Thursday, May 3, 2012

Equine Demo Report




Equine Assisted Leadership Training

I mentioned last week I would talk about my experiences at a couple of equine -assisted demos taking place this past weekend.  I went to an equine-assisted team building and leadership program on Friday.  Saturday I was at a demo put on by a Christian based group to use horses to demonstrate proper boundaries and relationships.   Some of the other observers were counselors and youth camp directors.  

I'll start with Wager's Way  Team Building and Leadership Demo located in Ashland, Ohio.  The facilitators were professional, qualified and experienced with a friendly, straight forward approach.  The demo was a mini workshop to give us a taste of what an actual corporate workshop would be like which meant we actually got to interact as a group with the horses!   My group consisted of 4 woman in various management positions in non equine related businesses.   Our facilitators gave us an overview of why horses are used in learning team building and leadership skills as well as their own background in the corporate world.  Ginny, the president of Wager's Way introduced us to the equine members of the program next.  Wager is a tall, elegant older appendix QH who oozes wisdom and patience. Dia, is a young, energetic paint mare that adds her spark to the herd.  Ginny then brought out 3 over sized minis and turned them out in a paddock where we were going to do an activity.  The minis were well grooming, sassy and adorable!  I particularly loved a pretty black mare with an over abundance of mane and tail!   The minis pack a lot of personality in those little bodies so you don't feel like you are missing out on the 'total' experience working with the pint sized crew!

We were given 1 minute to plan how to do a task the facilitators gave us.   The task was simply take the loose minis from one corner of the paddock to the other,  wait for the facilitators to count to 5 and then take them back to the other corner.   The group looked to me to come up with a plan since I am a horse person.  I gave what I thought was sufficient  instructions to what seemed a simple task.  Famous last words, right??  We had some initial success and then our plan fell apart.  Oh, and did I mention we were NOT allowed to talk after the 1 minute planning?  We encountered during this 'project' initial movement from our horse team  in the right direction but then we all lost of focus, had to deal with distraction,  fragmentation, bulking, resistance and disruptive behavior in our equine and human team!  One of the minis just flat out told us in horse terms but plain as day-- I'm not gonna and you can't make me!!  LOL!  We eventually completed the task but it looked nothing like I had envisioned it when I came up with the plan.  So much for executing our project!  The facilitators did a great job afterwards talking about human correlations in the workplace and how the workshop uses what comes up in these exercises to discuss work related issues and how to handle them most effectively.

It was great fun and a wonderful learning experience.   It is amazing how quickly the group dynamics and personal leadership styles of the group show up!  I have heard of people using this type of model for hiring employees also.  I can very much see how that would quickly give you SO much information on how a person is in the workplace and in relationships.  I loved also how the focus was always SO positive.  It is about finding strengths and solutions.  I would not describe myself as much of a corporate person since most of my work has been either as an independent contractor or small business owner but I did not feel inadequate or intimidated by the people.  The horses do that all!  LOL!  Quite effectively too I might add!   The horses provide this wonderful, living, breathing, thinking and reacting example of behavior/attitudes that can be discussed in ways that make learning so much easier.  At one point I was seeing a pattern of negative reactions in the minis that made it possible for me to see the unnecessary pressure I put on myself when given a task.  That pressure sometimes keeps me from seeing the bigger picture of what I am doing and effects how I approach things.  I got this beautiful concrete example of how stepping back, taking that unnecessary time pressure off myself to get it done 'NOW' and just be more purposeful gets the results I am after. My communication becomes clearer and the sense of urgency is replaced with better focus.  If someone would just tell me that is what I need to do I do not think it would have the same effect as it did as I discovered it myself while dealing with a rambunctious mini!

I can see how businesses could really benefit from these workshops!  I am positive the money for the workshop would more than be recouped in smoother operations.  And it is all done relatively painlessly and without any feelings hurt.  :)  The horses provide this wonderful concrete, dynamic visual and since the focus is on the horse and their reactions/behavior it is non-threatening and very empowering to the people.   My equine specialist experience is in the therapy model so this was very interesting to see the horses used in this way.  Wager's Way offers individual coaching as well and I am seriously considering going back to help refine my own personal professional vision.   That is also the beauty of this type of horse -assisted experiential learning- it is easily adapted to pretty much any situation.  

I will talk next about my experience with the Christian based program teaching Boundaries on my next blog. Please consider signing up to follow me or share this with your friends.


To contact me I can be reached by e-mail at artbysuesteiner at gmail dot com or comment here.  You may also want to find me on facebook on my Horse and Pony community page