The title is, in a nutshell, how Grant Golliher describes his philosophy on working with horses. People usually call it “horse whispering.” Golliher thinks it’s the best way to develop the maximum potential of not only horses, but also employees and children. He just thinks of it as good leadership and mentorship. Grant says that in his younger days, he broke horses the “bronco busting” way like everyone else, but he learned a better way. We watched an hour long demonstration at the Golliher’s ranch, Diamond Cross Ranch, outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming and it was nothing short of mesmerizing. I was so taken with the demonstration that I devoured his book, “Think Like a Horse,” on the flights home. It is easy to see how so many people from all walks of life as well as executives of big companies have found their way to the Golliher’s Wyoming ranch to watch how Grant can change a horse’s life because it’s quite obvious that his philosophy can be applied in the professional and personal lives of all of us.
There were about seventy of us at the ranch Saturday evening. It was the grand finale of an action packed super fun weekend sponsored by Kunde Family Winery of Sonoma County, California. Here’s the back story. Several years ago, we visited the winery with some friends who had invited us out the spend time with them at a house they had rented in Napa for a month. We loved the wine and the winery and joined their wine club. They organized a wine weekend in Jackson Hole in 2021, but Covid-19 changed all that, so it was rescheduled for this past weekend. We met our friends out here and had an incredible weekend visiting Yellowstone National Park again and Grand Teton National Park for the first time. We had wonderful meals with great wines, of course, and it was a perfect weekend. But our evening at Diamond Cross Ranch was the pièce de résistence. The ranch is beautiful and the views are spectacular. Meeting the Gollihers was fabulous and watching Grant work his magic with a troubled little filly was unforgettable. Grant would say that it’s not magic. He would say that he uses basic and essential lessons applicable to both horse and humans to gain a horse’s trust, respect, and cooperation.
When we first walked into the ranch’s arena, the round ring was empty, but there was a lot of kicking and neighing coming from a stall in the back of the arena. We could not see the horse, but it was obvious that she wanted to be somewhere other than there. Like most of the horses Grant works with, she was probably brought to him by someone who had given up on her. The Golliher ranch is often the last stop before the glue factory, to put it bluntly.
I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a fan of horses which is not a popular position to take in my horsey hometown, but I think that my opinion of them has been rooted in a basic misunderstanding of the animal. I’ve always thought of them as big stupid animals that are skittish and unpredictable. They are anything but stupid and their skittish nature is natural since they are often prey. They see people as predators. Grant uses his well-honed skills to try to figure out what the horse is feeling and then he begins gaining the horse’s trust so that the horse thinks of him as his friend and leader but not as a threat. Essentially, the horse needs to understand that Grant is not a predator but is taking on the role of the herd’s dominant horse.
Grant says the old way of “breaking” a horse will get results. The animal will do what you make it do; it will work for you, but never with you. Grant’s method of horse training is rooted in his belief that horses, as animals often preyed upon, have evolved into very sensitive and intuitive animals. They can sense the intentions of a predator and will react accordingly. Grant starts with the cornerstones of his philosophy: “Respect comes before friendship. Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult. Honor the slightest try and the smallest change. Be slow to take and quick to give.”
The Diamond Cross Ranch keeps a busy schedule putting on demonstrations for companies large and small from all over the country. Grant says he is just a cowboy and never ever thought that he would end up writing books and teaching principles of leadership to company executives, politicians, coaches, and parents. So many people who come to them seeking to improve communication and cooperation on a professional level end up saying that the lessons they learn are most impactful on a personal level. If you meet the Gollihers, you immediately sense that they are genuinely warm and approachable which is why they have been so successful in changing the lives of both man and beast.