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Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.) can be measured in Personal, and Social Competence.

These relate to Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management. 


In respect to Personal and Leadership Development, it is exactly this Emotional Intelligence we hope to develop. 


Ranch Day© uses analogous methods and exercises to the "U.K. Study".  This study from 2012 is one of the few research studies to measure the effects of Equine Assisted or Facilitated Learning. The field is full of anecdotal evidence and first hand stories of transformative change, however The U.K. Center for Leadership Development is one of the first to quantifiably measure the results. 


We will link to the full academic research, however, to 'bottom-line' the findings a visual chart summarizing the increase in Emotional Intelligence using the Emotional Intelligene Appraisal (TM), is provided below.


To summarize the experiment: The participants were given the assessment prior to working with horses in specific exercises for the afternoon (Equine Facilitated Activities). They were assessed directly after, and then six months later.  The Results show the Control Group (who did nothing) in blue, and the Test Group (Intervention) in red,

Ranch Day Retreat Logo
Emotional Intelligence graph

The Herd Dynamics Workshop by University of Kentucky

White Paper - Why Horses?

Emotional Intelligence   Self Awareness   Self Management   Social Awareness   Relationship Management                                                                                                                                        

Research    Why Horses   Equine Assisted Learning   Field of Leadership Studies

From Left to Right, Categories are:

Overall E.Q.

Personal Competence

Self Awareness

Self Management

Social Competence

Social Awareness

Relationship Management

We invite you to investigate the "U.K. Study" in full. The first few pages address topics of

Pioneering Research in the Field of Equine Assisted Learning

Why Horses?

The Significance of Equine Assisted Learning, 

and Impact on the Field of Leadership studies


We have copied the following sections for your quick review...followed by a Link to the full paper.



Pioneering Research


There are several healthcare institutions across the United States that utilize Equine Assisted Learning activities as part of their training and development for both nurses and medical students. In 2001 Dr. Alan Hamilton, horseman and professor of Neurosurgery at University of Arizona, developed a program utilizing horses to address the difficulty in teaching non-verbal skills to medical students. Since 2005, medical students at Stanford University have participated in a program called Medicine and HorsemanshipTM, which is designed and facilitated under the direction of doctor-patient communication expert Beverley Kane, MD. Dr. Kane currently consults with medical and nursing schools across the country in developing EAL programs for their students and personnel (Kane, 2004). Other institutions using this type of experiential learning are Massachusetts General Hospital in its Nursing School, University of Southern Florida Health Sciences within its Leadership Institute and Washington State University Nursing School to teach its Effective Communication Training among others. An extensive literature search on this topic suggests that this pilot would be one of the first academic studies to do research on the topic of developing emotional intelligence in nurses via participation in an Equine Guided Leadership Education experience.


Why Horses?


In the wild horses are animals of prey and though humans are omnivores and have domesticated the horse there still exists an instinctive predator/prey dynamic between humans and horses. Horses communicate non-verbally and rely on immediate feedback from their environment to survive. It is this communication dynamic between horses and humans which provides a rich learning environment- one full of relational problem solving that allows people to learn emotional sensitivity, self and social awareness, self- management and effective communication skills and strategies. Research conducted on non-verbal communication between nurses and their elderly patients found that non-verbal interactions play a vital role in nurse-patient perceptions (Caris-Verhallen, 1999). Similar non-verbal interactions, based on awareness of and effective use of nonverbal skills and heightened perception and sensitivity, are not only magnified when working with horses but foundational for establishing a working relationship with them. Therefore, it is the researchers’ supposition that learning transfer, defined as learning which occurs in one context having an impact on performance in another context (Perkins,1992), would occur more readily with participation in a facilitated equine guided experience.


Horses are also very large animals and working with them successfully requires one to become very present and aware – much like the horses themselves. A recent pilot study by Walsh and Blakeney (2013) suggests that working with horses increases nurses abilities to become present.


A large body of anecdotal evidence suggests that collaborating with the horse can be an excellent example of learning leadership competency, including emotional intelligence, in and through action. In effect, horses don’t lie. Due to their natural prey instincts they respond honestly to how a person is showing up on both a physical and emotional level and provide in-the-moment feedback. Because horses give feedback on every action we make and every emotion we hold, working with them forces us to engage in first, second and third level feedback or “action inquiry” (Torbert, 2004).

William Torbert, professor of management and former director of the Ph.D. Program in Organizational Transformation at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, has written extensively on what he calls action inquiry - the process of questioning in relationship with action. He states that “experiential learning involves becoming aware of the qualities, patterns and consequences of one’s own experience as one experiences it” (1972, p.7). By increasing curiosity (inquiry) and awareness about the comfort level of the horse, and getting honest in-the-moment feedback from them we can choose to act in ways that make collaboration happen easily and more frequently. Consistent and conscious actions, in this case non-predatory actions on a leader’s part, builds trust among the followers (the horse/ “patient”), as well as allow people to become conscious of how their emotions and body language affect those around them and therefore learn how to manage them effectively in the moment.


