Leadership: the act of guiding a group of people towards achieving a common goal. Great leadership is based upon trust, empathy, patience, and integrity – all things that horses respond to. Horses are extremely in tune with the energy and emotions of others, and often reflect it back in their own attitude and demeanor.

Mahala’s Hope offers equine experiential workshops that allow various types of groups to engage in a variety of ground activities with our herd. Equine Experiential Learning is the practice of partnering with horses for emotional awareness and growth. Horses use non-verbal communication to describe the emotions and behaviors around them. They offer immediate feedback on how the individual is processing and handling his or her emotions. A horse’s trust must be earned, making them mirrors for self-discovery.

Mahala’s Hope welcomed Marian University’s women’s lacrosse team to our barn on a chilly day in late January. Equipped with warm winter jackets and open minds, the women, and their coach, David Pomeroy, were ready to learn from, reflect on, and embrace the ways of our herd.

“What I learned is to be a great leader, you first have to understand who you are trying to lead and what it is that you’re trying to accomplish,” said junior Mikaela Bessette.

Author Linda Kohanov discovered a horse’s four-point method used to navigate through the emotion present in their daily herd lives, such as relationship or environmental challenges:

⦁ Feel emotion in its purest form
⦁ Get the message behind the emotion
⦁ Change something in response
⦁ Go back to grazing

This allows a horse to respond to outside challenges, let go of the emotion, and get back on task. Mahala’s Hope’s equine experiential workshops allow participants to gain emotional intelligence that can lead to healthy changes in their lives. A horse’s honest response to human emotion and body language offers immediate constant feedback; thus, the four-point method that is naturally used by a herd can be applied to our daily lives.

Freshman Jessica Webb said, “confidence is key when it comes to being a leader, and being able to learn and let go of your mistakes and move forward. There is never any easy path when it comes to being a leader and making tough decisions. That is why I must do things full of confidence and learn that if I mess up, ‘go back to grazing!’”

The team’s time with our herd helped develop personal insight, confidence, and improved communication through lessons led by our horses.

Head Coach David Pomeroy is not only applying his experience to the lacrosse field, but to other areas in life as well:

“Mahala’s Hope has guided me down this path of mindfulness within the leadership culture of decision making and proper techniques of delegating tasks to produce as a team, not as individuals. Since the next day following our leadership experience, I have implemented what I learned in to my practices, individual meetings with players, and also with my colleagues here at Marian University. I always preach, “with great power, comes great responsibility” and I will be changing that to “with great leadership, comes great teamwork” and this experience has completely put me in this great piece of mind.”

Horses inspire us to understand who we are and what our emotions and body language means in their purest form. When a human gains acceptance from a horse, trust is formed, empathy is held by both, and the horse welcomes that human as a leader.

“I learned skills that I can apply to my everyday life whether it be school, sports or a job. They taught me a lot about leadership and how being confident in every situation is crucial,” reflected freshman Jarae Genthe.

Mahala’s Hope offers equine experiential workshops for a variety of groups in the region. When you attend a session, just be open to the process. Horses do not judge by appearance, social or economic status, or gender. Many lessons can be learned simply by observing how a horse responds to a human’s interactions. When these newly learned skills are applied in their daily lives, participants are able to realize their hidden potential.

Visit mahalashope.com/services for more information.