Experiential Learning with Horses

Experiential Learning is all about understanding your approach and attitude to relationships, tasks and other people’s needs through an Most powerful is he who has himself in his own powerindirect experience.  The learning is unconscious,  ‘in the muscle’ and drawn out through subtle facilitation.  Horses are particularly helpful as they are prey animals, very responsive to their environment and non verbal signals around them.  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. Read this ‘Horse Sense’ article written by Nick Pole: [Word doc].

For instance, the horse is oblivious to status – he doesn’t care who thinks Puzzle it outthey’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.  The horse’s reactions to the handler are direct  and specific.  Where you want to understand your actions ‘in the moment’  think of it as needing to be clear in your intentions, and quick to notice whether praise, reassurance or firm direction are needed.

When working with the experiential metaphor rather than ‘command and control’ which is characteristic of some other equine  coaching approaches, the learning is at a more reflective level. For the horses will pick up changes in your energy and confidence levels, helping you understand the boundaries in relationships  and the relevance of planning.    Our clients always want to work with them again.

Sandra & OskarThe learning and skills that ‘horseplay’ offer includes:

  • Clear, confident communication
  • Recognizing and rewarding positive behaviour
  • Seeing the situation from another’s perspective
  • Overcoming fear
  • Building self respect and confidence
  • Taking responsibility for your own actions

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created themSessions include an orientation to the horse’s language and behaviour responses. 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.  We offer group and individual coaching using horses.

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. (Smiths Industries)


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. (Servier Laboratories)

Excellent Course – very thought provoking and potentially life changing. Felt like I was learning constantly throughout the two days. (Servier Laboratories)Richard leading the way

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)


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