Kathleen Walsh, RN, Phd. and Barbara Blakeney, MS, RN, FNAP, (2013) in a recent pilot study that looked at the effectiveness of EAL to develop nurse presence, found that nurses who experienced a one day workshop with the horses “reported being empowered through EAL to develop themselves through self-awareness, building confidence, and advanced verbal and nonverbal communications skills” (p.6) and concluded that “EAL can be a meaningful venue for nurses to self-discover their ability to be present” (p.1). This observation by Walsh and Blakeney relates back to Torbert’s action inquiry and to emotional intelligence theory as it pertains to increasing present moment awareness of self and the environment such that nurses can make better decisions and take more effective actions.



The Equine Assisted Learning Field


Over the past two decades there has been explosive growth worldwide in the emerging Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) industry. Equine Assisted Learning activities include experiential learning methods in which facilitated horse/human interactions result in learning and development of the participants. In the United States alone there are more than 700 centers that provide some type of equine assisted learning program, and four internationally recognized associations in the United States alone that teach, support and certify their members in collaborating with horses for healing and human growth and learning purposes (Hallberg, 2008). Most research in the area of horse/human interactions has been focused on the efficacy of working with horses for therapeutic results, as with hippotherapy (working with horses to improve physical balance and mobility) (Shurtleff, Standeven, Engsberg 2009; Silkwood-Sherer, Warmbier, 2007; Sterba, 2007), mental health applications (Esbjorn, 2006; Schultz, Remick-Barlo, Robbins, 2007; Nirdrine, Owen-Smith, Faulkner, 2002) and with children with autism (Gabriels et al, 2012). However, very little academic research has been conducted and published that explores the effectiveness of working with horses to improve emotional intelligence and other leadership competencies. For EAL and other equine assisted activities to gain credibility as legitimate learning and development methods for humans more academic research studies like this one need to be conducted.


Study Impact on the Field of Leadership Studies


Emotional Intelligence (EQ), defined by researchers Salovey and Mayer (1990), is “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (p. 189). Researchers Bradberry and Greaves, founders of TalentSmart and authors, providers and trainers of the EQ assessments utilized in this pilot study, define emotional intelligence more broadly and align with Goleman’s competency based model of EQ as “the ability to use awareness of emotions to manage behavior and relationships with others” (2011, p.3). In their book Primal Leadership: Learning To Lead with Emotional Intelligence, Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee (2002) speak to the importance of creating high performance teams and profitable organizations through the development of emotional intelligence (EQ) competencies: Self Awareness- including emotional self- awareness, accurate self -assessment, self- confidence, and Social Awareness - including empathy, organizational awareness, and service.


This research pilot adds to our general understanding and knowledge about how emotional intelligence competencies are effectively developed but also how learning about ourselves as leaders via interspecies relationships deepens our understanding about the role of somatic intelligence as it relates to both emotional intelligence development and non-verbal communication. Somatics, from the Greek, refers tothe body in its wholeness and defines it as “of, relating to, or affecting the body” (Woolf, 1979, p.1099). “Generally, it also implies a philosophy of mind and body unity” (The Free Dictionary, 2006, para. 5). Somatic intelligence and the “embodiment of leadership” is a new area of study in the world of leadership studies as confirmed by a recent call for papers from the International Leadership Association for its peer reviewed publication on The Embodiment of Leadership: A Volume in the ILA Building Leadership Bridges Series (forthcoming in 2013). Richard Strozzi-Heckler, master somatic coach and founder of the Strossi Institute, Center for Embodied Leadership and Mastery, firmly believes that the “body [is] indistinguishable from the self” and that “it is essential to include the body if one wants to build the skills of exemplary leadership” (2003, p.19).


Horses establish leadership roles within the hierarchical social structure of the herd. Each horse’s role is communicated via somatic sensibilities which includes both very subtle and blatant body language. To a lesser extent humans also define their leadership status and roles in society by the use of non-verbal cues. Therefore, having horses become the facilitators in learning both emotional and somatic intelligence could assist in developing effective leaders. 


Self Awareness
Self Management
Social Awareness
Relationship Management
Why Horses
Equine Assisted Learning
Field of Leadership


on the University of Kentucky Study

Equine Guided Leadership Education Research

Full Paper

University of Kentucky

Center for Leadership Developments

From The Effectiveness of Equine Guided Leadership Education to Develop Emotional Intelligence

in Expert Nurses: A Pilot Research Study

February 2012 – November 2012
University of Kentucky Center for Leadership Development

Copyright 2013 



This assessment is an online statistically valid instrument that measures and reports an overall EQ score, scores in the two main EQ competency areas-Personal Competence and Social Competence, as well as scores in each of the four sub-competencies  


A brief description of the four sub-competencies are as follows:


Self-Awareness: A person’s ability to accurately perceive his or her own emotions and remain aware of them as they happen.


Self-Management: A person’s ability to use awareness of his or her own emotions to stay flexible and positively direct their behavior.


Social Awareness: A person’s ability to accurately pick up emotions in others and understands what other people are thinking and feeling even if they don’t feel the same way.


Relationship Management: A person’s ability to use awareness of his or her own emotions and the emotions of others to manage interactions successfully using clear communication and effectively handling conflict.  

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