeed, but she also gives her team room to make mistakes so they may learn from them. After all, one’s gifts are genuinely shaped by the obstacles they face in life.
Future plans for Amanda include carrying out more research on both human and equine behavior, traveling, and sharing wisdom with individuals who are ready to reach their full leadership potential. Every time she shares the horse’s wisdom in one of her programs, she notices a change right away. She looks forward to expanding her capacity for sharing on a global stage and helping more individuals transform their lives. Amanda’s dream is for the advancements brought about by her research to leave a legacy that will benefit both the leadership and equine-partnered healing industries for years to come.