Coach Interview Series: Michelle Hefner

by Brandon

Michelle Hefner

Certified Equine Assisted Life 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 Michelle Hefner. Michelle is a Certified Equine Assisted Life Coach based in Austin, Texas.

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

Michelle: I work with a lot of women who are in transition — changing careers, divorce, or any other major life transitions. I also work with coaching leaders and teams with the help of my 1000 lb. biofeedback machines.

NCA: Can you talk a little bit about the kinds of transitions that the clients who typically come to you are facing and how the work that you do helps them work through those?

Michelle: I help clients define their values and their goals to become this new person that’s emerging. I meet a lot of women who come to me in their mid to late 30’s who went to college, started a career, worked for a number of years and now they’re saying, “Hmm. Is this really what I want to do?” They’re searching for a purpose or a way that they can be in service to a higher calling in life and live a purpose-filled life.

NCA: What initially got you interested in coaching and what kind of degree or certifications did you need to complete, if any?

Michelle: I had been a high school French teacher for 12 years and then I left that to only focus on working with horses.

NCA: A natural transition.

Michelle: That’s right. [laughing] I grew up riding and it’s been my passion in my life. I wanted to meld the two.

I had a big life event a few years ago and I was going to need to have rotator cuff surgery. My precious horse let me have what we call an “unintended dismount.” He bucked me off. I was getting close to the age of 50 and I thought, “Okay. My arm’s going to be in a sling for months and I need to do something.”

I found a course online and I’d already been doing a little bit of teen coaching with somebody else, and I thought “I should become a coach myself.” I found a program online and it was the only one that was accredited from the International Coaching Federation that involved horses. It’s based on the work of an author who I have read and really enjoyed her work.

I was able to work online and do all of the course work during that time of healing. Then I spent a year going to Raleigh, North Carolina every six weeks to have intensives with the horses. I completed Associate Certified Coach. I’m certified through ICF and also through a program called Equine Alchemy. That is the certification to use horses in coaching.

Coaching is an amazing opportunity to see ourselves reflected in others, as well as an opportunity to do our own inner work from the lessons we learn from our clients because they are all reflections of ourselves.

NCA: What would you say is the most rewarding part of your career and on the flip side of that, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Michelle: I work with individual with and without the horses. But when working with the horses, it often seems like a mystical experience. It’s all based on energy because they’re masters at reading intention and congruency and feeling emotional blocks in people’s body. Coaching with them, they can get to the heart of the matter much more quickly than traditional coaching.

Just to give you a little example of that: I had a client who came to me to talk about clutter and overwhelm. One of my horses went straight for her shoulders and tried massaging with his lips. And it turned out this client had never fully grieved the death of her husband from seven years ago and she was simply covering up his stuff that was still in the house with more stuff so she wouldn’t have to face it. That’s something that could’ve taken a few sessions to get to but my horse got to it in 15 minutes. That is powerful and they amaze me and they amaze the clients. It’s just an incredible experience.

What is challenging with coaching is I would rather be outside playing with people and horses than doing social media. I would rather be planning and designing my workshops and getting excited about that kind of stuff than keeping track of Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. That’s a challenge for me to enjoy.

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?

Michelle: There’s a woman named Sherry Lowry who is in my local ICF chapter. She started ICF — like totally started it. She is this vibrant, amazing woman who has pulled me in to participate in our local chapter in many different ways. She’s an inspiration and she’s a great mentor as far as encouragement, coaching, and helping me with my career.

NCA: What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody in the very beginning stage of their coaching career?

Michelle: I have to say the best lesson that I learned was that you have to dive into vulnerability in order to discover the possibilities. Without throwing yourself out there and being as vulnerable as you can, possibilities don’t exist.

Coaching is an amazing opportunity to see ourselves reflected in others, as well as an opportunity to do our own inner work from the lessons we learn from our clients because they are all reflections of ourselves.

Previous post:

Next post: