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Written July 2007, first published on this site 10 August 2010

Equus + Emergence = EGEL

John Farrell

People are the experts of their own lives. Consciously aware of their behaviours but where did those behaviours come from? What’s going on when they react instinctively (unconsciously) and why can it be so different to what they think they should do?

The object of this article is to give the reader an insight into working at a level where the expert can take responsibility and resolve whatever is holding them back, in a safe relationship that facilitates the client to genuinely think, feel and act authentically.

We approach this at Equine Guided Emergent Learning (EGEL) with the use of Clean Language and Emergent Knowledge techniques in an equine environment.

Life Force
Kinetic Energy
Trapped Life Force
Metaphysical Structure
Potential Energy
Thermal Energy

(It is very unusual for horses to lie like this – one always stands guard. We could even approach them to within a few metres. Most horse people have not experienced this. I put it down to the connection we had.)

Equine Guided Emergent Learning: EGEL

Life Force: an unseen "life force energy" flows through us and is what causes us to be alive.

As a person’s life unfolds, their character is molded and defined by ‘Significant Emotional Events’ (S.E.E.) both positive and negative. At these moments of S.E.E. the person dissociates, Life Force is used to create a metaphysical structure to hold the memory of that event and they become fragmented.

An authentic person is whole with the full Life Force of youth, S.E.E.s cause the whole to fragment, so today we are a collective of life experiences. That present collective of fragmented ‘selves’ is out of balance and the human system attempts to maintain the status quo. We see this as dis-ease. To gain authenticity is to regain wholeness or balance and this is achieved by resolving the S.E.E. As a result, the frozen Life Force is retrieved.

In general, dissociation is a defence mechanism that everyone uses every day. In its most common form, mild dissociation includes "zoning out", or doing things on "autopilot”. It is a form of self-hypnosis. You may dissociate more when you are bored, it can be a feature of creativity and imagination.

When an event or a series of events is emotionally stressful, you dissociate. This is self-protective but can interfere with your quality of life. Instead of emotionally overloading, the mind helps your soul escape. You observe the experience as not being in your body, but somewhere else, witnessing, and the memory of these events are held in metaphysical structures.

To do therapy effectively you need to work at this level; anything less is dealing with the symptoms not the cause. Deal with symptoms and success will be sporadic. The fragmented person develops coping strategies to help an inability to deal with life and to achieve balance. Symptoms may be feelings of anger; inadequacy or insecurity; lack of personal power; fear or low self-esteem. In some people feelings are hidden and not dealt with in a healthy manner. They can suffer from addictions or depression at one end of the scale to incongruence and a lack of authenticity at the other.

A S.E.E. in a person’s young life may in their adult life seem trivial, however at that age with no life experience, any event can be overwhelming, e.g. a curtain brushing against the baby's crib. These events shape our character. A person dissociates at the moment of an emotional event, but where do they go and how can we resolve this fragmentation and achieve authenticity?

Life Force Energy

Kinetic: energy of motion, accessible
Thermal: energy that is in transition, it can result in cooling or heating of the client.
Potential: energy that is stored and not available

It is our perception of events that define how significant an event is going to be. In the moment of a S.E.E., there is a transition of Life Force from Kinetic through Thermal Energy to Potential Energy. The Potential energy is held in a metaphysical structure, the energy is dependent on the significance of the event. In shock, a person will become cold as the (Thermal) energy moves across from 'available' to 'held'. As we grow older, we gradually lose vitality or Life Force. To regain this vitality each individual has to unravel those metaphysical structures that have trapped Life Force.

It's not reality, it's our perception of reality that defines who we are.


Animals have an energetic resonance with humans. An experienced rider knows about a horse's uncanny ability to sense what you're thinking and either to follow it or to do exactly the opposite.

What makes horses exceptional for this work is their presence, a power archetype while at the same time they are an intelligent, sensitive, feeling creature. This affects the sensitivities of clients, making them more self aware and accepting of themselves, recognising what they have been denying or what has been repressed.

