At Ziksana, one of our goals is to provide new and innovative programs that bring the art of leadership development training to life. Instead of classroom-style lectures, we facilitate professional learning and development through play.
Over the course of 10 years, this has taken on many different forms, from creative problem-solving labs to applied improvisation workshops and organizational simulations. This year, we’ve launched HorsePlay™, an equine-assisted leadership development training program at Horse of the Sun Ranch in Pine Valley, CA.
Why is Ziksana Playing With Horses?
That’s a great question! A few years ago, a member of the ASYMCA team attended one of our play-based learning experiences. He loved our work and reached out to us about the potential of utilizing the newly acquired Horse of the Sun ranch as a location for an executive retreat.
After visiting the ranch, Akshay Sateesh and Laura Fleig began imagining the possibility of a leadership training program that centered around interacting with horses. With over 10 years of experience working with horses, Laura began developing ideas for how the executive retreat could be carried out.
To support the project, Akshay became a certified horsemanship instructor in 2021. Together, they developed and piloted the HorsePlay™ program to bring their vision to life.
What is Equine-Assisted Leadership Development Training?
Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) is a relatively new field that emerged from the practice of using horseback riding in therapeutic interventions. Unlike therapeutic riding, EAL is an educational approach that focuses on using non-riding activities to facilitate the process of experiential learning.
EAL is a facilitated process that centers on using the horse as the teacher and provides opportunities for participants at the executive retreat to reflect on what they can learn from the experience that applies to other areas of their life.
In the context of Leadership Development, EAL gives people in leadership positions to draw parallels between the experience of leading horses and leading people.
How Does the HorsePlay Executive Retreat Work?
During the HorsePlay™ leadership training program, we start by familiarizing participants with the horses and horse safety. Then, we introduce them to specific leadership skills, such as building trust at work and appreciative listening, that will be the focal points of the day.
Participants then take place in ground-based activities with the horses, followed by facilitated debrief discussions to help them make sense of the experience as it relates to leadership.
What are the Benefits of Equine-Assisted Leadership Development Training?
- Instead of simply talking about leadership or practicing in a classroom, equine-assisted leadership development provides a unique and powerful experience that leaders are likely to remember and provides an impactful arena to practice new skills.
- As prey animals, horses are sensitive to the subtleties of their environment. By working with horses, leaders can become more aware of how the small things they say and do have a big impact on those around them.
- Horses are large animals, and that can be intimidating. Working successfully with horses can help leaders develop confidence in their ability to lead during challenging situations.
What Leadership Training Programs Are Right for Me?
HorsePlay™ is an ideal executive retreat for leaders and teams who are looking for unique, innovative, and memorable leadership development opportunities. We find that curiosity and an open-mind go a long way in helping leaders draw meaningful insights from the experience. If you’re afraid or unsure around horses, we encourage you to embrace that uncertainty as a growth opportunity.