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Meet Koelle Simpson of The Koelle Institute for Equus Coaching in Longmont

Today we’d like to introduce you to Koelle Simpson.

Koelle, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am a life coach and horse whisperer—and I’ve dedicated my life to helping others reconnect with their own inner wisdom and create meaningful change through a unique, transformative style of facilitated work with horses that I’ve developed in my own journey towards healing. In 2006, I founded the Koelle Institute for Equus Coaching, where we have trained over 200 coaches, around the world, to now also facilitate this powerful work!

However, my journey of learning from horses began much earlier, when I was nine years old. Like so many others, as a young girl, I experienced a lot of sexual abuse and as a result I’d become incredibly shut down and unable to connect with others. I struggled to trust other people, and the world around me.

Around that time, my mother became engaged to a man who owned a large sod farm in the middle of Florida. When I first saw the farm, and the large herd of ranch horses that were kept out on the sprawling pastures of grass—I was mesmerized!

I felt an instant desire to make these animals my new best friends. I thought it would be just like the movies, where I could feed them an apple or carrot and they would fall in love with me. Then—just like the movie Black Beauty—I thought I would have a safe, soulful friendship that I could lean on in the midst of trauma and chaos I was experiencing.

Turns out, I had a lot to learn. Over a few years of trial and error, I eventually came to realize that the horses were not interested in my attempts of bribery. Instead, their response to me taught me about my overall presence, and the emotional energy that I brought to their herd.

For example, when I tried to pretend like everything was fine, pushing away the fear and shame I felt—the horses would keep me at bay, moving away anytime I tried to approach. But, on the days when I was able to simply be present with all the difficult emotions I was feeling, they would allow me to play amongst them for as long as I pleased!

Their message to me was so clear and consistent. They weren’t looking for me to be perfect—rather, they were teaching me how to restore a sense of trust in what I was feeling, even when it was difficult. Over time, I became much more attentive towards the deep wisdom and information that was within my own inner world.

That time I spent with those horses—and the incredible insights they modeled—inspired me to then start working with troubled horses that no longer trusted humans.

I realized much later that I was also trying to show myself that if I could help horses restore trust after traumatic experiences with people—then there was some hope for me. I hoped I would be able to uncover steps I needed to take in order to further heal and restore my own sense of trust in myself, and others.

It was a time of profound learning. It took me on a remarkable journey: facilitating therapeutic riding for children, rehabilitating horses with troubling behaviors and, eventually, working for a horse whisperer, Monty Roberts, in Central California.

I helped run his learning center, taught students and facilitated workshops and corporate events while rehabilitating hundreds of horses in need.

It was then that I realized there was a need far greater that was calling to me more than equine training. I longed to help others recognize the remarkable insights horses can offer people, to help us—more effectively integrate experiences of trauma—to return to a state of genuine well-being within ourselves and connection to the world around us.

During this time, I met best-selling self-help author and Oprah columnist, Dr. Martha Beck. After facilitating an Equus workshop for Dr. Beck and her children, she encouraged me to enroll in her life coach training program. Martha became a dear friend and mentor—offering me a new level of understanding on how to help others live a more meaningful and joyous life.

After moving to Arizona, and apprenticing with Martha, demand for this work grew until I started the Koelle Institute in 2006 to further share this work with others.

This style of facilitated work with horses, now called Equus Coaching, is really unique because it provides clients with a safe, non-judgemental learning environment to witness their relationship patterns as they are mirrored back to them by a horse. Sessions foster an enormous level of self-awareness, empathy, self-compassion, and a renewed connection to the greater wisdom of the body.

Clients often leave saying, “Wow, that was like several years of effective therapy—in a few short hours!”

Facilitating such transformative sessions—and being able to share the lessons that horses have offered me—has literally been a dream come true!

Since then, the last 14 years have been filled with lots of work fueled by an immense passion to share these insights with others in order to help foster the integration of trauma, support self-empowerment, encourage vulnerability so we can restore our connection with one another. My journey has taken me around the world—South Africa, Europe, the UAE, Canada and all over the United States—to work with individuals and institutions.

This past year I moved to Longmont, CO, near Boulder. I’m honored and excited to share the magic of Equus Coaching with local clients, and get to know this incredible community.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
While this work has gained awareness and merit over the last several years, when I first began to share and teach Equus Coaching—it wasn’t something that many people had heard of.

Given this work is such a visceral, hands-on learning experience—it was often challenging to help people understand the value and impact of this work by merely describing it. It must be experienced!

People openly wondered how a horse could help them to improve their relationships with other people, let alone heal from difficult experiences. Some were nervous to be around such a large animal. Those early challenges required me to anchor much more deeply into my commitment and to cultivate new patience for, simply, sharing one Equus Coaching experience at a time.

