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Pilot study examines effectiveness of horse-based learning

UK Ctr. for Leadership Development will study the effectiveness of using horses to teach.

PHOTO: Matt Barton

LEXINGTON, Ky., (April 26, 2012) – In May, the University of Kentucky Center for Leadership Development will be launching a six-month pilot study to provide preliminary data on the effectiveness of collaborating with horses to teach emotional intelligence and leadership competencies, a process known as Equine Guided Leadership Education.

The study is a collaborative endeavor between nursing researchers from UK HealthCare and social science researchers from the Center for Leadership Development, which is part of the UK College of Agriculture and under the leadership of Director Patricia Dyk. The long-range goal will be to secure future funding for larger research projects.

There is an abundance of anecdotal evidence that suggests experiential learning with horses is effective at building competencies, said Lissa Pohl, the center’s co-investigator and project lead. “However, for this promising field to become even more credible in the eyes of those who want to utilize this powerful learning method, there needs to be academic research conducted and published in peer-reviewed journals showing this to be the case.”

The study will compare the before and after emotional intelligence (EQ) assessments of both a control group and an experimental group of up to 15 nurses each. Researchers will also examine qualitative surveys of those in the experimental group who will experience a one-day equine-guided learning workshop designed to increase their EQ skills at work. The basic premise of equine-guided education is that horses are natural coaches, with an innate ability to interpret and mirror human behavior. Equine-assisted learning experiences are professionally facilitated horse-human interactions and exercises geared to helping people develop insights that can be applied in the workplace and in their personal lives.

Winning With Horse Power, a Florida-based global umbrella organization of equine experiential providers, is partnering with the center to assist in publicizing the research and raising funds for the study.

“Supporting this pilot study is a perfect fit for us,” says Eileen Tighe, president and CEO of Winning With Horse Power. “Our members around the world are in many different specializations, but using equine-guided experiences to develop emotional intelligence is integral to all of them.”

Instructionson how to contribute can be found online at http://www2.ca.uky.edu/CFLD/research.php. All contributions are tax deductible and will beused solely for the purpose of research in Equine Guided Leadership Education.

Contact: 

Lissa Pohl, 859-257-2748

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