Seven Questions to Ask When Considering an Equine Facilitated Leadership or Team Building Program

Seven Questions to Ask When Considering an Equine Facilitated Leadership or Team Building Program

Many organizations are looking at training options as they move into budgeting and planning season. Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) programs are gaining popularity. It is essential to consider the differences and nuances between different approaches. It is crucial to understand the philosophy and practice of the program. These workshops and programs are still new to many, so I thought I’d share seven questions that everyone considering an EFEL program needs to ask in order to achieve their training goals.

1. ) Is the approach relationship-based or behavioral-based?

This distinction is crucial. Behaviorally-based approaches focus on the horse and reduce it to an instrument. These exercises often have an oblique nature, as they are based on putting the participants in unfamiliar situations with no clear learning objectives or framework. These programs are often used to treat emotional problems and do not promote professional development. These exercises can be abusive and domineering to horses with high levels of sensitiveness, causing fear responses. This reinforces dominant workplace behaviors that can erode teamwork and employee engagement. It also makes it challenging to work cross-purpose and promote professional growth and development.

Relationship-based methods are much more mindful. This philosophy focuses on the learning opportunities that the horse/human partnership offers. It allows participants to see how horses respond to human emotions. This is a metaphor for how people motivate, connect and engage their prospects, co-workers, and subordinates. This provides a unique learning experience that will last a lifetime. Structured relationship-based exercises have clear objectives and are in line with business and development goals. These programs also have a more thoughtful approach to partnering with horses and ensure that proper emotional, psychological, and physical care is taken at all times.

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2. ) How thorough was the facilitator’s training?

As with any industry growing, certification and training programs are a hot business. This can lead to severe problems when working with horses as a professional development tool. A lot of behavioral-based methods require deficient levels of training. EAGALA, for example, requires a three-day workshop in order to become level one certified. Comparatively, I studied a relationship-based method that required twelve weeks of study on-site, along with additional study off-site spread over the course of an entire year. It is evident that the educational difference between 12 hours of contact with horses understudy and over three hundred hours with horses speaks for itself.

3. ) Is the approach grounded in scientific research that fosters emotional intelligence competencies?

Programs without any reference to neurosciences, performance psychology, or Core Mammalian Emotional Systems can be interpreted as a lack of research. Programs that do not have solid scientific evidence to support their approach are less effective than those offering tired ropes courses, paintball excursions, or competitions to build paper boats in a resort swimming-pool pool. Peer-review research has shown that programs that are well-founded and aligned with peer-review research will be more accessible to participants. It demonstrates a direct correlation between cognitive and deeper emotional learning… providing lessons that will last a lifetime.

4. ) What are the qualifications of the facilitator?

As with any industry that is growing, people will seek out opportunities to make a living, regardless of their capabilities. Many certification programs are not certified programs. Ask about the background of the facilitator. It is incredible to me how many people in this industry have completed a quick certification program to lead leadership development programs without ever holding a leadership position in the past. Leaders have the experience of real-world leadership. They are often able to share their battle scars. Ask about the actual business leadership experience of the facilitator. Are they a sales manager who managed eight people for two to three years, or have they more than a decade of experience in leading hundreds of associates across multiple cultures? Are they able to assume the role of the leader?

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5. ) What is the horse trainer’s philosophy of horse training?

This is just as important as knowing the difference between relationship-based and behavioral-based approaches. Keep an eye out for facilitators that claim Natural Horsemanshipexpertise. Pirelli is the most prominent example. Natural Horsemanship philosophies, also known as the Industrial Age approach to leadership, reflect the same approach. They use pressure to coerce horses, increasing the discomfort until they do what they want. Then they reward the horse by releasing tension. Reward and punishment are behaviorally-based methods of dominating horses or people (or both) to achieve what the transactional leader desires. This is the main reason for the current employee disengagement crisis.

Relation-based, more mindful approaches to horsemanship emphasize communicating with horses in a way they understand and inviting them into a relationship. This philosophy is reflected in methods like Carolyn Resnick’s Water Hole Rituals (TM), Barbara Rector’s Adventures in Awareness (TM), Lisa Walter’s work atEquiSatori (TM), and Transformational Horsemanship (TM). This philosophy demonstrates transformational leadership. It is based on a service-oriented approach to leading horses that is attuned to wild herd dynamics and horse leadership. Remember that in a pack of predators, the leader is the one who rules. The leader in a herd of horses is the one who looks out for the safety and well-being of the flock. These two approaches are very different and will result in different outcomes at the EFEL workshop.

6. ) Does the program offer additional educationally-based coaching or support tools to help embed the work?

Change is not an event but a process. Mindful EFEL workshops will help participants see their world in a new way. This is essential for fostering adaptability and creative problem-solving in today’s fast-changing world. To support this shift in perspective, tools must be available that are easily accessible and can be used at work. To ensure professional growth and lasting results, it is essential to have educationally-based coaching.

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7. ) Is the program in line with business objectives that can be measured in terms of return on investment?

This is a rare occurrence. This is a rare opportunity. In fact, my firm is the only one that offers EFL programs in professional development. It is so rare. This lack of accountability is a result of the legacy of leadership and team-building events. Why didn’t the ropes course attempt to introduce metrics? They provided little to no tangible business value if any. While company outings are great for strengthening relationships, they don’t offer any developmental opportunities. Ask the program if it conducts baseline assessments with participants as well as of the current business state. Are there any explorations of the immediate business goals? Is there a gap analysis? Do you have documentation? Is the firm able to establish performance metrics both for individual participants as well for the company? Are there follow-up assessments? It is difficult to determine the value and outcomes of your investment without these crucial measurements.

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