While Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) may seem unconventional, there’s growing evidence to support the idea that working with horses can help us learn and grow in ways that traditional approaches to learning can’t. Here are a few of the ways working with horses helps people build self-awareness and relational skills that translate into the workplace and beyond.
Horses are incredibly sensitive animals and are highly attuned to nonverbal communication. They’re able to sense our emotions, intentions, and energy, even when we’re not aware of them ourselves. This makes them the perfect co-facilitators in EFL sessions. They’re able to mirror back to us our emotional and energetic states, giving us immediate feedback on our own behavior and allowing us to become more self-aware.
One of the ways in which horses help us learn and grow is by promoting mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware in the moment, without judgment. Horses are masters of mindfulness and live entirely in the present moment. When we work with horses, we’re encouraged to be present with them, to slow down and pay attention to what’s happening in the moment. This promotes mindfulness and can help us become more aware of our own thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Horses also help us develop our emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. It’s an essential skill in today’s workplace, where teamwork and collaboration are highly valued. In EFL sessions, horses provide us with immediate feedback on our emotional states. This feedback helps us become more aware of our own emotions and how they impact others. It also provides us with an opportunity to practice managing our emotions in a safe and supportive environment.
Working with horses can help us develop our communication skills. Effective communication is key to successful teamwork and collaboration. In EFL sessions, horses provide us with immediate feedback on our communication style and skills. This feedback helps us become more aware of our own communication style and how it impacts others. It also provides us with an opportunity to practice communicating in a clear and consistent way, or experimenting with entirely different ways than we’re used to.
Leadership isn’t just about giving orders or being in charge. It is about being able to inspire and motivate others, and to work collaboratively towards a shared goal. In EFL sessions, horses provide us with an opportunity to practice our leadership skills in a safe and supportive environment. For example, we may be tasked with leading a horse through a series of obstacles. The horse may resist our leadership or become hesitant, which provides us with an opportunity to practice our leadership skills in a way that is supportive for both ourselves and the horse – or the opportunity to see what it’s like when our leadership efforts don’t work at all!
Finally, working with horses can promote personal growth and self-awareness. In EFL sessions, we are given an opportunity to confront our own limitations, fears, and challenges. Horses are non-judgmental and provide us with a safe and supportive environment to explore these issues. This can be incredibly powerful and can lead to personal growth and self-awareness that extends far beyond the EFL session.
If you’ve been struggling as a leader, as a teammate, or as a learning and development or talent development professional and are looking for new ways to help yourself or your team contact us today to talk about how EFL could be a game changer for your organization.