Horses depend on powerful instincts for survival and are acutely sensitive to another’s reactions. They have a want to belong and be in a safe environment. Incongruence and fragmentation in a person will send out warnings to the horse. They are not energetically attracted to the fragmented person and will not interact, indicating this in subtle ways. Working with a horse promotes experiential learning and they become a mirror for the client.

Within an Equine environment, people are able to identify when they are incongruent
or give away their personal power to cope with life issues.

Guiding this resolution?

The processes of Clean Language, Experiential Learning and Emergent Knowledge are the techniques to achieve resolution. The client emerges hitherto inaccessible information from within their own system, with the facilitator as a guide.

Physician Heal Thyself

Intruding our reality!

How is the facilitator’s presence intruding on the client’s reality?

We all have our own personal life experience, unique to us, some of which is held in these metaphysical structures, our own worldviews, opinions and judgments. A complicated morass that has ultimately created the character that we are today.

To have a sense or even try to understand anyone else’s life experience is to see it through the lens of our own perspective; to make judgments based on our own metaphysical structures. Therefore as a coach, intruding our reality would be overlaying our stuff on to our client's reality. We would be adding to their layers, complications and foreign systems. Since the best person to comprehend and resolve these metaphysical structures is the client themselves, our intention is to guide a client towards the resolution of these metaphysical structures without ‘intruding our reality’ - hence a ‘Clean Philosophy’.

When we intrude our reality we:

Become involved in the clients story:

Asking ‘why’ questions (asking the client to justify). Your ego has a need to understand the client’s metaphors, words and story. The tendency here is to ask for more information for your own ends. Who needs the clarification?

Say ‘I understand’, agreeing with the client.

Empathy helps the client to stay stuck in their issues and doesn’t help. With Clean Language and Emergence however, the aim is that the client will heal themselves so we hold the intention that they develop a sense of taking responsibility for the session.

Use our own words to describe a client’s problem (reframing).

Using words other than the client’s own language redefines their understandings and they can only comprehend what the facilitator has said from their worldview. This influences the client's own perception of their issue. We may know what works in our world but not the client's.

Because we are seeking to unravel the worlds of the client, we should only ask questions that match the unravelling required using Clean Language, Clean Space and Emergent Knowledge processes

David Grove developed Clean Language and Emergent Knowledge over 30 years, working with thousands of clients around the world. Clean questions are open and un-intrusive for the client, they are questions the client's system is likely to be expecting and so emergence can happen. This work emerges information and knowledge from the unconscious, previously unknown and unavailable to the client.

The delivery is precise in its methodology, including but not limited to, timing and language. Proceeding through patterns of Clean Questions there is a smooth and easy flow for the unconscious and conscious to move from answer to answer. But it is much more than this. If only 7% of our communication is verbal, what goes on with the rest? How is our presence intruding on the client? We come with our agenda (in the client's conscious) - the horse doesn’t, hence the mirror.

The approach at EGEL with David Grove's work has been one of a ‘Clean Philosophy’. We are continuously looking for ways to develop the client’s resolution of this frozen life force through metaphor and emergence, while simultaneously endeavouring to limit our influence in the process (keeping it Clean).


Clean Space is the core of the work we are presently doing to develop a theory and practice for EGEL.

Clean Space

In Neuro-Linguitsic Programming (NLP) we learn about Perceptual Positions: first, second and third position are given a location by the facilitator. The facilitator provides the characteristics associated with these spaces, often with metaphors such as: 'seeing out of your own eyes', 'standing in the other person's shoes', 'a fly-on-the-wall position'. The facilitator guides the client through a sequence of moves from position to position - usually with the liberal use of metaphors to instruct the client to 'leave that experience there', 'step out of that', etc. In these techniques the location of the space, the form of the perception and the order of moves are to varying degrees predetermined by the facilitator.

