Horses Teaching Humans about Leadership


From, presented By University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, JUN 26, 2013

Janine Lindgreen, APRN, and colleagues recently completed a pioneering research pilot study exploring how horses can help teaching humans about leadership. Here, Lindgreen connects with "Domino." Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture

Janine Lindgreen, APRN, and colleagues recently completed a pioneering research pilot study exploring how horses can help teaching humans about leadership. Here, Lindgreen connects with “Domino.”
Photo: University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture

If you were to ask students in any equine science and management program why they want to work in the horse industry, typical responses might included training race horses, working in the sport horse world, breeding, managing a stable, or becoming a veterinarian. Rarely do they mention a desire to collaborate with horses to teach humans about themselves, nor can they envision the horses they will work with becoming some of the best teachers for their own personal and professional development.

Yet men and women alike are drawn to working with horses for many reasons, some of which are not easily put into words. As Winston Churchill so aptly said: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

To fully understand this “something” requires us to experience the horse-human relationship from a completely different perspective. “This notion of horses enlightening humans about themselves is a relatively new one,” said Lissa Pohl, MA, program and outreach associate and researcher with the University of Kentucky’s Center for Leadership Development in the College of Agriculture. “However, horses have much to teach us, and it’s really changing that old paradigm of horses being the receivers of what people know, to people being the receivers of what horses know and how, together, we can create collaborative learning relationships.”

Over the past two decades, the emerging field of Equine Assisted Activities (EAA) has seen explosive growth worldwide. As of 2008, more than 700 centers in the United States and several internationally recognized organizations provided some type of EAA program. In the United States this list includes the Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH), Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), Equine Guided Education Association (EGEA), EponaQuest, and Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A).

These organizations teach, support, and certify interested individuals in collaborating with horses for healing and human growth and learning purposes, a field better known as Equine Assisted Learning (EAL). Yet, while there is growing interest in EAL programming worldwide, evidence that working with horses in a facilitated experiential learning situation actually changes a person’s behavior is mostly anecdotal, and what little research exists in this field focuses mostly on the effectiveness of equine-human mental health therapies or on the physical therapeutic aspects of working with horses, known as hippotherapy. For EAL to gain legitimacy, credible research looking into how horses assist humans in their own personal and professional growth and development is needed.



Habitat for Horses is a 501.c.3 nonprofit equine protection organization supported solely by donations. As of this today, we have 165 donkeys and horses under our care, plus one ornery, old mule. Most of them are here because law enforcement removed them from their previous owner. Our ability to rehabilitate and rehome them comes from the financial support of people like you. Please support us by making a donation for the horses we all serve. Click HERE to donate

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • sherriey

    …ya know…any one of us that has horses, and works with horses in any sort of close relationship…and i don’t mean the sort of relationship thats been in the news lately, but the soul to soul relationship that we have with our 4 legged best friends…. could have saved them a lot of money and time…b/c we all knew that…don’t we?!

    June 26, 2013
  • Arlene

    Absolutely Sherriey !!!! Since my Husband passed i dont own any , but i am with them plenty my friends have them, some were mine , my passion for them is never ending , and the horses know it !!!!!!!I am with them Plenty !!!!!!

    June 27, 2013
    • BlessUsAll

      I think horses make you feel alive, don’t they, Arlene? You live and breathe them. I’m sure they are passionate about you, too! 🙂

      The Bible sure got it right when the author of Job (chapter 12, verses 7-10) wrote:

      7 But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:
      8 Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.
      9 Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?
      10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.

      June 28, 2013
      • Arlene

        Ohhhh yes they do, they have been a huge part of my life in many aspects alllllll Good, i have not always owned them only a few ,but friends have always given me access anytime i want , i groom them sometimes 6 of them a day always come away with a positive awesome influence , even the kinda mean ones , eventually come around !!! they have captured me in a good way me, always been there for me always……. They offer peace to the soul………..

        June 29, 2013
      • Arlene

        Thank You BlessUsAllfor the meaningful verses they are all true !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!and you are right I breathe them !!!!!!

        June 29, 2013
      • Joly

        Thank you so much for posting this. I think a lot of people could benefit from this verse from scripture.

        June 29, 2013
  • Monika Courtney

    Horses teach us respect. For those who are willing to see it, that is. They teach us approaches of a deeper connection, solemnly and strong. Many people could learn from horses… if they would let it happen. I “breath” my horses and we speak silently – with our bodies and energy. Horses are healers enabling us to discover how to be a better person and the solidarity and loyalty amongst horses is a quality that few humans possess. Selfless creatures, they invite us to discover respect and dignity. Humankind could learn so much to see beyond the physical appearance, but their wisdoms and spirit.

    July 1, 2013
    • Arlene

      Dear Monika, Beautifully put , beautifully written, and felt, i am there , and know what you mean from the heart The beauty of mind and soul they have is a thing of wonder !!!!! Something so physically Amazingly beautiful on the outside, is inside even more beautiful !!!!

      July 1, 2013
      • Monika Courtney

        Thank you. One of my senior horse died today of a heart attack. She ran around playing with the horses and collapsed. My daughter and I were near and ran up to her, as she kicked her legs out and rolled over once and then passed. It was short and she did not suffer. It happened so fast we were shocked to experience this. Just 5 minutes earlier, they all got their grain/supplement bowls.
        Before she passed, her eyes fluttered and she pushed out an enormous whinny that echoed thru the pasture and up the surrounding hills.
        My other horses stopped dead in their tracks, they knew. Little mare Lilly, her close friend with whom she lived before they came to live with us, came up to Mariah, nudged her and pulled on her ear… she knew too. My horses gave the young horse her space and we gave her the time to say good-bye.
        It is sad and we will miss her.
        One thing the animals teach us… is respect. My three horses stood quietly near a tree, for the longest time, observing, while Lilly spent time near her good friend. Then they came over and simply stood guard.
        All 7 horses in the neighboring pastures stood still and looked down their hills to us, never moving… solemnly watching. They knew too hearing her last whinny. It blew my mind away.
        Animals show an unspoken solidarity that is very rarely found in humans.

        July 2, 2013