Guest blog by Danny Beyer, connector, speaker and author of The Ties that Bind: Networking with Style.
I first met Kim Waltman when she emailed me after an article I had published caught her attention. We met at the Machine Shed in Clive, Iowa, for an early morning cup of coffee. She walked into the restaurant, a couple minutes late, and apologized profusely for any perceived rudeness. Her bubbly personality, and talk of being a marketer, fit the dress and heels that accompanied it. I quickly made my assessment of this new connection based on her outward appearance. She was like every other marketer in Des Moines, busy, high energy, talkative, and very driven. Then the conversation took an expected turn and everything changed.
I still remember the question I asked, “So, what do you do for fun?” That was all it took. Her response? “I ride horses and drive cattle.” Hold up, what? This delicate, dressy, all of 100 pounds soaking wet lady likes to drive cattle on horseback? What did I miss? The rest of the conversation shed additional light and started me down a new path I wouldn’t have been able to conceive thirty minutes prior to meeting Kim.
Turns out, she was raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The daughter of a successful family, she formed her own marketing communications company 18 years ago and was doing well. She spoke of having all the things we consider important in today’s society - nice clothes, custom-built house, a nice vehicle, the list goes on. But she sensed something was missing. Growing up, her family owned cattle and row crop operations in Iowa and in her father’s home state of South Dakota. Her parents required her and her brother to lend a hand whenever they could in order to cultivate a good work ethic. The only aspect of work in rural space Kim enjoyed was the occasional horseback ride once the work was completed. She preferred visits to her mother’s side of the family in Chicago over rural Iowa adventures. She was a city girl, through and through.
At least that’s what she thought. Time, maturity and some gentle coaxing from the horses in her life brought the discovery that there was more to the livestock and rural land than she originally thought. Ranching has been in her father’s family for more than 100 years. She found herself growing more curious of the lifestyle and its purpose and made the decision to return to the family business with an open heart and mind. From 2010 to mid-2015, she spent several days a week and every possible weekend at her family’s southern Iowa operation. Little by little, she also noticed significant changes in herself whenever she partnered with her horses for ranch work. She was calm, at ease, patient, more confident and better able to control her emotions. As any good marketer would do, she questioned what was going on and wanted to know why.
Fast forward a couple of years, volumes of research and some inspiring coaches and mentors: She found her answer.
It turns out it was the horses all along. The horses were teaching her through their perception of her and their non-verbal communication everything she needed to know about herself (and even what she didn’t!). She can tell you about the science behind ‘why horses’ make impactful teachers. She can explain how they read a human’s heart energy from 10 feet away and how their non-judgmental way of showing up provides soulful insights into how authentically a person is living. With Kim’s horses and her as your coach, you can also experience it for yourself.
This is where I come into the story. Kim and I have talked at length about how she is able to teach Emotional Intelligence (EQ) by using her horses as guides. I have personally experienced it both in a group setting and individually. A previous blog I wrote about my personal experience is one of the most viewed on my site.
“Who knew so much could be learned about oneself without saying one word? After just a couple of hours working with Kim’s awe-inspiring horse herd, I have a new appreciation for the power of nonverbal communication. I notice how my daughters and wife feed off of one another’s emotions, and mine, without any of us saying a word. Moreover, I understand how easy it is to use this emotional influence to quickly diffuse a high-stress situation at work.”
It was so impactful that I wanted to share it with a group of friends and let them tell their stories so you, the reader, can have a better idea of what it means to learn these soft skills with horses as a guide.