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Herd Hierarchies, Gratitude and Team Building

team-building with horses and horse-inspired life lessons

Holidays are a time when most Americans typically stop, review the year and wonder, perhaps for the first time consciously, what they are grateful for. This is one of my favorite times of year.

I’ve been thinking about the similarities and differences between horses and humans. Both are herd creatures. While we share some similarities, there are also many differences.

Since I work with both horses and humans together I am very grateful for both the similarities and the differences. I find the authenticity of horses hugely beneficial to humans in helping to show how our human dysfunctions can keep us tethered to unproductive and unhealthy working relationships. We humans have a tendency to be quick to judge and make assumptions about others. This becomes very clear in corporate settings when teams must work together effectively.

Being Present In The Environment

To develop resilient, effective teams the members need to understand themselves and their impact/place in the team as well as noticing what is happening in the environment. Horses naturally create social hierarchies whether domestic or in the wild. A corporation is also a social hierarchy.

In the wild, the horses’ hierarchical rankings work to safeguard the herd, maintain family groups and determine priority access to resources such as food, water and shelter. Doesn’t that sound like what humans are attempting to do in a corporate setting? Unfortunately more often than not, individuals are more intent on attempting to safeguard their own personal standing instead of the welfare of the group.

This is what working together as a team with horses can show humans.

Herd and Human Similarities

Just like we humans are apt to do, within a herd, horses will usually break up into smaller groups of horses that tend to stay clustered together without straying too far from the whole herd. In other words, horses have stronger bonds with some horses than others. It’s kind of like having friends. In any corporate environment the same thing occurs. People hang together in smaller groups within the larger corporate and team framework. Horses are social animals and seek companionship with other horses, and they communicate to establish solid social orders. They do this in ways that we humans can benefit from when we enter their space and interact with them. 

Learning Effective Team Building

When teams work with the horses the default or invisible patterns that get in the way of efficient operation show up and come into the consciousness. The team members are then able to adjust and experiment with new strategies until they become effective. This experience then becomes the bedrock for new, highly effective team relationships

Our clients tell us they experience a wide range of benefits working with us. The reoccurring themes are:

Ability to clearly define goals and challenges

Improved authentic (verbal and non-verbal) communication

Deeper trust and respect of self and other team members

Effective cooperation during uncertainty

Understand the importance of clear roles and responsibilities.

Paying attention to environment, team and self to access impact on task

I am grateful for the amazing herd of horses I work with and the endlessly fascinating humans I work with. If you would like to explore how horses can help create more effective teams, custom equine-guided experiential programs can be designed for specific groups, businesses and organizations around any number of relevant issues and/or topics.