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Equine-Assisted Coaching


We utilize the inherent benefits of being around horses to enhance your personal, professional and leadership development. Horses provide a caring, safe environment for humans to reflect, explore and work on moving forward in their lives.


Working with horses offers people a unique experience that mirrors real life, is non-judgemental and intuitive. What shows up in the human-horse interaction is directly transferable to human-human interactions, whether in one’s private or professional life.

Nicole Schaefer

“All things are connected like the blood that unites us. We do not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.” - Chief Seattle

I am the founder and director of Spiegelbild, a research driven social enterprise. Spiegelbild is the German word for mirror image, but it can also be translated as “reflection”. 


  • Co-Active Training Institute (CTI) - Fundamentals 

  • Organization & Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) - Trained


  • Personal and leadership development coaching for individuals, couples and teams

  • We intentionally combine equine-assisted sessions with private coaching sessions to create an innovative and experiential framework for learning


I believe in life-long learning. Everything is connected and all learning starts with self-reflection. If we are willing to be present and listen - truly listen - there are many lessons to be learned from both our human and nonhuman relatives.


  • Over 20 years of experience working for local, national and international governments and organizations

  • Extensive leadership experience by being involved in complex multicultural teams and projects

  • Diplom-Ingenieur Raumplanung (equivalent to professional Master’s degree in Spatial Planning) 

  • PhD candidate

You will experience equine-assisted coaching. Throughout our programs, we strategically embed equine-assisted sessions with more traditional coaching sessions. What shows up in the horse-human relationship is highly relevant and directly transferable to human-human interaction. Discoveries made during equine-assisted sessions are therefore deepened during subsequent private individual, couple or team coaching sessions.

Your first session is always an equine-assisted coaching session. We pair you or your team with a horse partner and coach you through several activities, working from the ground. No horseback riding is involved and no previous horse knowledge or experience is required.

You will explore:

  • What is going on in yourself and in your relationship with others (your emotional and social IQs)

  • Using influence over authority

  • Adapting in the moment

  • Building trust

  • Communicating with intention and compassion

  • Increasing your awareness for body language and non-verbal communication

Building lasting connections and relationships is a cornerstone of Spiegelbild’s work. This includes the equine partners in our programs. Their physical, emotional and mental well-being is paramount, and our programs have been designed to reflect the respect we have for these amazing beings.

What are some of the benefits of engaging in Equine-Assisted Coaching?

  • Increased self-awareness

  • Understanding of areas of strength and future growth

  •  Built resilience

  • Gained clarity about who you are and your impact on others

  • Improved active listening skills

  • Strengthened intentional and empathetic communication skills

  • Gained new perspectives on problems or issues

How do your programs differ from other “on-the-job” training programs?

Organizations have to adapt to a rapidly changing work environment. The influx of younger generations into the workplace has added many challenges, including high costs due to decreasing retention rates of these young employees. Studies have found that particularly Millennials are dissatisfied with on-the-job training and development programs. Equine-assisted coaching offers an experiential, personalized learning and development alternative to other, more generic on-the-job training programs. The programs can be tailored to your specific needs and thus address your individual circumstances and challenges.

Why horses?
To survive in the wild, horses depend on a fine-tuned awareness of their environment. Horses possess a unique sensitivity to the energy, emotions and intentions of other beings around them (including humans). This makes them talented teachers. Horses are entirely unbiased toward a person’s level of education, age, gender, rank or cultural background.

Why are horses beneficial in a coaching context?
Horses do not lie. They provide honest, in-the-moment feedback on an individual’s ability to communicate with, relate to, and provide direction to others. Horses instinctively respond to a person’s non-verbal signals and intentions. They surface subconscious behaviours and reveal to participants subtle aspects of themselves that they may not be aware of, but that influence how they are perceived by others

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Six bi-weekly scheduled coaching sessions:

1. Equine-assisted coaching: 60 - 90 minutes 

2. Private coaching: 60 minutes

3. Private coaching: 60 minutes

4. Equine-assisted coaching: 60 - 90 minutes

5. Private coaching: 60 minutes

6. Private coaching & completion: 60 minutes

Package includes a baseline report to capture key observations and lessons learned.



