How Arizona Broke Me.  A Horsey Tale To Open Hearts.

equus coaching grow your business from your heart heart led life coaching life purpose personal growth soul path soul's calling Dec 06, 2023
In Arizona with an array of incredible horses

Pssst *** this is a longer post than usual.  So grab a cuppa and enjoy it as part of a break from your routine.  I hope you enjoy it and maybe share in and learn something amazing!

And if you're a WLC trainee or recent graduate there's a little **suprise!** in the PS...

Every once in a while something BIG, UNEXPECTED and LIFE CHANGING happens.

Life was pootling along smoothly. 

But back in September a phone call took me by surprise. 

Lockdown had stopped play with a coach training course I'd desperately wanted to finish. I’d written this off after lack of travel prevented me continuing as the training was overseas in America.  For some reason, I'd lost my mojo and given up on this ever being a possiblity.

Surely it couldn't be as simple as speaking to someone? (You see, even lifecoaches get confused!)

After a 30 minute discovery call I - amazingly! - discovered I only had a minor admin fee to pay and, even better, totally forgotten by me that somehow I had done most of the homework for the first part of the course. 

So it was back out to Arizona.  To experience being coached in partnership with a horse!!

(I know. Tough gig.)

But here's the thing.

Arizona broke me.


Well, here’s what I thought as I went out there:

  • I thought I’d be going to get coached and confirm that the next step in my business plan – working to create an ongoing group programme to help healing professionals and coaches create their Soul Filled Practices – was the perfect next step for me.
  • I thought I’d be coached and confirm that Rose Radford (who is a rather brilliant businesswoman) would be the best person to work with in 2024.
  • I thought I’d have Christmas off and then create a group programme for healers, coaches and health professionals to serve more people doing what I do - with the added buzz, fun and accountability of the collective energy to energise us along the way.

 (I'd been doing a lot of thinking)...



Horse Story #1


Once in Arizona, staying with a brilliant apartment buddy (who helpfully could drive on the right hand side of the road with ease!), we got to experience being coached in this radically transformative way. 

It was my turn in the pen with the horse.

My coach for this session (one of the instructors) asked me what I’d like to work on, and as I described my ‘brilliant’ work ideas and that I’d like to see how they might unfold, the little gelding simply turned his back on me.

He seemed quite happy, snuffling around the round pen, snickering at his herd mates over the fence.  Swishing his grey tail, ears relaxed and listening.  But utterly, totally, completely not engaging with me other than a bit of awareness at a distance. 

I approached, and I asked him to move as I’d identified movement would be a good way to practise engaging with this programme as a metaphor.


Not a fly-swishing tail of a response.  The horse seemed quite happy, but solidly still. Worse still, to my little brain, with the previous person he'd been quite lively.

I quickly descended into a pattern of mine.  I felt stuck.  Lost.  Useless.

Thankfully, the coach called me in. 

“What’s going on?,” she asked.

I explained how I was imagining creating my programme, and how I thought it would be great. 

She asked what I made of the response of my four legged partner. 

“He’s not budging!” I said, swallowing a choking, familiar despair.

“Oh.” She said. 

Then, apparently ignoring my predicament, she asked, “Well, I'm curious, is there anything else that you’d LOVE to do in your work?”

I pondered awhile. “Well, I have also been thinking of setting up a transformational trek, maybe along the Camino de Santiago or somewhere else in Europe.”

“What would that be like?” she asked?

I tried to ask the horse to move once more.  As I sketched out my rough work ideas out loud to the coach, still nothing happened to the gelding as I urged him to move.  He just stood. Stock still. 

By now, this whole process had been taking some time.

More proof of my ineptitude, I thought. 

Maybe I should quite coaching and go find a part-time job in a library or something?

(It's amazing how quickly inner spiralling thoughts can take hold, despite years of coaching practice!)

Undeterred, and in a kind voice, the coach carried on.  “What would the easiest version of this trek be?” she asked.

“Maybe just going with 1 or 2 people” I said, my own back to the grey horse.

I wasn't sure.  I mean, the horse wasn't going to move.  I was a failure.  All my plans were daft.  And this horse had apparently grown roots and planted himself deep into the wood shavings of the pen.  Proving my ridiculousness.

Suddenly there was a burst of laughter from the crowd of fellow students onlooking. 

As I described this idea to the coach – one I’d previously dismissed as “too complicated” and “out of my comfort zone – heavens, I don’t know enough to do that!” – the little grey horse calmly and easily walked himself around the roundpen. 

Unprompted.  Freely.  

No roots, just an easy movement.

Trekking pace.

It was my turn to stop in my tracks.

It may not sound much. 

But when you are with the horse and you are fully engaged on your particular life issue and how it feels, the way this entirely independent beast responds is unbelievably impactful.  And when you’ve seen this same horse respond entirely differently with someone just before or just after, you know that this is a genuine part of biofeedback about you and your relationship with your topic.  Feedback reaching far back in time across thousands of generations who have been partnering with horses in every corner of the world.

I spent some time 'loving on' this now affable and wanting to be with me little horse, deeply grateful for his wisdom.

