Okay, forget about the rope courses, blind folded forays into the wilderness and other team building exercises. According to The Horse Institute, their experiential learning program can help develop leadership skills, aid in team building and promote personal development by working with horses in a group setting.
The premise is similar to other team building endeavours: you can learn better when you are actively engaged in solving problems. So why use a horse? There are several reasons, starting with the concept that when you work with horses, you need to be firmly routed in the present, rather than holding grudges or anticipating issues.
Leadership: Horses are herd animals that respond well to direction from a competent, confident leader who communicates clearly and looks out for the herd’s best interests. Companies use The Horse Institute’s Leadership program to help evaluate the leadership skills of employees and prospects.
Team Building: Since horses are prey animals, they rely on peripheral vision to size up situations. The team building exercises teach people to think outside the box and look outside their normal field of vision to look for potential allies or problems.
Personal Development: Most people are not that comfortable around horses, so a team building exercise that involves 1200 lb animals requires that people overcome a certain amount of fear to accomplish the tasks assigned to them. Working with horses also teaches people how much their non-verbal communication affects team members. Institute founders Marie-Claude and Larry Stockl remark that the horses mirror the individual, reacting to different people differently.
The premise of this Institute did get me thinking. Especially about how the horse’s reaction mirrors the action of the individual. Certainly, I know people who have not been able to control their horses; in fact, I’m pretty sure that in some cases the horses trained them. They were not leadership candidates and their body language said loud and clear that they didn’t mean what they were asking.
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