Leadership Equine  Quotient Articles & Research


Article 1: Infecting the herd: Why a Leader's emotional state is important

Article 2: A horses tail: How we jump to the wrong conclusions

Article 3: Equine Assisted Modalities: The Difference Between Equine Assisted Therapy and Equine Assisted Learning

Article 4: Leadership Development Vs Leadership Training

Article 5: Ten signs that your CEO may not be up for the job

Article 1: February 1st  2018
Infecting the Herd 
As I drive into the office, one thought is foremost ....... what mood will he be in today?
If he is happy and upbeat, great! I will know this as soon as I walk in the front door. I can feel it in the air. I can see it in the team, from our receptionist to the marketing team, to sales and finance. Every department I walk through as I make my way to my office. Today there is a buzz. Confident eye contact and open smiles and "hellos' from the rest of the team. Conversations and laughter. All is good!
But if he is in a bad mood, then it is event more portent. Heads down, little or no eye contact, a quick hello, a knowing look from a colleague. It takes me less than three seconds to feel the vibe.
Today, luckily, he is in a good mood. We can all breathe. No yelling. No long silences - which are even worse than the yelling. No one having to be careful with what we all say and do.
The leader sets the tone. Their mood infects the entire office, positive or negative. The term coined by Daniel Goleman in Emotional Intelligence is most apt - emotional contagion. There has been significant research into the areas in recent years. It is true. The science supports it. Emotions are contagious.
What is your mood today? You have a choice. Your team doesn't.
Helen Rogerson
Article 2: March 1st  2018
A Horse's Tail: How we jump to the wrong conclusions
Last week I was in a coaching session with Mark. Executive coaching sessions have three participants: myself, the person I am coaching, and a horse.  In this session we were focusing on self belief and self perceptions. This included exploring the way we observe certain behaviours in others and then put our own interpretations on them. We take on data, put our own meaning on it and act accordingly.

At one stage during the session, the horse's tail moved. "What did the horse do then?” I asked.
"Flicked his tail", Mark responded
"What do you think this means?" I queried
Mark did not hesitate in his instant  response, "That he is angry. Pissed of with me that I am here in his space."

He may have been correct. Sometimes a horse does switch his tail when he is annoyed.

I didn’t say anything. Just let the silence envelope us. Thinking time.

Just then the horse twitched his skin.

"What is he doing now?" Mark asked, having never seen this before. 

My response was that horses have very sensitive skin. They can feel the lightest touch. When a fly lands on them, they can feel it and twitch their skin to dislodge the fly.

The horse then swung his head around to gently nip his flank.

"See that?" I asked.


"What did he do?" I asked again

"He swung his head around and put his nose on his side".

"Let’s explore this further,"  I said. "So the first thing we saw was the horse swish his tail. And you felt he was angry with you.
Now that we have seen him twitch his skin and nip his flank. Do you think that your initial thoughts were correct?"

Mark answered, "Well no. I can now see that he was actually trying to shoo the flies away."

"Are there times in your life when you have jumped to the wrong conclusion after one incident?" 

Mark's eyes widened, "Yes. I do it all the time. Just yesterday my CEO didn’t call me back and instantly I thought that I must have done something wrong."

We explored this further during the rest of our coaching session.

There is a difference between being aware and being hyper-aware.
Hyper-aware in this context is being so sensitive to others that you ascribing rationale to one observed behaviour which may not be correct. 

Mark and I agreed on a rule of 3

One incident. Be aware
Second time. Take notice
Third time. It is a pattern. What can I now reasonably conclude?

How many times have you became anxious after one incident or event only to realise later you were completely wrong?

Remember the rule of 3: a tail swish, a skin twitch and a bite.
It’s not that I am angry. I am just trying to get rid of these dam flies!
Helen Rogerson
Article 3: March 5th  2018
Equine Assisted Modalities: The Difference Between Equine Assisted Therapy and Equine Assisted Learning

In Australia there are in excess of 300 providers of Equine Assisted Learning and Therapies with the number expanding almost weekly.  

In the US, there are now more than 1000 practitioners, and in the UK the number of practitioners exceeds 500.

It has become so popular that even pininterest.com.au has session plans for ”123 Equine Assisted Activities”! And the UK has a dedicated site which provides a range of resources for practitioners.

