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I was eye ball to eye ball with her when I noticed what kind eyes she had. Honestly I hadn’t thought much about the personality of this horse until finishing up half of my personal leadership training and discussing the differences between personality and character. This was something else to which I had not given much prior thought, but now these two words (personality vs. character) were rattling around my brain while I was trying to navigate this giant beast around an orange cone without kicking the cone out of the way. (A no-no since the cone represented colleagues with which I was earning trust.)

This particular horse named Sox had a very different personality from her counterparts. She was sweet, demure and easily rattled. She didn’t like to be pushed and would not tolerate loud outbursts that perhaps another of the horses would. Just like people we encounter in our work environments every day.

Working with horses as part of leadership development is indeed eye-opening—even when one has been around horses most of their lives. As a human with a strong personality (Type A), who prefers being in control, I can assure you that a horse can put you in your place pretty quickly. But, not in a mean way. Horses don’t care who you are, what kind of car you drive or your title. Horses are bias-free. They just want to know if they can trust you to show them the way in a way that they can understand.

Pretty simple, right?

Too simple? Well, yes and no. If we all managed, collaborated and led by example in this way, success would surely follow. But, the challenge is that we inherently fall back on bad behaviors or personality traits as opposed to allowing our character and values to lead the way. This was one of the strongest learnings I had from my day.

To succeed with others it’s important to value differences; to remember that we all operate at different paces; and to realize that sometimes it’s up to us to get outside of our box and go to where the other person is.

Sox taught me that in about 2 hours.

That, and don’t kick the orange cones out of the way.


Debra Ford

(281) 893-6008