What have horses got to teach us about group dynamics and leadership?

Gale Vincent, a leadership consultant, has teamed up with Anette Haug of Equinox coaching and her herd of horses and together they now provide a transformational leadership  program grounded in horse sense.   In this article they tell the story of a new and very different member joining the herd and invite  us to consider what horses may have to teach us about group dynamics and leadership. 

The existing herd consisted of  Phil the leader, Colin who is next in line and previously held the position of leader,  Ed who is very happy to be the penultimate  herd member and with  no ambition to be  leader or even to  move up the ladder and lastly Aragon the old age pensioner happy to live out the last years of his life without any ambition to lead any longer.  Then in comes Stanley a little, spotted, miniature, one year old stallion, to join this herd of geldings.

Initially, Stan was given a separate paddock alongside the herd’s paddock so that he had time to get used to his new environment and for  all the  horses to begin to acquaint themselves  over the fence. After 4 days, he was allowed into the main paddock and was introduced to Phil the leader who is also the herd’s protector. With no arguments with just  the two of them it looked like a smooth transition  and Stan understood immediately that Phil meant him no harm .

When the others were let into the paddock , Colin clearly felt threatened and tried to attack Stanley. Phil immediately prevented any attack by placing himself between Stan and Colin. Usually Phil and Colin are very close but when it came to protecting Stan, Phil’s attitude towards Colin changed and there were a series of fights between them,  however with -no injuries as Colin  ultimately backed down. Ed was not interested but curiously Aragon also tried to attack Stan and Phil once again intervened to protect the new arrival . After a couple of months the conflicts are at a minimum. Stan has learnt that fighting is only needed in special circumstances and he responds appropriately when one of the herd moves an ear or head asking him to move out of their space .

In the world of horses new members have to earn trust, respect and ranking and Stan is doing this. In fact  because he is small, young, playful and fearless he has introduced a new dynamic into the herd . He stands under their tails when flies are in abundance and they show patience and acceptance. They allow him to play and at the same time teach him boundaries.  And because he is not afraid of things like plastic bags, long sticks and brooms they too have the opportunity to learn that such things are not as scary as they might have thought.

So here we have the leader managing the transition, the conflicts and the new order,  the  hierarchy being challenged, the  newcomer bringing a different energy into the group and simultaneously experiencing  a new and challenging environment,   the dynamic  in the herd changing, and a host of other possibilities with new learning for all.

On  our leadership workshop you have the opportunity to experience  what you can learn about leadership, groups and your own style from observing and engaging with the horses .  In this case study we have floated a range of questions for you to consider that may give insight into your own situation or style:

How similar or different is our leadership behavior In human groups today?

Do we intervene enough or too little when there is a new member or at times of transition?

Are we constantly grappling with being the leader?

To what extent as leaders or group members do we welcome new arrivals and give them a fighting chance especially if they are different from the mainstream in stature, age, culture or behavior.

Do we take extra care if that member is noticeably different from the mainstream or do we treat all in the same way and if so why?

How alert are we to potential bullying and how much or how little do we intervene? 

How important or not is  hierarchical structure,  and maybe even tension, in human groups?  

What  skills do we have to manage conflict or do we shy away and hope that it sorts itself out in time? 

What if  a newcomer was were different like Stan and were arriving into a new group, how might they be feeling and how could they be on-boarded so that their unique skills and contribution could add value.

What other learning and questions come to mind from Stanley’s arrival , Phil’s leadership and the rest of the herds behavior and how it relates to human groups and leadership? Could Stan become the leader and if so what would he have to do or be? 

There is so much rich learning and the opportunity to shift perspective from working with these majestic and wise animals.  What is yours from this case study today?



Inspire Young Leaders With Equine Leadership Training

Equine Guided Leadership is the latest corporate training innovation to hit the UK and despite the fairly small number of companies offering the service, Great Britain is already considered one of the top countries in the world to take on one to one training with a horse. In the business world, leaders use Equine Guided Leadership to develop a myriad of skills that can completely transform the way they lead. However, when it comes to young people the effect of working with horses can have an even greater impact by helping to shape the minds of the leaders of tomorrow.

