MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. - Rachel Dexheimer's employees are probably what you'd call a quiet bunch.
Rohan, Jewel, Sierra and their colleagues spend most summer days outside, quietly munching grass under the hot sun at her Maple Valley farm.
But in this herd of horses, there's a lot of communication going on. Dexheimer says the horses, her employees, are powerful communicators. She believes people have a lot to learn from them.
As part of her business, EquiSpire, she invites people to come walk with the horses, much like they seek out opportunities to swim with dolphins.
She says horses can provide transformative experiences, and help people discover their purpose in life.
"It's them stepping up to say 'we can help if you will listen,'" she said.
Dexheimer serves as a coach for clients who want to work with the horses. She worked in the corporate world for 18 years before starting EquiSpire.
Through simple exercises like putting on a halter, and leading and grooming a horse, she says people can learn and grow. Some lessons are basic. For instance, to lead a horse around the arena, you can't just tug on the halter. You need the same skills as a manager requires - vision, commitment and confidence.
Other sessions with the horses are more personal. Rachel believes that through spending time with them, you learn to live more in the present.
She says horses can help clients recognize their self-limiting beliefs and behaviors and connect with their passions.
"Horses live in that present moment," she said. "It's in that present moment you can access that wisdom and make choices in life based on that wisdom instead of what everyone is telling you to do."
She cites the story of a client who wanted guidance on relationships. She brought her into the pasture, where the horses were grazing, and invited her to be walk around.
"She was really thinking and feeling that love of being in a relationship," Rachel said. "As she walked, Rohan picked up his head, got up to her and started walking next to her."
Rohan, a brown Thoroughbred cross from Pennsylvania, is the leader of Rachel's herd. The pair was soon joined by Grace, Jewel and others on the walk.
The horses only accompanied the woman when she was focused on the present, and not self-doubt.
"She now knows in her body what it feels like to have that companionship," Dexheimer said. "She now sends out that invitation of 'will you walk with me?'"
Dexheimer isn't the first to enter the field. In Colorado, Kathy Pike has operated Coaching With Horses for five years. She offers services that are similar to EquiSpire.
Pike says since horses are prey animals, they rely on nonverbal communication and can sense a person's intentions, emotions and thoughts that are conveyed subconsciously. Through working with horses, she says clients become more self-aware.
"This is what horses teach us the ability to be present in body and be listening to intuition, body sensations, and emotions," Pike said.
She says the horses offer feedback.
"Sometimes there's images, sometimes there's a deep knowing, sometimes there's voices that come through," Pike said. "I help people become more centered in own being while interacting with horses. Through doing that they often hear their own internal messages they've been ignoring."
There are skeptics. Dexheimer says sometimes it just takes an experience with the horses to change someone's mind. But she doesn't doubt the horses' depth. She's even seen the horses cry with humans.
"The horses are totally at choice as to how they participate, or if they do," she said. "What happens is a mutual releasing. You can call it healing."
In humans, she says 7 percent of communication is verbal. Roughly 93 percent is nonverbal. The horses, she says, live and operate in that 93 percent.
"We get the tip of the iceberg," she said.
The industry is growing. In Colorado, Melisa Pearce operates a business called "Touched by a Horse," which incorporates time with the horses and personal exploration. In past interviews, she has called the horses "co-healers." And an east coast business called "Unbridled Performance" focuses more on team-building.
As the recession takes its hits on corporate America, Dexheimer says she's seeing more clients coming to EquiSpire for guidance.
"Horses are really drawn to the truth," Dexheimer said. "When (people) get laid off, horses are helping them reclaim themselves."