The reward has been well worth it. Clients began sharing their own personal transformation stories with friends and family. Once more people started spending time, experiencing this work with horses, the word spread as more became incredibly fascinated with just how effective working horses could be.

A second major challenge came in finding other equine facilities to host workshop events.

I travel two to three times a month to facilitate Equus Coaching retreats around the world, which means that—instead of having my own facility in a permanent location that people could come to—I have to go to them and find facilities (and horses) there.

In the beginning, facilities owners were curious but cautious. They’d want to know what it is, exactly, that I wanted to do with their horses.

I’d have to explain, “I know it sounds strange—but instead of any riding, I would like your permission to turn your horse loose, to hang out in an area with a client, and let the horse be utterly free to be themselves.”

After these people would witness life-changing sessions for clients in-need—facilitated with the help of their cherished four-legged friends—they’d recognize the significance of this work, and ask me, “When can you come back?”

Some have even gone on to enroll in the Institute and become Equus Coaches, themselves!

Over time, as my work has become more well known, I have developed relationships with facilities across the country which makes that process the much easier now.

But, I still feel immensely grateful to those individuals who felt curious enough to host an Equus Coaching retreat in the early days.

Please tell us about The Koelle Institute for Equus Coaching.
The Koelle Institute is a world-class training institute and international community of Equus Coaches dedicated to personal transformation, authentic leadership, and empowered living which I founded in 2006 to help bring this work to more people.

We facilitate profound immersive experiences with horses to help individuals and institutions reconnect with their innate wisdom and gain a visceral awareness of the patterns that shape our lives and world.

Equus Coaching is unique because the way we facilitate experiences with horses offers an individual the opportunity to gain a visceral understanding of how their inner dialogue affects their relationships and everyday life, to then make meaningful, lasting changes.

It’s a dynamic approach to personal transformation that combines world-class life coaching with the timeless wisdom of the natural world.

In partnership with horses, our certified Equus Coaches guide others on a profound and personal journey to discover their own true nature and gain a vivid awareness of the patterns that shape our lives and world.

Also, it’s incredibly accessible. There is no riding required. The entire session takes place on the ground.

I’m often asked, “Why horses?”

A horse’s inherent gentle nature, curiosity, and desire to work within a herd or community will cause a horse to seek connection, even with people.

Yet—unlike most adults who have been socially trained to form judgments and think in terms of “right and wrong”—horses only reflect the truth of the present moment. That means that they will consistently mirror back to a person the variations of the ripple effect a person’s inner dialog is having on them and others in their surrounding environment.

Horses are remarkable for their ability to give clear, direct and rapid bio-feedback. This feedback enables the student or client to deepen their awareness of themselves.

With a 1000+ pound, highly sensitive animal that cannot be coaxed or coerced—both positive and negative communication patterns very quickly become apparent!

The feedback we receive from horses is so direct and honest, it leaves people with nowhere to hide. Although this can feel exposing, both the horse and the Equus Coach act as compassionate guides to create a safe and open environment for learning.

Clients often think they will witness a unique or surprising side of themselves while trying to interact with a horse.

But what we have found, however, is that when people are excited, confused, scared, frustrated or yearning for acceptance, they typically have the same reaction and use the same life coping strategies in all situations. The way we do anything is the way we tend to do everything.

So, while a client thinks they are simply interacting with a horse—the facilitation work with a trained Equus Coach enables a client to identify patterns that play out in their friendships, intimate partner, or with colleagues at work.

As a result, working with horses can quickly shine a spotlight on the key factors preventing clients from forming genuine connections to others and also from establishing a better connection to their own inner truth. As I mentioned earlier, clients often report that a single Equus Coaching session can be as helpful as years of intense therapy!

Equus Coaching clients are not only able to perceive their own internal patterns in a profound way, but they are also given the chance to practice implementing a genuine shift in their behavior. Within the session, they are able to embody the energy of the relationships they yearn for, and as a result, the effects are immediate!

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memory is definitely that moment I shared earlier, when I stepped into the field with those horses, on a sod farm in Florida.

It’s because of them, and Mother Nature, that I’m able to be here sharing this remarkable, healing work. I look around and feel that now—more than ever before—people are starved for a more meaningful connection with each other and the natural world. We’re living in a time where our yearning for safe, genuine connections with others, yet clients come to me reporting how they’re feeling more lost, more disconnected than ever despite lives full of activity.

Whether you (or someone you know) have struggled with disconnection or relationships, communication or leadership, or have struggled to move beyond traumatic experiences—I encourage you to discover the power of Equus Coaching.

I believe that when we take the time to learn from other animals—especially horses—we quickly discover that they can offer us a powerful road map for restoring our own essential wisdom, heal relationships, and change patterns to help us create meaningful, lasting positive change.

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Image Credit:
Phyllis Lane

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