Who doesn’t remember that special teacher who taught a lesson you will never forget?
It could have been the kind, pretty teacher in elementary school who taught you the value of sharing with others, or your high school sports coach who showed you the meaning of team work. Perhaps it was a university professor who nurtured a latent love for philosophy or the Classics.
Never in our wildest dreams would we imagine learning valuable lessons from a teacher with four legs. And a tail. Who lives in a barn.
But that’s what you get when you participate in Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), which is, in a nutshell, having a horse for a teacher.
Sounds out of the ordinary, but some valuable lessons about leadership, co-operation and communication are being taught by gentle horses through Sea Breeze Leadership Development operated by Glen Murphy. EAL is an objective driven, skills development program where the horse is the teacher.
An RCMP officer for approximately 27 years, Murphy always nurtured a love of horses. Today, he is turning that passion for horses into a passion for helping people. By using horses.
“This is way more satisfying,” he smiled.
Murphy was certified as an EAL facilitator in 2016 at the Academy of Equine Assisted Learning. When asked about the program Murphy joked, “It’s not a horse program. It’s a people program.”
Currently, he operates his business in Welsford at Stand Fast Stable where he rents the horses and the facility, but Murphy and his partner, June, plan to open their own operation in Telford in the future.
According to the website http://www.seabreezeleadership.com/, EAL is simply a learner-based educational experience with horses. More specifically, EAL is an effective approach to human development that encourages individual and team growth.
Participants engage in objectively driven exercises and find themselves learning valuable life skills in a fun and exciting atmosphere while working with horses. EAL has proven to be effective, powerful, positive, educational and creative. The program facilitates life skills through positively reinforced interaction with horses. Exercises are developed to encourage self-confidence through validated, hands-on experiences.
The lesson learned on this particular bright, sunny day was all about effectively communicating in a non-verbal way. The teachers were two real beauties — Honey and Lily — gentle Quarter horses who were sure-footed and attentive.
Using cue cards, each team — comprised of two people on this particular day — had specific instructions. One partner silently read instructions on a cue card then had to get the other partner to understand what the instructions were and lead the horse through a series of actions and manoeuvers in the ring — without speaking. This took effective communication — non-verbal, of course — understanding, patience and trust.
The end result was, quite simply, amazing.
By working collaboratively but without speech, the horse wound her way through a series of bright orange pylons, stepped with her hind leg on a work glove that had been dropped in the dusty ring, walked over wooden poles without stepping on any of them, and walked around the perimeter of the show ring both backwards and forwards. It was all accomplished by the partners working together, watching, listening and communicating — without words.
“Now you’re speaking their language,” Murphy smiled. His eyes shine brightly when he talks about the EAL program and all that it does.
“Horses can’t speak, so they get cues from people. They are the teaching tools, responding to what the students do, where they lead and how they behave.”
Murphy leads the participants through the challenges, has them work with the horses, then chats with the group afterward, leading them through the process of self-discovery.
“The skills learned through this program today are transferable to all relationships and are applicable to real life.”
Sea Breeze offers programs in Youth Leadership and Skills Development, Team Building for Business, and Anti-Bullying Programs. For additional information on EAL visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT CAN A HORSE TEACH YOU THAT A HUMAN CAN’T?
- Horses can’t lie or over think a participant’s motive
- A horse’s feedback is honest and instant
- Horses have natural “herd behaviours” that require trust, respect and teamwork from all members of the team
- Horses automatically respond to confusion and frustration as these feelings can put the herd at risk
- They lead through assuredness — not brute force
- Horses have distinct personalities and through this, they all have a different methods of teaching