The experience is safe, fun, memorable – and very profound insights can be made. For taking a 600lb horse through a simple task has many parallels with motivating and leading a team of individuals to achieve corporate objectives.
For instance, the horse is oblivious to status – he doesn’t care who thinks they’re the boss. He responds best to who he respects and feels comfortable with. So status, authority and control is less effective than empathy and clear, sincere communication.
Unlike humans, the horse does not pay lip service to you. He responds precisely to the messages you send out. You need to be clear in your intentions, and quick to notice whether praise, reassurance or firm direction are needed at any one moment. The horse’s reactions to the handler are direct and specific. Our clients always want to work with them again.
The learnings and skills that ‘horseplay’ offers includes the importance of:
- Clear, confident communication
- Recognizing and rewarding positive behaviour
- Seeing the situation from another’s perspective
- Awareness of the impact of your own energy levels
- Thinking and planning rather than just high energy action – with low results
- Understanding the boundaries of relationships
- Taking responsibility for your own actions
For some, overcoming a fear of horses in a supportive environment is an key part of the experience – which may relate to other areas of their life too.
The group sessions include an orientation to the horse’s language and behaviour responses from a specialist in the area. The horses we use are well kept and gently mannered so that they relate happily to strangers. Yet they are also large powerful animals, in touch with their senses and emotions, so that this is also a very dynamic experience. Most of the work is done on the ground, using a combination of team exercises and individual coaching.
Liz Morrison leads this area, usually using two of her own horses. She is well qualified, professionally insured and highly experienced and has also written a best selling book on sports psychology for riders. She ensures that this is a safe activity which is also fun and a very powerful learning experience, as the following quotes indicate:
So different to the normal powerpoint rich training courses, and therefore so much more powerful! I am taking away some very tangible, specific, useful ‘tools’ that I will actually use tomorrow.
Very insightful course superbly well run. Very productive to be able to explore our own needs and issues. Learnt so much from the interaction with Oskar & Todd, very rewarding, challenging and productive.
Excellent Course – very thought provoking and potentially life changing. Felt like I was learning constantly throughout the two days.
There was a richness to role-playing with the horses that made the exercise a lot more real – the horses responded with their own personalities and there was a real dialogue, I was able to understand the effects of my own behaviour and adapt it, trying out new ways of being and interacting with others and still be in a safe environment.
(Senior Manager WWF)
I realised that we carry our stories wherever we go; the way we relate to other people, it seems to me that there are patterns that we repeat…there is no place to hide when you are with “playing” with the horses, and through good facilitation and stopping to observe one’s own behaviour, these patterns come to light and it is possible to make sense of them…and start practicing new ways of behaving, that may be more compassionate to oneself and to others.
(CARPP PhD Student)
‘Horse Sense’ article written by Nick Pole: [Word doc].