Winston Churchill famously said “There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man!” And if it’s good enough for him, who are we to argue?
Today, I’d like to tell you a little bit about how our 4-legged co-facilitators have helped some of the people we’ve worked with.
In the workplace, Horse Assisted Development is an amazing tool for developing strong and cohesive teams, by helping them communicate with confidence and clarity. In this type of programme we work with the horses to create scenarios that represent the challenges the team might be facing, such as resolving a personnel issue, meeting targets, or overcoming obstacles. It always amazes me how quickly a team gets right back to basics when pushed outside their comfort zone by suddenly having a horse in their midst. A Senior Operations Manager for Telefonica O2 UK, said she found our team development programme “far more powerful than the usual role play used in training/coaching sessions as you could not plan the reaction of the horses and had to really adapt your approach if you were not getting the results required.”
Some of the most rewarding work we do is with young and vulnerable people, supporting their social and emotional development needs and improving their life chances. We’ve worked with some lovely young people who have found themselves going through a very difficult time and to see them come through this with renewed confidence and purpose is just fantastic. Take, for instance, Abbi*, who was being so badly bullied at school that she had virtually lost her voice and had threatened suicide. After just 6 HAD sessions she had become Captain of her school netball team and, by the end of our time together, said “since I started going to HAD I feel that I could face up to people when they cause problems…. Heidi and the ponies have helped me a lot with the things around me and in myself.”
Sometimes family problems and other emotional issues cause young people to disengage from learning and HAD is great in these cases. But often it’s simply a question of conventional schooling not being able to fully meet the learning needs of an individual student. For example, we recently worked with two young people on the Autism Spectrum, who responded incredibly well to the natural, outdoor learning environment, working with the ponies as part of their alternative curriculum studies. On the surface of things, they were learning about horse care. However, in reality, we were talking about planning and managing activities, communication, influencing skills, conducting research and delivering a presentation – all invaluable life skills that will better place them to have successful lives and careers when they finish school.
So, thank you Mr Churchill, for your words of wisdom – you knew what you were talking about!
*Name changed to protect identity