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Horses enhance leadership development

How Horses Enhance Leadership Development in Teams

Have you ever wondered how horses can teach us valuable lessons about communication and leadership development? Horses, like humans, are herd animals known for their social and highly communicative nature. They possess a unique ability to authentically convey their emotions and intentions, making them exceptional coaches and mirrors for human behavior. Horses can offer profound insights in the context of team communication and leadership development.

The Authenticity of Horses

Horses, as social creatures, are deeply relationship-oriented and rely heavily on non-verbal communication. Unlike humans, they cannot communicate something they are not feeling, making their expressions and actions completely authentic. Horses simply cannot lie. This authenticity is what makes horses such effective learning partners and coaches. By observing how we approach, listen to, and interact with horses, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves from an external perspective. This increased self-awareness enhances our emotional and social intelligence, ultimately leading to greater success in the workplace.

The Way of the Horse: A Transformative Experience

One program that harnesses the power of equine-assisted learning is The Way of the Horse at Horse + Bow in the Texas Hill Country, outside of Austin, TX. This highly experiential program takes leadership development and team-building activities outdoors, where horses serve as mirrors and coaches. By engaging in various group-based activities with the horses, participants gain a greater awareness of themselves and their colleagues. Through this process, they develop essential skills such as effective communication, leadership development, focus, and motivation. The program is designed to enhance emotional intelligence, self-confidence, and self-awareness, fostering authentic and impactful leadership.

The Role of Horses in Team Communication

Horses possess astute senses and are highly sensitive to the energy, intention, actions, and body language of humans. As prey animals, they rely on these abilities to assess potential threats in their environment. Consequently, horses become a barometer for non-verbal communication, enabling individuals to recognize how their non-verbal cues may be affecting their relationships with others. The immediate, honest, and non-judgmental feedback provided by horses serves as a powerful tool for self-reflection and personal growth, surpassing what human coaches can offer. Horses have no agenda and are unaware of office politics, reacting solely to the real person in front of them.

Effective Communication Team Building Activity

The “Effective Communication” team-building activity offers a unique approach to enhancing team communication and leadership development skills. Participants are presented with a challenge, given a few minutes to strategize and then a limited amount of time to complete the task. Typically, this involves motivating a horse or horse(s) to move to a certain part of the arena or through an obstacle course. Watching this exercise unfold, facilitators take note of the actions of the participants and reactions of the horses. Does the team assign roles and responsibilities? Do leaders create a plan and delegate tasks effectively? Does the team buy in and stick with the plan? Do they pivot? How do they communicate the new strategy? What happens when time runs out? If they have been successful, do they celebrate? If they have failed, how do they handle it? The program involves a series of group-based exercises with the horses, fostering a deeper understanding of oneself and others. Throughout the exercises, participants gain diverse perspectives and strengthen their ability to adapt and collaborate effectively. The program can be conducted as a half-day or full-day program, accommodating groups of 4 to 24 participants.

Logistics and Requirements

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience, it is important to consider the logistics and requirements of the Communication Through Horses leadership development and team-building activity. The minimum time for the activity is 2 hours, while the maximum is 6 hours. The group size can range from a minimum of 4 participants to a maximum of 24 participants. Participants are advised to wear closed-toe shoes, preferably boots, as well as comfortable weather-appropriate clothing. Additionally, participants will be required to sign a waiver, and it is recommended that they bring a willingness to engage and learn. The best way to approach the day is with a spirit of curiosity and an open mind for what the experience may bring.

Benefits of Learning Leadership Development from Horses

Horses provide invaluable lessons in connection and community, which can be applied to various aspects of our lives, including leadership development and teamwork. In the wild, horses find safety and security in staying connected with their herd, much like humans seek support and belonging in their communities. Trust, a fundamental element of effective leadership, is exemplified by the lead mare in a horse herd. The chosen leader is trusted by the entire herd to ensure their safety, highlighting the importance of trust and mutual care within human teams.

Equine-Assisted Learning for Authentic Leadership

Equine-assisted learning and coaching offer powerful and innovative methods for leaders to explore and develop authentic leadership skills. By observing how horses adapt to ever-changing circumstances, communicate their needs, and keep each other safe, leaders can incorporate these lessons into their own lives. Equine-assisted learning provides a unique opportunity to directly experience the importance of working together as a community, fostering trust, effective communication, and a sense of shared responsibility.

Next Steps for Leadership Development with Horses

Horses have much to teach us about communication and leadership development. Their authenticity, ability to mirror our behavior, and reliance on non-verbal communication make them exceptional partners in learning. Through programs at Horse + Bow, teams can enhance their communication skills, deepen their understanding of one another, and foster authentic and impactful leadership. By incorporating the wisdom of horses into our own lives, we can create stronger connections, build thriving communities, and achieve greater success both personally and professionally. Reach out to learn more about our customizable leadership development programs for your team. Or read on for more benefits of Equine Assisted Activities for teams.