Welcome to the growing field of Equine Assisted Professional Development (EAPD)-a new approach to learning in which participants cultivate and develop their own style of leadership and interpersonal communication, and through which they learn to navigate their way to better teamwork and collaboration.
Typical issues our clients address with the help of horses are:
Developing one's sense of leadership
Discovering what's standing between "team" and "teamwork"
Addressing conflict and improving communication
Enhancing problem solving skills and overcoming obstacles
Increasing self-awareness and confidence
Recognizing the importance of hierarchy and the value of community
LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT
Working with horses allows us to experience leadership principles in a new way--providing a unique opportunity to learn how to better communicate with integrity and authenticity, remain confident when faced with uncertainty, and motivate and encourage those we are attempting to lead.
Leadership: Horses respond in the moment, offering clear and honest feedback about our current strengths and shortcomings as leaders. A simple leading exercise may result in a horse moving enthusiastically for one leader, and refusing to budge for the next. The difference is in the person's sense of him/herself as a leader in that situation.
Integrity: As prey animals, horses live in the moment. Their survival depends upon their ability to accurately scan the environment for incongruence. As such, they "read" our minds (intentions) and hearts (character) and when they discover differences between what they "feel" from us and how we behave, they are unlikely to cooperate. To horses (and to humans!), integrity between our hearts and minds is often more important in leadership than our words and actions.
Task vs. Relationship:
Many of us get caught up in the frenetic pace of our daily work. Meeting deadlines and "getting the job done" is often our first priority-often at the expense of relationships. Working with horses helps us understand the importance of cultivating and nurturing the relationships with our colleagues, and in fact, can actually facilitate our ability to be successful! When working with the horses, those who take time to establish a connection with the horse before moving to task encounter less resistance, and in fact, experience a much greater sense of partnership.
Remember: If you can encourage a horse to trust and follow, you can encourage people to do the same!
Horses are social animals, living in herds (or bands). They are purposeful, efficient, and highly tuned in to one another--ready to move at a moment's notice. Knowing that hierarchy and order, harmony and teamwork are key to survival, each horse accepts his/her "standing" within the herd, assumes the appropriate role, and behaves accordingly. When new members join, or as young horses mature into adulthood, or when senior leaders lose their ability to keep the herd safe, a new hierarchy is quickly established, and others align themselves.
Alignment: Horse herds move together in unity, and as a herd, they are more powerful than they are individually. Each is tuned in to the other, confident in their purpose and clear about the direction in which they are moving. As part of our EAPD program, teams are often requested to engage the horse(s) as a group, and are reminded of the exciting unifying experience that occurs when the same "current of energy" flows through all team members-everyone sensing the same rhythm in a way that enables the team to achieve the unimaginable.
Trust: The herd's acceptance of hierarchy is based upon "who" can best keep them safe. After all, their survival in the wild depends upon sticking together. Once positions are established, they rarely challenged them, accepting and trusting in the chosen leader and in their unity as a herd. Trust equates to confidence, clarity and communication. In a moment's notice, a simple flick of an ear or swish of a tail can signal danger, sending the entire herd into a hard run. OUR EAPD program gives teams an opportunity to experience the positive effects of "letting go", and trusting both the process and one another.
Unlike other domestic animals, like dogs or cats, horses "say" nothing. They rarely communicate with sounds, basing their language on sight and intuition. For us, hearing plays a major role. Although we do absorb information visually, it is through our ears that we "feel" the nuances of a situation. Working with horses helps us to experience a new way of understanding. Horses help teach us to "hear" those unspoken words with our eyes.
Body Language: Movement is the essence of "horse". Every activity in which they engage-- mating, playing, rejoicing, mourning, warning-they do with their bodies. How a horse moves is how he feels. If we pay attention to one another more closely we might find that the same is true of us. Interacting with horses teaches us how to be more in tune to the intentions, thoughts and feelings of others-simply by noticing posture, gestures and movement.
Although we use several forms of communication, voice is our primary form. We recognize one other primarily by speech patterns, and place great value on our ability to communicate well verbally. Horses however, prefer visual "language". They actually feel when they see, and perhaps because most of what they see is not in focus, they pay less attention to specific details and more attention to the surrounding energy--trusting in what they feel, see and intuit. EAPD session participants are given an opportunity to try interacting without verbal communication, and often discover a whole new world in the process!
What to Expect in a Corporate Session:
First of all, no previous horse experience is necessary!
Our "HorseSense" approach draws upon non-mounted, hands-on exercises with horses selected for their appropriateness to session objectives. Each program is designed around fundamental principles in how we lead, communicate, and interact. Periodic debriefing sessions help participants understand and embrace the lessons learned by exploring parallels between what happened in the arena and what happens in "real life" -- individually, or as part of a team or organization.