Why Experiential Learning?

“I hear, and I forget. I see and I remember, I do and I understand.”

More and more training and coaching programs are adding an experiential learning element to their offering. While Paul and Chicagoclassroom-based experiential learning can be beneficial, the profound impact of off-site experiential learning in a country setting with horses magnifies the benefits significantly.

Experiential learning is based on the premise that by removing someone from their comfort zone, they are able to grow and develop through experiencing another perspective on life. It is not about the activity per se but rather the lessons that the participants receive regarding their own strengths and weaknesses, and the insights they gain into their own internal resources. Faced with a challenging situation with which they are unfamiliar, participants often let down their mask, allowing their true authentic self to emerge. Through the repeated debriefing and probing about each learning experience, participants start to gain some real insight into how and why they behave the way they do, and the consequences of those actions both for themselves and others. The activities with the horses become a metaphor for what is happening in the participant’s life and provides a mirror to Sampson 2reflect back information about their personality style, leadership style, communication ability and team working skills.

Working in partnership with a horse as a natural coach helps the participant explore their fears, build trust in themselves and others and develop their leadership skills in a supportive and non-threatening environment away from the workplace.

According to the David Kolb Learning Cycle, experiential learning comprises four activities:

  • Act – Do It
  • Reflect on What Happened
  • Review Why It Happened
  • Apply the Learnings

When working with horses, two people can undertake the same task and get completely different results, and this is the beauty of this type of learning. Each participant takes what they want from the experience. This is why horses can be great teachers. We just need to listen and connect with them and we can learn more about ourselves than months of classroom learning can give us.

In this time of complexity and rapid change, it is essential to balance the vast technological resources and multitude of information that is readily available against instinct, self-awareness and intuition — our emotional intelligence. Working through horses enables us to connect to these often unused, internal resources, and because it requires out of the box thinking, it is extremely metaphorical and memorable.

How we feel, our breathing, movement and our posture give the horse a catalogue of information. Horses challenge us to connect and find our true self and so eloquently teach us that it is who we are that impacts how we perform in the boardroom and not what and who we know.