Six bi-weekly scheduled coaching sessions:

1. Equine-assisted coaching: 60 - 90 minutes

2. Private couple coaching: 60 minutes

3. Private couple coaching: 60 minutes

4. Equine-assisted coaching: 60 - 90 minutes

5. Private couple coaching: 60 minutes

6. Private couple coaching & completion: 60  minutes

Package includes a baseline report to capture key observations and lessons learned.



Six bi-weekly scheduled coaching sessions:
1. Equine-assisted coaching: 90 - 120 minutes
2. Private team coaching: 60 minutes
3. Private team coaching: 60 minutes
4. Equine-assisted coaching: 90 - 120 minutes
5. Private team coaching: 60 minutes
6. Private team coaching & completion: 60 minutes

Package includes a baseline report to capture key observations and lessons learned.

*Service is subject to GST


** For a team of up to four people

Due to the nature of equine-assisted work, at most four people can work with one horse at a time during a session. If a participating team consists of more than four people, sub-groups of up to four people will be formed for the equine-assisted coaching sessions (first and fourth session). To ensure a holistic team development experience, utmost attention will be given to sharing and integrating the learnings from these equine sessions throughout the private team coaching sessions. The rate for the program will be adjusted accordingly.

We also offer 6-months equine-assisted coaching programs for individuals, couples and teams, as well as single equine-assisted coaching sessions with a debrief of your experience and identification of key learnings. Please contact us for more details and rates.

I believe in life-long learning and that all learning starts with self-reflection. I have always believed that everything is connected; that we can establish deep bonds not only with other humans, but equally with our nonhuman relatives; that there are many lessons we can learn when we are willing to be present, truly listen, and leave our egos at the door; and that it is essential for our well-being to feel a sense of connection and belonging. Reflection is the key to comprehension and growth.


Experiencing the different personalities of my two mares, Dinah and Tosca, planted the seed for the idea of developing a coaching approach based on these core values and principles. My horses are continuously teaching me invaluable lessons about partnership and leadership. While one mare resembles my natural personality quite closely, the other needs me to access skills and qualities in myself that don’t come as naturally to me.

The programs offered through Spiegelbild provide a tailored approach to personal, professional and leadership development - one that responds to your specific needs and desires. Experiential learning has been found to create longer lasting effects, and result in better retention of knowledge. I regard skills such as empathy, compassion and caring as highly relevant, if not THE MOST important leadership skills. Working with horses gives us access to, and practical experience of, these skills.

Before starting my own company I worked for over twenty years for local, national and international governments and organizations. This allowed me to gain significant leadership experience by being involved in complex multi-cultural teams and projects. These ranged from negotiations amongst EU member states on the funding of projects, creating new framework policy for the European Union, and presenting policy concepts to Indigenous groups in the Canadian Arctic, to developing the four-year business and budget plan for the City of Calgary.

Combined with my passion for horses, and the special connection I have with my equine partners, I bring this extensive leadership experience to Spiegelbild’s programs.

Besides enjoying the company of my two mares, I love spending my free time with my husband and our dog hiking in the mountains, camping in the backcountry, exploring the foothills with our gravel bikes, or simply emerging myself in a good book.


M. Carey, Professor,
Mount Royal University

“I learned a lot about myself in my engagement with both Nicole and Tosca [the equine partner], and I highly recommend this unique approach to leadership development for anyone who is interested in taking the next step in their own personal and/or professional development. I would unreservedly recommend Spiegelbild.”

N. Etheridge Calder, Leadership and Resilience Coach, Invoke Coaching

“The integration of animals (horses) is unique, it is dynamic and also feels like it adds a really special and physical element to the coaching process. When weaving in the team coaching, it feels like the horse makes team dynamics tangible and also accessible at the same time.”

J. Haggett,
Urban Planner, The City of Calgary

“Spiegelbild’s program is top-rate. Through the equine-assisted coaching program, I explored my approach to leadership, and how to increase its effectiveness. Working with a horse in combination with one-on-one private coaching motivated me to fully engage in the process. The long-term benefit is my adopting tools to further support my team and how encourage them to pursue new directions and goals."

K. Woodcock, Change Leadership and Team Coach, Director at Novalda

“If you want a new experience that will open up new ways of seeing and being meet Nicole and her team of horses.”

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