You might just need a little horse power!
Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is an emerging, professional field in which horses are used as tools for emotional growth and leadership development. EAL is an experiential learning process that engages people by offering the opportunity to fully participate holistically—employing mind, body and spirit. Simply put, experiential education through EAL is learning by doing—with reflection. This is a “learner-centered” approach. In other words, participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then discussing feelings, behaviors and patterns.
EAL programs are designed to aid leaders and their teams in reaching their full potential. Unlike conventional training in a classroom setting, EAL is truly experiential and takes place at a working horse ranch. You won’t be sitting at any tables, but working in an actual horse arena.
The focus of EAL is not horsemanship or learning to ride. In fact, 100 percent of EAL takes place on the ground. By involving the horses in the activities, the group is required to apply critical business skills. Non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and problem solving, leadership, taking responsibility, teamwork, relationships building, confidence, and attitude are several examples of the tools utilized and developed by participating in EAL activities.
Horses Are Effective Facilitators
Horses don’t possess any advanced degrees, licenses or certifications. They don’t care what has happened in our past, how much money we make, what type of home we live in or what our professional title may be. The only things they care about are how honest we are with them and ourselves. Horses are natural leaders and teachers. They have the ability to live in the moment and are highly sensitive. Because of these natural abilities, horses offer us immediate and untainted feedback about how we are feeling and behaving. They catch us in the act of not being authentic to our true selves. If we do not display emotional and behavioral alignment with the horse, the horse will not cooperate, which tells us that we need to choose alternative behaviors. It is these behavioral adjustments that foster professional and personal growth.
Because horses react to the most subtle human signals, they can mirror exactly what human body language is telling them. What sometimes remains unconscious for us is brought forward by horses as they respond to our most subtle communications. Many participants will complain, “The horse is stubborn” or “The horse doesn’t like me,” etc. But the lesson to be learned is that if people change themselves, the horses respond differently. Horses are honest, which makes them especially powerful messengers. They communicate in the purest form, which most of us have lost touch with.
Horses require work, whether in caring for them or working with them. In an era when immediate gratification and the “easy way” are the norm, horses require people to be engaged in both physical and mental work to be successful, a valuable characteristic in all aspects of life. As someone once said, “A horse is the projection of people’s dreams about themselves—strong, powerful, beautiful. He has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence.”
Equine Assisted Learning and Emotional Intelligence
Several studies show that increasing emotional intelligence can help leaders create a high-performance culture, which, in turn, produces higher productivity, employee retention and profitability. There is also a strong link or connection between EAL and emotional intelligence.
Because horses have the natural ability to give us feedback and mirror our emotions and behavior, they help us to be more self-aware in the moment—a key part of emotional intelligence. Secondly, through this awareness, the horses help us to communicate more effectively by understanding how our behavior truly impacts others.
Participation in EAL/EQ Training will also enable your team to:
- Build team identity
- Teach team members how to put team goals before individual goals
- Draw all members of the group into active and enthusiastic participation
- Teach team members how to interact well with all different personalities and work styles on the team.
EAL training normally follows these patterns:
- Half-day or full-day trainings
- Pre-training consult to review specific goals and objectives
- Post-training consult to review participant feedback and evaluation.
Time and time again, participants report that when working with our horses they personally witnessed and experienced the horses’ uncanny ability to reflect their internal emotional state. This is because EAL allows them the chance to still their bodies and quiet their minds in the presence of horses so that they are able to reveal a perfect reflection of their internal selves. These majestic creatures have the innate ability to perceive and communicate that which is beneath the surface but still within each of us.
Horses facilitate our journey to the sacred space within each of us where our awareness and talents lay sometimes hidden, needing to be reflected back to us so that we may see ourselves more wholly. During the supportive and nurturing environment of EAL, each participant decides the depth of experience he or she chooses to seek, whether it is deep emotional work, play or relaxation. iBi
Deb Mason is the owner of Stable Solutions in Manito, Illinois. The company offers certified Equine Assisted Learning programs. Visit mystablesolutions.net for more information.