Freelance journalist Linda Kohanov initially bought her first horse as a way of disengaging with the corporate stresses that she was subjected to through her work as a classical music presenter on a local US radio station.
Linda soon found that her horse, a thoroughbred, ex-racehorse, was a greater challenge than she at first expected. Despite this, and as she started to learn more about the animals’ unique characteristics, she began to gain the horses’ respect whilst adjusting to dislikes and needs.
Linda describes in her book The Power of the Herd how, as tbe relationship between the two of tbem improved, so did the emotional connections that she had both at home as well as at work.
Linda describes how this became a turning point in her life.
Working with horses quickly became much more than a diversion. It was the missing link in my education as a writer, musician, wife, friend, employee, and, increasingly, leader.
The unique and fascinating relationship that exists between man and horses is a subject that Linda uses as a basis for her own developmental work and over the years Linda taught skills related to qualities of leadership and innovation to others.
As she points out in her book, many of the greatest leaders of all ages had a close relationship with horses. This includes US presidents – one of the more notable examples, as well as the one featured in detail in her book, is Ronald Reagan.
Another US president to be featured in the book is George Washington and Linda takes the opportunity to evaluate the man and his leadership qualties through his equestrian skills.
Linda points out that one of the more common features of both horses and humans is that of non-vocal communication – an almost telepathic quality that many horses express and which humans use in their daily exchanges.
Linda refers to this as emotional intelligence or gut-feeling.
Of course, the influence of the horse is not limited to just that of great leaders. It also plays an important role in the development of cultures and socities throughout the world since time immorial.
It seems that even from the earliest development of horse tribes the psychological profiles of socities and those that lead them are reflected in those inner qualities of strength, power and determination for which the horse is so famously known.
One of the most powerful instincts to have emerged from the relationship between man and animals is that of herd mentality.
In her book Linda explores the chemical oxytocin and its effect in supressing aggressive tendencies and in foistering community and co-operation between members of the same species.
In short, it appears that oxytocin has the effect of reducing predatory instincts – a negative and destructive animalistic characteristic that pervades so much of our modern society.
Linda strongly suggests that when female mammals are exposed to stress they release higher levels of oxytocin which is amplified by estrogen. The result is the strengthening of affiliations and the enforcing of bonds of mutually protective social behaviour.
It is from this point of consideration that Linda then begins to explore the spiritual as well as philosophical connotations of her research into social evolution.
Here she draws upon the wisdom of the Chinese sage Lao-tzu and his observations regarding the way that societies develop. – though Linda actually comments more upon this subject in her first book The Tao of Equus.
She also considers many of the negative tendencies of those in our corprotized world who yield to the forces of aggression and dominance to effect change as well as actively attempt to control their immediate environment.
In closing part two of The Power of the Herd, Linda observes that
To become a student of the horse – rather than a calculating , disconnected master – is to master our own predatory tendencies… and as a way of
…tapping our potential to become visionary leaders…
In part three of her book Linda offers specific guidance and clarification on many of the therapeutic areas that featured earlier in her work.
Here she talks openly about the way in which, through recourse to a horses’ instinctual capabilities, we can learn to evolve the more disassociate elements of our natures.
She takes the opportunity to talk more personally about her many close experiences with horses and the immensely deep and revelatory insights that they have brought her in her life.
As she states in closing her book
As highly social, intensely mindful, nonpredatory power animals, horses are quite simply best equipped to help our species master the nonverbal nuances of leadership and social intelligence.
Anyone who is in the slightest bit interested in the world of psycho-philosophy will be hard pressed these days to find anything new in the subject.
It often seems to me that in so many ways the human species has pscho-analysed itself to death with still no clearer idea on who we are or what really makes us function.
Perhaps the solution to this conundrum is to be found outside of ourselves rather than inside. Maybe the answer lies in understanding our animalistic qualities and how they are reflected back to us through members of our animal kingdoms.
In The Power of the Herd, Linda Kohanov has presented a powerful argument for turning our attention to the horse both as an example of where our sociological roots are and as examples of how we can evolve through this intensely socio-pathological mindset with which our modern society is currently infected.
Quite clearly this is a book that those who have worked closely with horses will understand. For them, the case for using the horse as a role model for the development of ourselves as individuals and as a basis for forming strong social bonds in our communities, is probably already proven.
For the rest of us who do not enjoy the personal benefits that working with horses can bring The Power of the Herd is quite an eye-opener.
Indeed. this is a book that appears on face value to be, much like the horse, wild and uncontrollable but, as you work your way through it, a deeper and more subtle stream of disciplined energy is at work.
As it effortlessly canters from one point of interest to another one begins to perceive an increasingly speed and poetic expression that is in fact similar to that of a horse given free reign.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Power of the Herd and its unique perspective on the human spirit – one that is drawn from the authors’ appreciation of the deep relationship that we have with the equine world and in ways that we might not ordinarily suspect.
It is beautifully written and thoroughly un-repentant of its striking approach to some of the ills of our age as well as supportive of the beauty that can be found inside the human spirit. It is simply a great book!
If you are looking for a truly challenging, powerful and invigorating work – one that mixes sociology, psychology and spirituality with a acerbic commentary on corporate society then look no further. Powerful and gripping at the same time, The Power of the Herd by Linda Kohanov is a unique portrayal of all that can be strong and healthy within our society but which also points out that our failure to harness and guide those very same animalistic tendencies are in fact bringing about our own destruction as a species.