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Author uses horses to teach lessons about humans

Terri Schlichenmeyer

 “Think Like a Horse: Lessons in Life, Leadership, and Empathy from an Unconventional Cowboy” by Grant Golliher

c.2022, Putnam, $28, 260 pages


The guy on the opposing side is many times your weight and more than twice your girth.

He’s not happy, either. He’s snorting and huffing and pacing, eyes wild, and he might lash out at any minute. Thing is, you have to work with this guy, so there’s gotta be a way to get him on your side. With the new book, “Think Like a Horse” by Grant Golliher, why not learn how to make him your partner?

When Wyoming rancher and horseman Golliher brings corporate clients to his historic Diamond Cross Ranch for team-building experiences, execs are often amazed that he can take a horse from terrified to saddle-worthy in a surprisingly short time. During that process, as they stand aside to watch, Golliher teaches corporate teams that getting cooperation from an equine is a lot like getting it from a human.

People and horses need many of the same things to succeed, he says: “... trust, patience, firmness, kindness and respect” are essential, no matter how many legs your ‘friends’ stand on. And “if you don’t believe in a horse – or a person, for that matter – you shouldn’t be working with him in the first place.”

Golliher says the best way to deal with human and horse is by “trying to put yourself inside the experience of another.” Know what they dislike, what motivates them, and what makes them comfortable enough to trust. If you’re surprised by their actions, you weren’t paying enough attention. 

“Be as soft as you can,” Golliher says, “but be as firm as necessary.”

Don’t tolerate attitude, but discipline with love. Give credit to someone who’s trying, and praise the “smallest change.” Don’t ask questions if you don’t really want the answer. Learn what T-R-U-S-T stands for, then work to get it and keep it. Never be afraid to “move your feet.” Set clear boundaries and expectations. “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult,” Golliher says, and then let them have “the freedom to choose.”

The first time you run through “Think Like a Horse,” you may believe that the book is little more than the reminisces of a cowpoke. That should spur you to run through it again, because there’s a lot more to this book than just horseflesh.

It is true that Golliher writes primarily about horses here and that, in itself, is very entertaining, in the way that an old-time western or a weekend ride can make you smile. There’s an easy feel to that and it somewhat cloaks the advice, leaving behind lessons that you may not initially realize you’ve learned. Then again, it’s not all happy trails: readers who are looking specifically for help getting the most out of life with co-workers, employees, kids, neighbors, or students will quickly see that they’re in the right arena.

And so, if your relationships are anything less than stable, read “Think Like a Horse” and then trot out what you’ve gleaned. Learn from its methods and let its stories rope you in.