What is Equine-assisted Experiential Learning?

It is a result-focused approach to personal development that enables you to develop more successful problem-solving skills, communicate more effectively, build healthier relationships and significantly increase your self-confidence.

“Bonjour! My name is Margaretha and I am a level 2 EAGALA certified equine-assisted experiential learning coach. 

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This new discipline helps both riders and those who have never been anywhere near a horse to boost their self-confidence dramatically. No riding is involved, all activities take place with participants feet firmly on the ground. All activities are followed by a debriefing session lead by an experienced equine-assisted coach (moi) and a horse expert. Reasons for participants’ choices and behaviour, and the horses’ reactions to said behaviour and choices are discussed and parallels are drawn with real life. I have worked as a medical doctor for many years. I have yet to come across a more efficient discipline to help people become more assertive, confident and positive about their future. So it is with great enthusiasm that I invite you to join me at our house in the south of France, 90 minutes south-east of Bordeaux, where we host our Connect with Horses residential equine-assisted personal development workshops.”

Maybe YOU have always loved or been intrigued by horses but are too scared to approach them? Or maybe you have had unfortunate experiences with horses but always remained drawn to them? Or you might be a horse rider who wants to overcome your fear of riding after a horse riding accident?

Equine assisted Personal Development and Experiential Learning can help you:

  • communicate more effectively,
  • build stronger and more satisfying relationships,
  • feel better about yourself and dramatically increase your self-confidence,
  • be more assertive,
  • gain a solid sense of self-worth,
  • eradicate limiting beliefs that block your progress,
  • enhance your problem-solving skills,
  • thrive on change and challenges,
  • free yourself from immobilising fear,
  • discover and define your purpose in life,
  • deal with stress and avoid the dangerous effects, stress may have of your mental and physical health,
  • re-evaluate your life from a new perspective.

Equine-assisted experiential learning evolved from Equine-assisted psychotherapy when psychotherapists realised how effective this method can be to help people who do not have psychological problems but who would benefit from personal development.

Equine-assisted Experiential Learning (EEL) is an experiential form of learning during which the horse acts as a partner in the process of self-discovery and self-improvement. If you are limited by ineffective communication skills, unsatisfying relationships, unidentified blockages or unresolved internal conflict, spending time with these generous and compassionate animals will provide natural opportunities for improving communication skills, personal growth, relationship enhancement and lasting stress relief.  To facilitate this process, all EEL exercises and activities include an extensive debriefing period – offering participants the opportunity to discuss and learn from the experience.

Equine-assisted Experiential Learning is a powerful and effective experiential approach that has an impressive impact on individuals, families, and groups.

Why horses? 

“I discovered that the horse is life itself, a metaphor but also an example of life’s mystery and unpredictability, of life’s generosity and beauty, a worthy object of repeated and ever changing contemplation.” Jane Smiley

Horses have a unique ability to pick up on what people are feeling by reading and reacting to people’s body language. Participants, unaware that their body language reflects their insecurity, sometimes complain, “This horse is difficult and uncooperative. He doesn’t like me,”  However, when they change their body language, the horses become more interested.  Participants are then guided to use this new, more effective approach in their day-to-day interactions with other people.

Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals. They have defined roles within their herds. They have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods. An approach that seems to work with one horse does not necessarily work with another.  Participants learn to be aware of the horse’s body language and change their approach accordingly.  Accomplishing a task with a horse successfully increases participants’ confidence and provides wonderful metaphors for problem-solving and overcoming intimidating and challenging situations in life.

Often, ineffective communication skills cause disagreements, misunderstandings and increased stress levels; This happens because we ignore non-verbal messages and focus solely on verbal messages. Horses nearly automatically improve our communication skills, by mirroring our communication methods and our state of mind behind the masks we wear – thus offering us the opportunity to discover how to communicate more effectively and how to develop greater emotional awareness in order to resolve issues that block the development of healthy and rewarding relationships at work and at home.

For horses can educate through first hand, subjective, personal experiences, unlike human tutors, teachers, and professors can ever do. Horses can build character, not merely urge one to improve on it. Horses forge the mind, the character, the emotions and inner lives of humans.  Charles de Kunffy

Examples of Equine Assisted Learning Activities

One of our exercises is called Combined Brain Power. In this exercise, three people agree to work together to saddle a horse. Sounds simple enough. However, all three have their arms linked, standing side by side. The person in the middle is the “brain” and must tell the person on their right and left (acting as the centre person’s right and left hands) what to do. They can only use their hand on whatever side of the brain they are on. This is a great exercise in communication and listening skills.

Another equine-assisted learning exercise is called Communication Challenges. Participants are instructed to induce a horse to go over a jump placed in the arena. The jump can represent any challenge that an individual is facing. It doesn’t sound too difficult until the rules of the activity are given: no physical touching of the horse, no halters or lead ropes, no bribing, and no verbal communication with each other. Clients learn that if they want to change the horse’s behaviour, they have to change their own behaviour, thoughts and feelings.

The Trial and Temptation activity involves two participants, such as a couple. With this activity, an obstacle course is built with various turns and twists, and is dotted with hay bales, buckets of grain, heaps of carrots and other potentially attractive items to the horse. The participants must then lead their horse through the course without allowing the horse to eat anything, leave the course or knock anything over. Each client must hold a lead rope with only one hand at the very end of the rope while staying outside the course. Reference: Kersten, G., (1997). Equine Assisted Psychotherapy “EAP” Training Manual.

For more detailed information, you can watch this excellent TED talk ‘Lessons from Listening to Horses’ by Lucinda Vette:

If you would like to try out equine-assisted experiential learning for yourself, why not join us on a Connect with Horses workshop here in the south of France?

E-mail us for more information or to register for a workshop and discover an entirely new way of communicating!

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If you can not get away right now, you may want to subscribe to our Mpower Me monthly e-magazine for regular updates about additional workshops, early bird special offers and last minute deals. You will also receive a free copy of my book You ARE Good Enough: 10 Simple Strategies to Stop Sabotaging Yourself and the 10 Steps to Instant Self-Confidence guide. Just click on the link at the top right of this page.
More information about equine-assisted therapy: Three interesting articles about equine-assisted psychotherapy

 

 

 

Guided Personal and Professional Growth – Reformed MD, assisted by six talented Horses, hosts Stress Management Mindfulness Meditation Workshops in the south of France

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