Those of us employing a relationship-based approach to Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning (EFEL) in the personal and professional development business know how powerful the approach can be for our participants. The success we’ve witnessed traveling the country these past four years conducting workshops, from Hawaii to Montana to Florida, has been remarkable. We’ve seen rapid, developmental progress made in combat veterans, women leaving county jail, VA counselors, juveniles in detention, at-risk children, clinicians and business professionals. The approach delivers a powerful shift in one’s perspective of self, others and how the interplay between human beings (and horses, too) has a biochemical, neurological and psychological affect that subtly defines the nature of our relationships. Whether we’re leading a team of professionals, selling to prospects, or simply interacting with our friends and families. We know this works because we’ve seen it working.
Now there’s a solid, scientific research study that confirms what we know anecdotally. Researchers Patricia Pendry and Stephanie Roeter of Washington State University published the study, “Experimental Trial Demonstrates Positive Effects of Equine Facilitated Learning on Child Social Competence”, in a 2012 edition of the professional journal, Human-Animal Interactions. Conducted as an eleven week after-school program, the study demonstrated improvements in the youth’s’ self-confidence, self-esteem, school bonding, positive social behaviors, school grades and achievement test scores. To quote Pendry and Roeter, “Results echo findings from prior correlational, anecdotal, and case study evidence, which suggest significant positive associations between participation in equine facilitated programs and various aspects of adjustment and wellbeing. Faced with skepticism about the efficacy of equine facilitated programs by potential funders and third party payers, therapeutic professionals and clients can now point to causal evidence. This may not only increase the public’s confidence in equine programs’ ability to positively affect child development, but also translate into increased structural support to increase accessibility to such programs.”1
At first glance, working with horses to develop mindful leaders, cohesive teams and highly efficient sales professionals may look a bit woo-woo. It isn’t. We’ve canvased over 200 peer-reviewed research studies in everything from affective neuroscience, biochemistry, applied behavioral economics, performance psychology, adult learning styles and even quantum physics to correlate and explain what is actually happening in our workshops. Our approach incorporates this research to introduce and frame the lessons the participants are about to experience, in specifically designed horse/human relationship-based exercises, firsthand for themselves. As we introduce business metaphors throughout the exercises, we see eyes widen as that ah-ha moment emerges when a lesson is embraced through self-reflection and self-discovery. These kinesthetic lessons are not easily forgotten.
The research pipeline for EFEL is beginning to fill and in the coming years I’m confident we’ll see even more validated results to the approach. Validation of what we’ve learned experientially by conducting workshops these past four years. If you are interested in learning more about our approach, we invite you to visit our website!
1.) Patricia Pendry, Stephanie Roeter, “Experimental Trial Demonstrates Positive Effects of Equine Facilitated Learning on Child Social Competence”, Human-Animal Interaction, 2012, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1-19.
© 2013, Terry Murray.