Equine Leadership Program

Flavia PotenzaBy Flavia Potenza      September 17, 2021

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Equine Leadership Program
As the dust settles, Sabine Niederberghaus, Founder of Equine Leadership Program, calls it a day.
“When a human and a horse enter a journey together, two inner worlds unite and both hearts awaken.” —Sabine Niederberghaus, Founder Sabine Niederberghaus greets the young woman at the gate. Kayak, her black Lusitano bay gelding walks at her side. A big Weimaraner, Stevie, galumphs up to check things out and lets go a nerve-jangling bark. Sabine and her client, Ciena Nelson, here for her fourth session in the Equine Leadership Program, quietly say a few words and Stevie, satisfied he’s done his job, leaves to explore the seven-acre La Esperanza ranch. The two women are discussing which horse will pick Ciena and be her teacher for the day. Ciena goes to Chance, quietly munching a mouthful of hay in his stall, and gently runs her hands along the horse’s shoulder and over his body. Some minutes pass and she moves to Regalo, a Lusitano gray, who turns his head to her as she approaches. She repeats what seems like a ritual moving her hands across his withers, then leans against his belly, synchronizing her breathing with his. Sabine knows. “Is it Regalito today,” she asked, using her nickname for the horse. This is the routine first-time clients will experience as they are introduced to the horses and instructed in how to approach them with respect. “Having been a horse owner for over 54 years (and having her first pony at the age of 4 years old growing up in Germany),” Sabine writes in her website, “It is now time for a new way of going within…to seek out true authenticity and embrace the power within. I have seen very powerful, always-in-control people, suddenly understand the importance of building trust. No need to control everything. Leadership happens naturally through your confidence which reflects outwardly to the people in your life.” “It was amazing for me to see in just the first session how important going back to basics is and being able to drop all of the stress we carry around,” Ciena said. “In life we fake everything. I meet someone with a smile on my face, I present myself in a certain way. Here it’s impossible. The horses know if you’re faking. Just being present changed me and gave me a greater sense of confidence in the first session.” “Horses always have a focus,” Sabine explained. “Kayak was a Portuguese (bloodless) bull-fighting stallion. When he was in the ring with a 3,000-pound bull, that horse was focused. He was never afraid of anything. What this work does is bring that focus to you and then it becomes an interior journey.” Today, Sabine and Ciena walked the horses up the hill to a round ring with high walls to minimize distractions. This session would be different. Kinetic. Exciting. Sabine first demonstrated how Ciena was to lunge Regalo with no longe line, no whip, just her body, her hands, her focus, her energy. Ciena had been struggling with chronic illness since she was four. “Within the last year-and-a-half or so, it devolved to the worst point it had ever been. Sometimes I couldn’t walk for a week,” she said. “I was struggling with my confidence, my body changing, how bad I looked. I think that’s where a lot of insecurity and hesitancy came from.” There was no hesitancy as Ciena stood in the middle of the ring, arms outstretched, focused as she urged Regalo into a trot, then a robust canter. Sabine coached from the sidelines as Ciena changed her body position and Regalo wheeled and turned. Finally, Sabine instructed her to stop in the middle of the ring and wait. The horse stopped and calmly walked over to Ciena and stopped by her shoulder. Sabine is open in her website about expressing her own evolution through a lifetime of working with horses. “The horses taught me a skill that I was not acutely aware of until a few years ago...the deep intuitive connection. Learning to trust horses evolved into trusting myself.”
Photos by Bjoern Kommerell
Watching Ciena as she and Chance walked ahead to the paddock, Sabine stopped to make a point. “This isn’t therapy, I’m not a therapist. This is a combination of many things. Establishing the trust, then feeling it, stopping limiting beliefs, being focused, finding the truth in yourself, grounding. There are a lot of nouns and adjectives you can put into this equation. It’s about energy and being clear and focused and knowing where you want to go.”
We walked on in silence, absorbing this latest bit of wisdom.

“Every day is different,” says Sabine. “You wake up different every morning. The horses do, too. I work on myself every day. I’m not complete. The horses and I have to adjust to the next person who comes through the gate, create a new team. Every time. It’s wonderful. I love it. It’s two individuals going into this work together. The journey is long but the flow of it is so great.”

The Equine Leadership Program offers six packages: an introductory session; packages of three or six sessions for those who want to continue; Corporate Leadership and Team Building package; and Couples and Relationship Improvement package. n

For information: equineleadershipprogram.com; Press: Fox News, video.foxnews.com; NBC-TV “California Live,” nbclosangeles.com.
Above: Sabine bought Dominio, a bay Andalusian, for her husband...twice! The first time, when he was five, the sale was withdrawn. Six years later, he was for sale again and became Malcolm’s horse. “He is a true alpha horse, the leader of our small herd,” says Sabine.

Left: Ciena, here with Regalo, in her early 20s, has been struggling with chronic illness since she was four years old. The first session began with basics and horse ettiquette before Sabine introduced techniques for energy exchange with Regalo. Ciena found “learning to be present,” gave her a greater sense of confidence. She has since attended six sessions that introduce more complex techniques.
Flavia Potenza

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