On Friday, October 28, the Ondol Clinic team headed 40 mins west to Kholo, near Manchester Lake, for a team-building activity with a difference. We would be spending the afternoon with some horses at Whiterock Peak. As stated on the company website, Whiterock Peak offers a unique and innovative approach to skills development based on experiential learning, but the significant difference is that horses are the teachers.
On arrival at the property, we were greeted by Julie Lowson and Michelle Beatty, the owner and lead facilitator of the program. Michelle has a lifetime of experience with horses and is a certified facilitator with Equine Connection – The Academy of Equine Assisted Learning. Michelle explained that we would work in small teams, and one team member would be a horse. She described a little about horse behaviour, particularly how tuned in they are to us, humans. She told us that it is scientifically proven that horses can sense our heartbeat eight to ten meters away. Hence, they feel our anxiety and stress levels acutely. For a horse, it is vital that they can be safe with us and whether we are to be trusted. No fooling a horse, it seems!
Next, we teamed up with a partner and met our horses. Michelle explained how to handle these beautiful animals and what they were telling us with their actions and body language.
Then the fun really began. Through positive interaction and teamwork, we tackled various tasks to achieve a specific objective. For example, one person was blindfolded and had to lead the horse by following the instructions and directions of the partner. You can imagine how important it would be to trust the other person and the horse to complete the task.
Michelle explains we learn to regulate our emotions, think about our communication and work together to achieve the desired outcome.
There was a lot of laughter, frustration and challenge, and overall it was a wonderful learning experience. We now better understand the saying, “You can lead a horse to water…” In the process, we learned a good deal about ourselves, our communication and feedback styles, and our ability to be clear and assertive, as well as empathetic and kind.
Towards the end of our time, we led the horses back to their stable area. We fed them some treats (licorice, their absolute favourite) for their lovely and patient work with us. Michelle helped us debrief on our experience. She asked us how we could apply our learnings to “real life”. Upon reflection, there were so many correlations between our horse team tasks and our team behaviour at work to achieve our goals and optimal outcomes. How important are flexibility, assertiveness, respect and trust combined with creativity, confidence, and perseverance to make things work?
With horses as our teachers, we learned so much about ourselves, and we can’t wait to apply some of our learnings when working with each other back at Ondol Clinic.
If you are interested in Michelle’s programs here is the link https://www.whiterockpeak.com/