If you run a youth programme, training scheme or offer internships then take a look at the following to discover how your young leaders could benefit from the majesty and wisdom of nature’s wisest animals.  READ MORE

Let Equine Guided Leadership Shape your Management Style

The best managers think outside the box and one way to do just that is by embarking on an equine guided leadership training course. Whilst other company leaders are sitting in a stuffy conference room desperately trying to stay awake whilst an expert drones on, you could be out in the fresh air enjoying working with nature’s wisest and most majestic creatures.

Equine guided leadership offers so much more than a conventional training course and is a ‘hands on’ way of learning that will stay with you for years to come, unlike the reams of notes you might try to make at a dull conference or training session.

The Six Skills a Horse Can Teach You

There is an awful lot to be learned from horses, especially within the context of work. Just like the average workplace, horses run in herds and establish a hierarchy, but it’s how they do that which can inform a manager’s style. Observing horses can help you learn a lot about the effectiveness of your own behaviour.

1. When watching horses you could be forgiven for thinking that the noisiest or most aggressive horse is the leader, but in actual fact herd leaders are able to establish their authority with a mere nod of the head. They are able to show others that they rule the roost without the need for aggression or intimidation.

2. Horses have a herd hierarchy. Each horse is assigned a role within the herd and if they don’t fulfil their purpose they will be reprimanded. Although horses don’t use language, each member of the herd understands their role and what is expected of them.

3. Although there is a hierarchy amongst horses, the leading horses will eat first but if enough food and drink is available it is always shared equally. In a work situation this equates to ensuring your employees are properly rewarded for the work they do.

4. In order to work with a horse it’s necessary to establish trust and assert your authority through your body language. Horses won’t respond to persuasion or yelling so you have to rely on the way you carry yourself and your own sense of confidence to succeed.

5. The fast paced world of business can often leave workers overwhelmed and many managers have a tendency to keep piling on the pressure. When you work with a horse to complete a tasks it’s essential to have patience and as with most things, you’ll find the more time you devote to getting it right, the better the final result will be.

6. When you’re not used to being around horses they can seem hugely intimidating and actually being placed in charge of one of these great beasts can be pretty scary – a bit like taking over the reins of a company or embarking on a new project. When you can make a horse feel secure and confident under your leadership, your own confidence will develop too and you’ll feel more able to face the daily challenges of your career.

The Benefits of Leadership Training for Small Businesses

man leading a horse

Small business owners are often reluctant to spend their budget on training, especially with the current state of the economy. But leadership training can have huge benefits for small business and be well worth the money it costs. If you’re considering training for your staff then take a look at just how leadership training could benefit your small business.

Why choose Leadership Training?You can’t underestimate the value of good leadership training for small businesses. Great training can completely transform the way you staff work, leading to increased productivity and efficiency and happier staff.

Leadership training can help you understand the needs of your business better and which makes setting goals and reaching them a lot easier. Take a look at just a few of the benefits of leadership management training for small businesses.


Collaboration with other leadership training experts

Thursday 28th February was a really good day for Equinox Coaching. Performance -1  came to my centre to experience my horse led leadership training in East Sussex.

I have found it quite hard to find people who share the same values as Equinox, regarding Leadership Training, but Performance 1 are a forward thinking Leadership Consultancy for whom integrity, authenticity, trust and respect features highly in their training.  READ MORE

Leadership Skills that you can learn from Horses

woman working with 3 horses in arena

If asked what makes a great leader, most of us would find it hard to define the subtle mix of skills it takes – and with very good reason. The majority of human communication is non-verbal and the most successful leaders have honed their skills to be able to say what they need to say without even opening their mouths.

Those of us considered ‘natural leaders’ are just able to develop their non-verbal communication skills more readily, but anyone can take steps to improve on the inherent skills that every human has.


Five Leadership Lessons you can learn from Horses

If you’ve ever sat down after a leadership training day and wondered whether what you learned was really worth the money you spent, then you simply haven’t thought out of the box when it comes to training. Believe it or not more than 90% of human communication is non-verbal, which is why many of us find it so difficult to remember what we’ve learned when traditional teaching methods are used.