Coach Interview Series: Adrianna Andreini

by Brandon

Adrianna Andreini

Certified Equine Gestalt Coach

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing Adrianna Andreini. Adrianna is a Certified Equine Gestalt Coach based in Cave Creek, Arizona.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

Adrianna: My practice is pretty unique in that I’m very rarely coaching by myself. My horses are my coaching partners and they are there for every single coaching session (unless it’s a telephone session — obviously, my horses can’t get on the phone!). They pull their weight in the coaching process — it’s truly amazing.

We work mainly with women of all ages. As a Gestalt coach, we focus on what it is in the women’s lives that hold them back from being who they truly want to be and achieving their goals and dreams. It starts with unfinished business. It can be a traumatic experience from childhood or even something that happened last week where the client didn’t get to express what she needed to express in a particular situation. Or, it could be a relationship that isn’t serving her.

We really pinpoint that unfinished business and help the client work through and clean up whatever is unfinished so that they can step into this better version of herself.

I don’t feel like there are words in the English dictionary that can describe what happens in a coaching session with a horse. […] Almost every single time, [clients] walk away saying, “I don’t even know how to put that into words what happened, but something shifted.”

NCA: Did you grow up around horses as a kid or is it something that you came to later in life?

Adrianna: Oh, yes. I was on the back of the horse before I could walk. [laughing] They’ve always, always, always been a part of my life.

NCA: Did you have to complete any kind of certification or training in order to coach in this niche? What’s your educational background?

Adrianna: I started out with CTI, the Coach Training Institute, which I believe now is the Co-Active Training Institute. I did their coach training course and one of the leaders in the program recommended me for a scholarship for their leadership program, so I continued on and did their 10 month leadership program, which was amazing. At around that same time, I started this program called Touched by a Horse, founded by Melisa Pearce. She came up with what’s called the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method. That program is a two-year certification program.

NCA: Why do you feel that horses are so effective in conjunction with coaching work? Why does that modality work in your opinion?

Adrianna: You’re asking one of the most challenging questions that I get all the time. I don’t feel like there are words in the English dictionary that can describe what happens in a coaching session with a horse. As a human coach, I can interpret the words that come out of the client’s mouth. I can put them through what we call an experiment and I can watch their body language and at the same time, the horse is reading the client’s energy.

I believe that to a certain extent, human beings can read each other’s energy, but horses just take that ability to a whole new level. Their way of responding to those energy changes is really difficult to describe. And almost every single time when my client comes to see me for the first time, they walk away saying, “I don’t even know how to put that into words what happened, but something shifted.” And that’s really the beauty of it. If I do have clients that feel like they are able to share their experience and put it into words, then great. “Will you write me a testimonial? Will you share your experience with others?” Because it’s really hard to put into words! It’s definitely an energetic thing. [laughing]

NCA: Would you say that part of the reason might be their sheer size? It’s a relatively large animal that can feel your energy, unlike a dog which is a much more manageable and familiar size. Can you speak a little bit on how clients face that size difference?

Adrianna: Definitely. I have four horses. I have three full-sized horses and one mini horse that weighs about 400 lbs. He’s honestly the height of a large dog. If I have somebody that’s really afraid of a horse, sometimes I’ll bring him out. He’s just a really amazing coach.

The size definitely plays into it, but more than that, I think it’s the fact that although horses are non-judgmental, they don’t love unconditionally. What I mean by that is that dogs are predators. Their nature is they prey on other animals. They’re hunters. Horses are not hunters. They are actually the prey out in nature, and so they have to trust you. They have to trust their environment. Otherwise, they’re going to want to get out of dodge. I think that is what makes them so good at reading our energy.

If we’re not congruent somewhere, if the words that are coming out of my mouth are not the same as what I’m feeling in my body, the horse can tell. “There’s something wrong here. I’m going to keep my distance.” They’re attracted to authenticity whether it’s a more positive emotion or the other way around. They choose to let us ride them. They choose to be around us. With the fences that are around my property, my horses could jump out if they wanted to. My horse knows how to open his own door. He actually walked out on a client the other day. She started talking about money and he opened the gate and walked right out.

Finding clients out of desperation doesn’t really work. Clients have come to me because they need what my horses and I offer and trying to force the relationship like that is not authentic and the horses don’t buy it.

NCA: Can you talk about the most rewarding part of your career in working with clients and on the flip side of that, what would you say is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Adrianna: There are always challenges. It just really depends on where you are in the development of your practice. In the beginning there’s, “What education am I going to have? What am I going to tell everybody when I decide I’m going to be a life coach? How much am I going to charge? How am I going to bring in new clients?” And as the business grows, it turns into other challenges such as packaging, events, continuing to grow, the website, etc.

I think the biggest challenge for me has been what I mentioned earlier — showing people rather than telling them about what I do with the horses, because it is so hard to put into words. What I’ve done is I’ve had events where I did demonstrations with the horses. Any chance that I can to bring in people. It’s funny because all of my clients that are in contract, they come to all of my events anyway because it’s all really fun. [laughing] And they bring people. You’ve really got to experience this because words don’t do it justice.

Before I started doing work with the horses, I felt something very similar. That was at a time when people didn’t really know what life coaching was and I still think that there are people out there that don’t truly understand what life coaching is. I started out young and I had older people coming to me and saying, “Well, why should I give you money to tell me what to do with my life?” And my response was, “Obviously, you don’t really understand what coaching is about.” [laughing] So, it’s a matter of showing rather than telling. That’s an awesome challenge.

People want to know. They want to know what the horses do and I could sit there and tell stories about “One time, my horse did this and one time, my horse did that.” But they’re not trained to do tricks, and so they do something different all the time — like opening the gate … I mean, I couldn’t stop laughing. They’re not trained to do these things, this just something that they naturally come by and so it’s just so much easier to show than to explain it.

It’s also so consistent and congruent with who I am as a person that if I meet someone who doesn’t know what I do and I tell them, they nod their heads like, “Ah, that makes sense.” I feel like as opposed to having a 9-5 job, as a coach, that’s who you are.

NCA: Can you think of a mentor who was the most vital to your success as a coach and in what ways did this mentor help you thrive in your career?

Adrianna: I would definitely have to give a shoutout to Melisa Pearce. She is an amazing mentor and the founder of the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method. One of the biggest pieces of advice that she gave me that I really pushed against was to take my time and to spend my attention and my energy where it really matters rather than trying to force things and rush things. I was pretty young when I got started and I didn’t want to hear that. I really wanted to just go dynamo and jump in with both feet. There is really something to what she said and it allowed the space for things to happen more naturally.

I think that intuitively she knew that I wasn’t done having traumatic experiences. I had a small child and she just encouraged me and told me that it was okay. She allowed for that and helped me allow for it, too. “It’s okay to take your time with this and to allow it to grow more organically” — and that’s exactly what’s happened.

Finding clients out of desperation doesn’t really work. Clients have come to me because they need what my horses and I offer and trying to force the relationship like that is not authentic and the horses don’t buy it. I just feel so honored that I get to be the human in that coaching partnership and get to be an advocate for the horse and be able to share their gift with people who actually really need their help.

NCA: What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is just starting out in their coaching careers?

Adrianna: I would say to trust your coach training education and trust your intuition. You don’t need to have all of the answers. You don’t need to have experienced everything that your clients who come to you are experiencing. You don’t need to have all of those answers. If you have a good background, education, and coach training and if you really listen to your intuition, you’re going to be of best service to your clients as possible. And if you work with a horse, trust your horse.

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