Clean Space is like doing Perceptual Positions, without the facilitator identifying the spaces or characteristics associated with that space. In Clean Space, each item and/or position is identified and developed by the client. The whole process emerges out of the client's innate ability to, as Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner put it, "conceptually blend" their perception of metaphorical space with their perception of physical space. [1]

Perceptual Space

This is our subjective experience of ‘a space’. That space is the physical space around or in our bodies, which we identify with our senses (visual, kinaesthetic etc). It is also the metaphorical or imagined space, which is separate from other spaces and defined by the objects and symbols within it. [2]


We live our lives according to our perceptions of experiences, not to the actual experiences themselves. Psychoactivity is a particular relationship between a person, their body, what they perceive and the context of that perception. Psychoactivity occurs when a persons thoughts, emotions and body sensations take on symbolic significance in response to what they are perceiving. [2]

As a client develops metaphors, works with Clean Language and Emergent Knowledge, they generate psychoactive space. Items (imagined or not) within that space can hold significance. They may or may not see those parts, however they will have location. To exploit this psychoactive space, the client interacts with it Cleanly, either through questions or moving physically around the ‘Clean (psychoactive) Space’.

Clean Language

Clean Language is a set of questions developed by David Grove to keep the facilitators from introducing their metaphors, assumptions or suggestions into a conversation. They encourage the client to emerge from within knowledge and ideas and to develop metaphors for personal change.

Emergent Knowledge

This is the iterative use of Clean Language questions. As the questions are repeated the unconscious emerges information that is seemingly random in nature, the conscious then makes the connections. Further information on this theory can be found in the articles Emergent Knowledge and 6 Degrees of Freedom.

Equine Environment
The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) philosophy is facilitator led; the person in charge identifies exercises and meanings. At EGEL we guide the client to develop a relationship with the horse and with themselves, similar to EAGALA philosophy, while working Cleanly to allow the client to emerge their own metaphors, learnings and understandings while being aware of the relationship. [4]

Bringing it all together

These techniques allow for minimal intrusion from the facilitator. This allows the client to take responsibility and become the experts of their own lives, truly embodying their own metaphors, learnings and understandings.

Utilizing Clean Language, Emergent Knowledge within the spatial (Clean Space) environment will generate new deeper perspectives. Introducing motion and deeper self-awareness into this equation with a horse creates another paradigm for interaction.

  • Understand why you do what you do and resolve what’s limiting you.
  • Develop your own Perspective on goals, vision.
  • Time Management – distractions are recognised and dealt with.
  • Lead Authentically.
  • Understand the team around you and their attributes.
  • Improve performance of those around you.
  • Dealing with change.
We work with our horses in the South West of England to facilitate authenticity in our clients. We work with groups and their different needs:
  • Businesses looking for leadership and change work.
  • Sports teams requiring more cohesion and flow.

© 2007, John Farrell

UPDATE - 2010

The work has solidified and evolved. The challenge we had was getting the horses 'to be horses' again - as with humans, horses have been forced away from being themselves.
Some of the sessions we did had huge results with clients. We did not use the horses per se, they were merely present, their interaction being much more Clean than a human facilitator. The client took from it what they needed and as you can imagine, it made an impression.

The last session we did was one of the more telling... I changed the rules a little and had the clients attempt an exercise with the horse. They failed and broke into individuals at which time I did an individual EK process with them. In each case the horse, unbidden, interacted with each of the clients as I worked with them - quite extraordinary. After the process, we regrouped and discussed the failed attempt and what they got from the process. The horse then, again unbidden, performed the task behind everyone’s back. Oh for a video?


[1] Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, Clean Space Modeling Human Perception through Emergence, Anchor Point Vol. 17, No. 8, September 2003.

[2] James Lawley, When Where Matters: How psychoactive space is created and utilised, The Model, January 2006.

[3] EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) is the organization developed to address the need for resources, education, and professionalism in the field of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP).

John Farrell
John Farrell and Karen Frederick worked extensively with David Grove and Steve Saunders in the early years of Emergence Knowledge development. Karen’s love for horses led them to take on a couple of retired racehorses using natural horsemanship techniques to settle them down. Taking David’s lead, they explored minimizing interaction with the client’s process using Emergent Knowledge, while introducing horses into the environment. The horses roamed freely in the arena while the client processed and interacted when the client needed them to. The client incorporated the horse into their process, interpreting the horse’s actions as they saw fit and recognising the horse’s reactions in their own metaphor.

Karen and John presently live in Thailand. The work continues and they can be contacted on successcoach {at}

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