You know the traditional methods of earning money with horses: sales, boarding, lessons, training, competition and breeding. These revenue generators have been the reliable feed bag of the horse business for centuries.
A legendary tribal elder once quipped, "There ain't much new under the sun" and the saying is sound horse sense when it comes to the horse industry as well. While there may not be much brand new, variations on a theme pop up all of the time and last week I had the opportunity to learn more about a variation on the horse lesson business. The subject wasn't traditional riding lessons, but instead life lessons with the help of horses.
I spoke with Greg Kersten creator of the O.K. Corral Seminar Series about his work in teaching others how to use horses in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) to better understand themselves and other people.
You probably take for granted all you've learned from horses about non-verbal communication over the years. While horses don't talk to you, they certainly have a non-verbal language that gets the message across. Anger, fear, boredom and curiosity are a few of the feelings on display all day long by equines in the form of their body language.
Kersten discovered equine body language and herd behavior in his childhood years and has continued to make a life study of it. He's also studied human behavior in jobs in corrections at a penitentiary and in positions working with troubled youth. In an experimental program he started with youths, Kersten found that working with horses had a positive effect on changing attitudes in young people who were soured on their life outlook; horses helped to make the difference in creating new attitudes and habits.
He focuses on the similarities in the behavior of humans and horses and especially the non verbal communication that takes place. Greg trains psychotherapists how to use horses and EAP in individual counseling. The environment of a farm or ranch, as opposed to a traditional clinic, coupled with a horse who has no preconceived ideas, make for a therapeutic and learning session with better than traditional results.
Equine Assisted Learning, designed to improve communication skills, foster team building and help self confidence, is prime for experiential learning for corporate retreats.
Don't worry, EAL is primarily ground work and mounted work is seldom used in the training sessions filled with non-horseman. The participants benefit from the discussions following their corral experience that draw parallels with dealing with coworkers, friends and family.
Here's where you fit in as a professional horseman. If you already have a background in corporate training or education, EAL may be a new revenue source for your business, either in a program as a joint venture with others or on your own. The facilities you now own or lease may be in the right location and the horses you have available may be perfect for the work. If you prefer a backstage role to EAL, your facility may be just right for renting out for an EAL session conducted by a corporate trainer.
The same opportunity applies to EAP. While the therapy is one on one and requires a credentialed therapist to lead the work, you may have the environment to rent to the right therapist.
Kersten has a busy schedule for training sessions for EAL and EAP. Have a look at his O.K. Corral series tour to learn more and begin your research on the topic.
As rising hay, feed, bedding and fuel prices put a squeeze on the equine industry, you'll be wise to consider ancillary income from EAL or EAP and other alternatives.