Learn how equine assisted life coaching helps clients on their transformational journeys at Fika Coaching.
When Leah Goldman embarked on her own transformational journey after an unhealthy relationship years ago, it was working with horses that transformed her life path and mindset. “While I found support through the guidance of professionals,” says Goldman, “the real healing came from spending time with animals and being in nature.”
Goldman now owns and operates Fika Coaching, an equine life coaching business based in Ipswich. Fika stands out from other life coaching services, which often look more like traditional therapy but with a heavier emphasis on goals. At Fika, however, Goldman plays on her expertise with horses to bring clients a totally different experience.
“Partnering with horses allows us to connect in a deep and meaningful way,” says Goldman. “They remind us to be present.”
Animal-assisted therapy, a growing field in mental health, has been shown to help patients with both physical and mental wellbeing. While healthcare providers typically work with dogs for animal-assisted therapy, Goldman has found specific benefits of equine-facilitated learning.
Why Partner with Horses?
“Horses don’t have phones, laptops, to-do lists, or other things to distract or occupy their time,” says Goldman. “They do not worry about what’s next.” Horses, along with other animals, are masters of living in the moment, unlike humans. “Horses spend more time ‘being’ than ‘doing,’” says Goldman, noting that one lesson she emphasizes to her clients is slowing down and being present.
With a client who struggles with anxiety, for example, Goldman notes how long a horse might stay alert to a distraction in the distance before going back to grazing. “You can see [them become alert] because their heads go high, their ears go forward, and their bodies tense up,” says Goldman. “I said let’s count how many seconds it takes for the horse to go back to grazing.” The horse, Saint, went back to grazing in 14 seconds. But someone with anxiety, says Goldman, might hang on to a “perceived threat” all day long. “The horses show us that once something is perceived as not threatening,” she says, “you can just go back to being.”
To work successfully with horses, clients hone their non-verbal and verbal communication skills, says Goldman. Horses help her clients more keenly observe another creature to create a connection—by learning new signals and cues, pausing, and listening—a skill Goldman says then translates to a client’s interpersonal relationships. This in turn helps them communicate more effectively with others.
“Fika Coaching reintroduced me to myself… I have gained a better understanding of what puts me in alignment with my lifestyle contentment and goals,” says client Erin Lane. “The non verbal communication with Saint is a powerful energetic force that brings such clarity to situations… Fika is a feeling.”
While closely observing horses, clients also observe their mirroring and modeling behaviors. Horses can both read human emotions and mirror them back to us, studies show, indicating horses’ abundance of mirror neurons in their brains. When horses aren’t mirroring, says Goldman, they’re modeling, allowing us to interpret what emotions are missing—”Whether it’s joy, play, calm, peace, or connection, horses will show us what’s needed in our lives.”
Another benefit of working with horses? They’re simply funny, says Goldman. When a horse makes us laugh, “their antics help take our mind off our worries.”
When Goldman’s clients partner with horses, she says they help build skills like emotional regulation, grounding, leadership, confidence, and building trust. These skills in turn help clients in their day-to-day lives, aiding in boundary setting, connection with others, and dealing with grief, loss, anxiety, and mild depression.
“This work is really about transformation inside and out,” says Goldman. Note that Fika Coaching doesn’t offer horseback riding lessons, only ground-based work with horses.
About Leah Goldman
Goldman has thirty years of equine experience under her belt, she’s an ICF Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and she has a master’s degree in clinical mental health. She also has an extensive background in the wellness industry in both marketing and fitness instructing, and it was the combination of all these life paths that led her to create Fika Coaching.
Goldman is also a faculty member of EQUUS Inspired, a self-mastery, discovery and leadership development organization that helps individuals and teams reach their full potential. Through horses, EQUUS uses evidence-based experiential approaches to help facilitate clients’ personal growth. EQUUS is endorsed by thought leaders and businesses around the world, like Amazon, Cisco, Four Seasons, Microsoft, REI, and Yale University. As a faculty member, Goldman runs equine retreats for businesses and their teams to come together.
Goldman drew on her Swedish heritage when choosing the name Fika for her business. In Sweden, fika is a daily coffee break ritual. “To take a fika break is to give yourself an opportunity to pause or slow down, learn to appreciate the good things in life, and to enjoy the company of others and build stronger relationships,” says Goldman.
Fika Coaching Offerings
Fika offers three types of equine sessions, depending on what clients are looking for. Their first tier, Equine Fika Sessions, just scratch the surface of equine coaching, offering a 50-minute session with Goldman for clients looking for a quick energy boost, some time in nature, and a listening ear. Fika sessions cost $55 per person.
Equine Heart Workshops offer a more in-depth session with Goldman and the horses. Heart workshops are available for one to three people, and start at $350 for one person. Workshops go below the surface, identifying one of two major themes in a client’s life that may need to be transformed. Clients walk away with insights that they can carry with them through their own self work, or they can sign on for Equine Soul Coaching sessions to go deeper.
Soul Coaching consists of at least eight one-on-one sessions, in which Goldman leads clients on a deep healing journey through conversation and hands-on work with horses. Through these sessions, Goldman helps her clients realize a better understanding of themselves, including finding clarity, recognizing patterns, and learning how to make sustainable changes. Equine soul coaching requires a $1,600 commitment for eight sessions total.
“As someone who always has energy going out to others, in my work as a therapist, in my life as a mom, daughter, and friend, finding Saint during the height of the pandemic was life changing,” says Beth Niernberg, LMHC. “Now when I feel disconnected, I head to Ipswich to reground myself and share energy with Saint. What we share is clarity and connection. I hear what I need to know, no noise, no agenda, just knowing.”
To learn more about Fika Coaching, visit fikacoaching.com.