Welcome to our new blog series Friends of William #friendsofwilliam
Here we regularly present exciting personalities who accompany and inspire us. None other than Steffi Spielhaupter will be making the start. Steffi is a horse scientist, coach for personality development with horses, mindfulness in everyday life and communication in the team. Steffi is also the dog mom of our William Walker Signature Model Skye and William Walker Crew Member since the beginning. Skye (Weimaraner bitch) has been at Steffi's side since the end of her master studies in England and always keeps a close eye on her, it is rumoured that she is the real boss.
With Science for Soundness, she has turned her passion into a profession by teaching basic values with her animals, from which people of all ages can benefit in a sustainable way. Above all, Science for Soundness stands for horse-friendly keeping and training, deceleration and authenticity. The overall picture is always taken into account, the rider/horse owner is encouraged to question himself/herself, and holistic solutions are sought together with the horse in mind.
William Walker: Steffi, you live a bit like Pippi Longstocking when she was big, together with your better half you live on a big farm and that with half a zoo - what do your parents say?
I still remember the moment when I said: "Mum, Dad, I want to stay in England a bit longer and study Equine Science here! ... 8 years later I came back to Germany. Horse science and pony farm do not sound very down-to-earth at first. :) I think my parents would have liked a "safe" job for me. If you don't have a lot to do with animals, then it seems strange to be able to earn money with something like that. I really don't believe that there is such a "safe" job nowadays and I am convinced that you can achieve everything if you only want to. My parents have known me since I started to walk this earth and know that I don't let butter be taken from my bread. If I want to achieve something, then I can do it. :) This is, of course also due to their positive upbringing and the tireless support. So the initial scepticism quickly went way. Of course they love our old mill with all its construction sites and animal inhabitants - there is always something to do and through Skye and Gromit (Weimaraner male) always something to laugh about!
William Walker: We immediately believe the laughing, your positive attitude is contagious and we knew that you don't let the butter be taken from your bread :-). So now you are a "horse scientist", how do you get to choose such a special job, what makes it special for you?
Horse scientist - haha, yes. First and foremost it is my title, thanks to my bachelor and master. It should have been worthwhile somehow to study! :)
The rest has actually developed from it. My main activity is that of a coach, because I want to help people to create a finer connection to themselves and their horses. With a lot of sensitivity, this can lead to a greater mutual basis of trust, which positively strengthens both man and horse. I have often observed that this alone leads to a gain of new self-confidence and a certain lightness in everyday life. These moments, in which man and/or horse do something that was not even conceivable a short time ago, in which they outgrow themselves, they really make it something unique every time.
William Walker: What do you think people can learn from animals and what is your focus?
Animals are incredibly honest and open beings. They don't care if we wear the latest fashion or use make-up, they look right inside of us, behind all the facades. Especially horses, but also dogs, can be wonderful mirrors because they give us constant feedback. Through my animals I have had to work on myself again and again for years, questioning myself and my actions and learning to differentiate between what is really important.
My main focus has been on mindfulness and personality development with horses. It is so important to perceive and respond to the subtle little signals instead of ignoring them and forcing our counterpart into action. If Skye or Gromit are overwhelmed in a situation, they certainly don't learn to handle it better through pressure. However, treats do not always help to make a situation pleasant. I cannot buy trust. I must first recognize that this situation is a problem and find out why. Only then can I position myself to help my dog out of it.
With horses it is exactly the same: if I do not notice that my horse cannot perform a certain lesson (be it for physical or psychological reasons), then it definitely does not help to emphasize my question about this lesson with a crop. Or even worse: I don't even ask for it, I give orders directly and don't even listen to what my horse has to say. This often results in so-called "problem horses", which actually are not problem horses at all. The same applies of course to "problem dogs" - "problem owners" never exist.
I also experience much too often how we are so surrounded by our own worries and wishes that we often can hardly notice our opposite in conversation. That doesn't have to be the case and it definitely shouldn't be. It is up to us to change this! Unfortunately, the first step is often the hardest, which is why the horses can help very nicely here. They do not judge, but perceive us as we are. People who come to us often have inhibitions to perform certain exercises in front of their fellow men. If I replace these people with my horses, all of a sudden this is no longer a problem! :)
William Walker: Problem owner, great phrase! What you say sounds totally plausible and exciting, but at the same time it is, as you say, often not so easy to start here. This conscious feeling of empathy must make a lot of sense, especially for people in teams, right?
Definitely! Teamwork is very important especially for herd animals, because it ensures their survival. Horses have a wonderful silent communication that gives me almost permanent feedback. When I work with teams in a workshop here on site, the horses usually tell me very quickly who is the dominant character in the team, who is more reserved and who has a true leadership talent slumbering inside. In addition, the horses help the team members to reflect themselves and to perceive their colleagues differently.
William Walker: Right now, especially with regard to CoVid19, it is really difficult to carry out this kind of exercise on site. How do you personally deal with this difficult situation?
Actually, I had the idea of an online workshop on the subject of Mindset for quite some time. CoVid19 just forced me to take more time to finish and publish it. Over the Easter weekend I also had my first online horse show as an exhibitor and there are already more online workshops in the process of being created. Of course an online workshop can't replace the live workshop situation, but it's not supposed to. If I have already created an awareness for a certain thing with the Online Workshop, then it is all the better to deepen this awareness in a live workshop here on site as soon as this is possible again. I have now switched my services on the horse to online accompaniment. This may sound totally absurd at first, but it actually enables me to help many more people and their horses to better teamwork.
William Walker: You can tell that the butter really belongs to you :-) Speaking of successful teams, you and Skye have been part of the William Walker team since the beginning. It's always impressive to see how well she listens to you, how do you do it?
Skye listens to me? :) At the moment she prefers to keep her nose in mouseholes, which of course cover her ears and makes her nose sore... but of course I'm happy to see it that way! Haha!! :) Of course Skye does dog stuff sometimes and digs wildly in bushes or worships the sun and has no time for me, but she should be allowed to do so. Skye is basically a very fine, docile girl. So I'm sorry to disappoint you, because the secret is no secret at all! As a Weimaraner she is very intelligent and obedient if she has enough confidence in the person and the situation. But Weimaraner are also known for their stubbornness, so somehow it suits me! :)
Skye has been by my side since she was 8 weeks old and has already experienced a lot with me, from moving to Germany to the mill and her puppies. She accompanies me on rides and would really go along with me on anything, even rolling hay bales! She has great fortune that, due to the nature of my work, she can be with me every day. Such a thing naturally welds together and I could not imagine my world without her.
Basically, Skye, just like all my other animals, gets enough respect, trust and concessions from me. I am convinced that this is a healthy basis for a friendly and open-minded animal companion who likes to follow!
William Walker: Dear Steffi, there is no better way to end an interview. Thank you very much for your time and the interesting insights into your work. If you want to learn more about Steffi's work or want to take a course yourself, just go to Steffi's website (Science for Soundness) and follow her on Instagram.
Wie schön, tolles sympathisches Interview und ich habe nicht mal ein Pferd 😂