Pilot Program Researches What Horses Can Teach Us

Jun 7, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Trainers spend countless hours teaching horses, but a pilot program underway at the University of Kentucky is finding out what horses can teach us. 

With equine-guided methods showing promise in fields such as autism therapy, researchers are eager to see if horse-based learning can be effective in other areas like teaching emotional intelligence and leadership skills. Lissa Pohl with UK’s Center for Leadership Development says all the evidence is anecdotal right now.

"No one has really gone out and done any academic research on whether this really is effective at moving the needle," she says. 

In the study, groups of up to 15 nurses undergo one-day equine-guided workshops, learning how to communicate with the animals and make their body language match their words and intentions. Pohl says the feedback is immediate.

"Horses are very sensitive to people, at picking up the cues. So their alertness is super high. Ours is not so high, so it actually prompts humans to be more alert than they normally are," Pohl says. 

Pohl hopes the study will put horse-based learning on firmer scientific ground and serve as a foundation for future studies.