Why Use Horses in Human Training?
There are numerous reasons to use horses in human training programs. Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) provides the one thing all other experiential programs cannot. The opportunity of using a rather large, living, breathing, reacting creature creates an environment of constantly changing and evolving experiences.
Horses are responsive beings. They have an awareness of, and sensitivity to, their surroundings. Horses have as many individual personalities, physical abilities and limitations as the humans they are working with. Most of all, horses give immediate and honest feedback which can show us what we need to change in order to achieve a partnership for goal accomplishment.
Let's look at it from a corporate learning environment. How often have you attended training sessions with your manager or supervisor and didn't really feel comfortable fully participating in the program? Horses don't care about a person's position, power, status or title. They are acutely perceptive, totally honest and have no hidden agendas. With horses on your team, you can feel totally free to participate to the fullest. Your EQINE teammates can very accurately sense your level of trust, confidence, awareness, and interpersonal skills. Horses offer us opportunities to learn what we need to change, in order to succeed in personal and professional relationships.
The Equine Partnership In Goal Setting
Horses can assist us in setting and attaining our personal and professional goals. However, as in human to human interactions, goals can be attained only AFTER a partnership has been created. Good, solid partnerships are based on self-awareness and a firm willingness to understand the "others" perspective. Horses can illustrate and encourage this dynamic. Horses will give us immediate and honest feedback, and will show us just exactly what we need to change in order to achieve the good, solid partnerships we need in order for us to accomplish both professional and personal goals.
The Equine Mirror To Your Soul
Our equine partners can and do act as a mirror of our emotions, reflecting the feelings of the individual participating in the EAL program. Horses don't lie and can't over-think your real emotions, so they recognize incongruence between behavior and emotion, telling the true story. Their sensitivity to nonverbal stimulus gives them an amazing ability to read people and reflect these emotional states offering observable and physical feedback. They offer unconditional reactions to your emotions. As social animals they provide valuable insight into group dynamics and roles. Including horses as part of the learning experience is an especially powerful method of involving people in teamwork, problem solving, leadership, communication, relationship building, and self-awareness. Because of this, Equine Assisted Learning produces endless experiences, situations and opportunities for discussion, analysis, and learning.
One important point to make is that EAL does not focus on riding. No horse experience is required. Nothing is done in the saddle in our programs. Instead, participants are led through a series of interactions with the horse on the ground that serves to focus them on the issues they are there to address. For example, if an organizational team is struggling with how to work together effectively to accomplish their goals, the structured experiences with the horses will focus on the communication, team building and problem solving issues critical to this area. What do we get from the experience with the horse that we can’t get elsewhere or otherwise? The horse provides this unique piece of feedback: It responds clearly and immediately to whatever the participants are presenting in the interaction.
Take for example our team that has problems working together. When the group is not successfully working together to accomplish a task with the horse, the horse will respond in ways that might thwart the group’s efforts and display the group’s insufficient communications. This demonstrates the areas in which they must show improvement. The facilitator will interpret the actions of the horse as indicators to the participants that they are not in control of the situation and are not working together as a team—with the horse being the integral team member.
This brings to light another important adaptive aspect of the horse that comes into play in EAL: The HERD mentality. As a prey animal, the herd serves a protective function to the horse, providing comfort and safety. Through domestication, the horse has been acclimated to people as members of its quote unquote “herd,” and as such it has a tendency to respond to people in ways that are reflective of how it would respond to other equine members of the herd.
This leads us to the final medium of relationship change that the horse embodies. For E.A.G.L.E.S participants, the lesson is about understanding why the horse behaves as it does in response to what they bring to the interaction. The behavior of the participants is reflected in the behavior of the horse. A positive change in participant behavior brings positive changes in equine behavior.
We usually find that the way in which our clients interact and react with the horses is very similar to the way they interact and react with their customers, peers, or other work groups as well as their own families! Our ability to successfully communicate with the horse provides the means to learn better ways of coping with other human beings that we may come in contact with. We are all part of our own herd, and we must conduct ourselves in ways that enhances the overall quality of life in the human herd.
Call us at 254.290.3446 or email us for more information on our courses.
- What Is Equine-Assisted Learning?
- Why Use Horses in Human Training?
- FAQ about Participating in the Innovative Horizons's Equine Assisted Goals for Leadership Enhancement Series.*
- FAQ about Hosting an Innovative Horizons's Equine Assisted Goals for Leadership Enhancement Series.*
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