When Lew Sterrett steps into the arena with a horse, he isn't just teaching the animal — he's giving lessons that are applicable to everyday situations.
Horse whisperer Sterrett will present "Lessons on Leadership," sponsored by COIN Sports Outreach, at the Central States Fairgrounds at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow.
Sterrett, 64, has worked with horses since he was 7, and began training horses when he was 19. While he didn't expect this would lead to a career in speaking and training youth and community leaders, he found a connection between his work with horses and his work with people.
"It began as a measure of my own life," Sterrett said. "I began to see that traits that I disliked in horses I was working with, attitude problems, were the same kind of negative attributes I had. I learned that what I wanted from the horse was what my creator wanted from me, and that I needed to humble myself, learn and grow. Life isn't just about me."
Sterrett said that his desire to use his skills to help people was borne in part out of wanting to give back to others.
"A lot of people invested in my life, and a grateful heart wants to return some of that," Sterrett said.
Sterrett's presentation will see him working with an untrained horse that has never been saddled trained before the audience's eyes.
"The horse will go from fearful and self-centered to trusting and voluntarily coming to me to be saddled and ridden within that time frame," Sterrett said.
Sterrett, who holds a Ph. D in leadership and is the executive director of the summer youth camp and college leadership training center Miracle Mountain Ranch Missions, says that he will then show audience members how these lessons apply to their lives.
"A relationship with a horse is like any relationship between an employer and employee or a coach and athlete," Sterrett said. "Every relationship is built on two things: truth and trust. Without truth, there's no trust. So you have to communicate that you're on the same team and have the same vision and values."
Sterrett said though he and the horse have the total opposite mission at first (getting the most amount of work for the least amount of oats vs. vice versa), they'll find a way to work together.
"You have to deescalate division and escalate teamwork," Sterrett said.
Those who attend, then, will both be entertained and learn a bit more about how to balance their own relationships, personally and professionally.
"I think it's a great mirror image of the processes and realities we encounter," Sterrett said. "It'll be very funny, very pithy, and very genuine."