Painting & Horses, a Workshop for Coaches



Beth Herman and I facilitated a fantastic 3-hr workshop for the International Coach Federation (ICF) to show how coaching with other modalities works. Please find below the article Joy Goldman, one of the participants wrote about it. 

Painting and Horses – a Workshop for coaches

By Joy Goldman, PCC  Secretary, ICF MD Chapter

September 29th was an overcast and dreary day, not unlike many of the days the latter part of September and early October.  I was one of sixteen lucky people who got to participate in Elizabeth Herman’s and Elisabeth Vismans’ ICF-Maryland’s workshop on painting and horses, and their use in coaching. This three-hour workshop was held on the beautiful Four-Quarters Farm in Hampstead, MD.  

After introductions, Elisabeth introduced us to our first hour of painting.  Her coaching to us was to suspend the judging mind and to be present to the colors that were speaking to us, and the strokes that emerged from us as we faced our blank canvas.  If you’ve ever tried to do that, you might imagine the potential struggle to get out of your head and all of your beliefs around: “I’m not an artist;” “I don’t know how to paint.”  “I can’t draw anything!”

In less than an hour, Elisabeth masterfully coached us to see the metaphors of our life in our painting.  How willing were we to experiment with bold strokes?  How were we feeling and how successful were we at getting out of judging mode?  What might happen if we were to let go?  As one who has never painted, I allowed myself to close my eyes and feel what wanted to move within me.  I experimented with thick brushes and narrow brushes; I allowed paint to drip on the canvas, in addition to strokes of paint.  I even got into throwing paint on the canvas (felt somewhat rebellious and angry).  As with all of us, the painting became the metaphor of our life and provided insights in a much more rapid fashion than any dialogue could unearth.

Next came our two equine teachers: Theo and Brodie.  Beth provided us with safety information about how to approach the horse and she made quick parallels between horses and people:  Establish the relationship first.  Someone has to lead.  Refrain from pressure moves which include looking the horse directly in the eye. You must display the energy you wish the horse to mirror.  It became quite evident that the horse’s sense of our energy was spot on from many feet away.

Beth then invited several coaches, individually, to discuss a current challenge in their life and then set an intention for how they wanted to be with the horse.  Each coach then chose to go into “the ring” alone with the horse or accompanied by Beth. Beth expertly coached each individual through their experience with the horse.  No words were said, yet each coach learned how to “speak horse.”  The power of their intention, and energy was all that was needed to have the horse follow, prance, or stop.  Yet the learning was so much more than about getting the horse to do what you wanted him/ her to do.  Amy Steindler sums it up so well in her comments below:

“I was grateful for the timing of the Equus workshop, as I was in the midst of a very troubling time.  Beth’s skillful coaching and Theo’s gentle, accepting energy created the path for me to return to my natural energetic state of calmness and trust.  I plan to bring several groups of clients to experience Equus coaching with Beth, as I’m a firm believer in the power of experiential coaching, having created and facilitated several in my own practice.  

Kudos, too, to Elisabeth, for pointing out that my tentative application of paint and color might be a good metaphor for the tentative way in which I approach creative experiences, and for the freedom that comes from painting (and living) with less restraint and more trust in the process.

Gratitude, also, to the Professional  Development committee at ICFMD, for making this program available.  I’m confident that this kind of experiential coaching has a lot to teach us all.  I’ll look forward to future programs, and recommend them without restraint!”

Our deepest thanks to all who participated and especially to Beth and Elisabeth for sharing their expertise and their passion with us.  For more information, please visit: 

Elisabeth Vismans, CPCC, ACC: Quality Within

Elizabeth Herman:


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Painters in action


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