The experience of partnering went deeper.


Horse Story #2


The next day I was outdoors again with a young buckskin.  There was less active coaching, and more of a chance to practice ‘being’ in a state we might like to have more of in our lives.  Some folks chose to play, some chose experiencing taking spirit led action.  I chose 'following my heart' - a lifelong theme brought bang into the fore by yesterday's little gelding.

As I went into the session with him, the Arizona mountains peacefully grey-pink as the back drop, I felt my heart expand.  As I engaged with the horse, asking him to follow me, he did so. 

What a different experience!

He was nose to my shoulder wherever I walked. 

I stopped – he stopped. 

I took one large step – he took one large step. 

I wove left and right – he wove left and right. 

No eye contact from me, he was following me intently. 

We played in this manner for a minute or two at different speeds and paces. 

And then, back still to him, I silently felt in my heart that I wanted to practice boundaries and taking time off from my work.  I asserted silently, internally, that I need a break from being followed.  I took a single pace forward and he stayed just where he was.  I took several steps, feeling my heart-fill and open at the same time in the glow of the pink Arizona sky.  He stayed stock still.  Looking at me.  Waiting.

I paused again and internally stated ‘OK, I’m rested, ready to take clients back on in line with my heart’.  Immediately he came up behind me and stood nose to my shoulder once again.

As tears crept up I took a moment to anchor this feeling.

As I turned and scratched small circles behind his ear, I etched the feeling of living and breathing and feeling and deciding and choosing from my heart. 

I felt moved beyond words.  My heart feeling huge.  And broken of its pattern of being led by the head.

This was not a new thought, but this time I had a deep and VISCERAL and shared experience of that I can connect to right here as I write this.  That I can carry forward into my life beyond.  As deep as any experience I used to have doing shamanic work.

It broke me and my plans. 

And I couldn’t be more joyful. 

As I sit here back in the UK I know what this means.

It means no programme for now (that was a head idea.)

It means some uncertainty for now.

It means following up on any heart-centred leads, no matter how crazy, small, big, mad, unoriginal, original, authentic, solo, team based.  This is my pledge.

So far yoga in the middle of the week; not ‘launching’ for a January Facebook Challenge; not signing up to Rose’s programme.

And who knows what’s coming next?  I don’t.

And I feel happier than I’ve felt for months!


It wasn't just me…


And it turns out my experience wasn’t unique.

In Arizona I watched others have heart-tingling experiences.  I watched them find their truth and authenticity.  We made decisions we hadn’t been clear on for years.  We found out how to be in a state that was totally at peace.  We played.  We talked. 

In round pens, arenas and paddocks, the horses ignored us.  Utterly refused to move.  Galloped and trotted at high speeds.  Turned on a sixpence at the click of a thumb. And chose to be with us, following us as if being led on a lead rein... but without even a halter on. (Sidenote: the horse in the photo with this blog was on a lead rein for a different sort of exercise, most were unhaltered).

One of several horse trainers with us on the programme exclaimed how she loved that the horses got to be their wildest ‘most horsey selves’ as they engaged with us without constraint.

Most bizarrely it seemed, the same horse that took on the movement capacity of 10 pallets of bricks, would lithely trot, Puck-like, following the subtlest whim of the person that followed.  Another, lively and bold with one person would be calm and sensitive with the next.  Always telling the truth.  Always seeing right through us.  Always reading us better than we read ourselves.

The sessions were 15 minutes long.

The sessions will last a life time.

And as I met with my student colleagues last night on zoom I heard time and time again how this experience has totally changed their lives.


What’s next?


It’s back to the drawing board for me.  My years of training, practicing and teaching coaching tell me clearly I'm back to Martha Beck's Square 1-2 of the Cycle of Change.  Back in Winter/Spring as I work out what’s next.

I have a few hunches of course, but apart from a few little ideas that are entering the ‘Square 3/Summer’ of external moves in the big world, I’m treasuring the ‘Square 2/Spring’ as I avoid our cultural hustle to move on to the next thing, and instead allow the ideas to ferment, to percolate, to stew.  The right notions will make themselves known with a strength and tenacity of purpose, along with a feeling of ease, peace, freedom, play and joy. 

In time.

For now, I surrender and trust, and I know for sure I will be offering Equus Coaching sessions in the UK – in 2024.  If you happen to own a horsey establishment, or even a horse or two, I'd love to come and play!  Just drop me a line at [email protected].

Meanwhile I will keep you posted as something this incredible is too precious to keep to myself.  I want this for you too.

Wishing you a wonderful December, wherever you are in the world.

Joanna x

P.S.  To celebrate being a Wayfinder Life Coach Instructor, one of the things I am going ahead with is a SPECIAL student package for Wayfinder Life Coaches and recent graduates. 

This is a short package of lower cost sessions to help you experience being professionally coached while in or recently out of training as a life coach, and to help you move forward with whatever challenges and joys you are facing in your life right now.  In other words, help for you to find how to follow your heart.  Email me on [email protected] for more details, or simply DM me or book here.