Horses are by nature the most empathetic of animals, and if you can develop that bond with them and express empathy for their feelings, they will do everything they are capable of to please you.
At HorseDream Canada, every day we see cases where clients working with our horses become more empathetic themselves. Now we know there is both a physical and emotional reason for that.
Empathy, briefly explained, is the skill of understanding and responding to the feelings of others. When we express our concern for them, and try to help others with their challenges, empathy allows us to feel a warm sense of well-being.
In today’s challenging workforce where soft skills are more in demand than ever, managers and team members can achieve better results when they develop the ability to practice empathy.
For many of us, empathy starts early in life. Studies (Waters et all, 1979 and Kestenbaum et all, 1989) reveal that young children who feel emotionally and physically cared for by those who care for them, develop empathy faster than those who do not feel that way. These empathetic youngsters are much more likely to demonstrate acts of sympathy to others when they see them in distress.
People who spend a lot of time with horses also appear to become more empathetic than those that do not, and now scientists are beginning to understand why. A lot of it has to do with the emittance of oxytocin, often referred to as “the cuddle hormone.”
People with higher than usual levels of oxytocin are more capable to decipher non-verbal communications than those with lower levels.
One thing that increases levels of oxytocin is interacting with animals, especially horses.
HorseDream trainers all over the world notice this scientific phenomenon, and we believe that is because of all animals, horses are naturally and constantly empathetic.
If you observe horses within their herds, you can see that they are ever-aware and conscious of what each member is doing and presumably feeling. The herd, like a well-constructed team of people, moves as one.
Horses are so empathetic that they are able to bond with their fellow herd members, and trust them. Horses build highly compelling relationships with each other.
When you begin to interact with your horse through our equine learning programs, the more you consider the feelings of the horse and exhibit signs of empathy towards the animal, the better they will respond to you. The level of trust and loyalty can become intense.
Because of the empathy you express, the horse accepts you as his leader. It is a lesson many of our clients take back to their offices as a standard for new team behavior.
When we witness a client and a horse building a unique bond, others will often ask if the horse is reading the human’s mind because they appear to be so in sync with each other. Horses do not read minds, but they read with great intensity the signs and signals our bodies and mind send them, consciously and sub-consciously.
The horse does not judge the signals it receives; it just accepts them and reacts accordingly. If the horse feels empathy, it will respond with empathy in return.
HorseDream Canada, founded by Susan Wilson, provides high impact, quality leadership and team development experiences for individuals, teams, leaders and companies. It is part of an internationally renowned Horse Assisted Education Program providing transformative learning experiences around the world. HorseDream Canada is a division of I DO BUSINESS. Inc., a social purpose business. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch for our new book, Leadership 93/7 coming soon!