Given the pace of this growth, and that there are various approaches,  it is important to consider the different types of Equine Assisted interventions. They can be divided into two main categories:

  • Equine Assisted Therapy

  • Equine Assisted Learning


What is Equine Assisted Therapy?

By far the most well known is Equine Assisted Therapy which  can be defined as an intervention that uses unique qualities of horses for treatment purposes to improve social, gross motor, and self-help skills in individuals (Ratliffe & Sanekane).

Most people would be familiar with Riding for the Disabled. This is a form of Equine Assisted Therapy called Therapeutic Riding. This involves horse care, grooming and riding. This type of therapy can be facilitated by a range of people who have an interest in this area. The RDA website oulines their function which is to provide opportunities for anyone with a disability to enjoy safe, healthy stimulating, therapeutic, horse-related activities in Australia. (RDA Website, 2017).

Another form of Equine Assisted Therapy called is called Hippotherapy (Hippos being the Greek word for horse).  This type of therapy usually requires a qualified physical occupational professional who works in tandem with a skilled horseman or woman. Hippotherapy is usually focused on improving underlying motor dysfunction. (Ratliffe & Sanekane, 2009).

Another form of Equine Assisted Therapy relates to mental health and is referred to as Equine Psychotherapy. It is acknowledged that the horse-person interaction can be effective in  addressing emotional and physical issues in people (Garcia 2010).  This form of therapy usually requires  a trained counselor or psychologist who spends one on one time with their client and a horses, or a herd of horses. The areas that equine psychotherapy addresses includes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), bullying, depression, stress, autism, aspergers and relationships. The most well known and enduring (more than 18 years) is the EAGALA model which the leading international nonprofit association for professionals incorporating horses to address mental health and personal development. EAGALA website.

What is Equine Assisted Learning?

Predominately this modality uses the similarities between horses and humans as a way to teach various communication and relationship skills. As a herd animal, as an alert prey animal, as a providers of honest and immediate feedback and as a mirror to our emotions, horses can be powerful teachers.

Learning programs can

be structured goal oriented activities such as grooming, lunging, obstacles courses and groundwork both individually and in teams (Garcia, 2010). Or they can be less structured and use creative improvisation which include experiences such as meditation, yoga, music and dance (Garcia, 2010).

Using horses to assist with learning has been in existence for decades. In 2001, Dr Alan Hamilton (horseman, professor and neurosurgeon) used horses to teach non verbal skills to his students (Dyke 2013). Stanford University took this a step further and implemented a program for their medical students called “Medicine and Horsemanship”. This has proved so successful that a manual has been developed  (Manual of Medicine and Horsemanship) which guides other Equine Assisted Learning practitioners through various activities to better aid communication and relationships.

Whilst the research for Equine Assisted Therapies has been considerable over the years, there has not been the same depth of research into to the efficacy of Equine Assisted Learning.

One of the few studies specifically aimed as Equine Assisted Learning was conducted in 2013 by Doctor Patricia Dyke at the Centre for Leadership Development (Dyke, 2013). In this study Dyke assessed the veracity of using horses for improving emotional intelligence skills in nurses across the four competency areas of Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management. The study showed that using horses was an effective way to develop emotional intelligence competencies in nurses and that this learning stayed with the nurses evidenced when they were re-assessed three months later.

In Conclusion - More Research Needed

We have only scratched the surface with this précis and further studies are needed to give it the legitimacy that it deserves and that EAL practitioners know intuitively.

There is no doubt that interaction with a horse creates a unique experience. They provide instant feedback, they are honest and do not lie. They are large animals that evoke a range of emotions from fear, to awe to love. These emotions are one of the reasons EAL is a powerful learning methodology.

Research shows that we have better retention when we are placed in a novel environment and our emotions are engaged.

There is no doubt that the relationship we have with our equine friends is evolving. Neuroscience and research is now providing the concrete evidence of the power of the horse to help restore relationships, teach us awareness and build confidence and communication skills. Horses have much to teach us and our challenge is to remain open and curious, to actively improve our own Leadership EQ.

Helen Rogerson



Sterba 2007


Dyke, P. (2013) The Effectiveness of Equine Guided Leadership Education to Develop Emotional Intelligence in Expert Nurses: A Pilot Research Study

Garcia, D. (2010), Equine Facilitated Learning: An Integral Research Proposal

Ratliffe & Sanekane


Article 4: April 12th 2018
Leadership Development vs Leadership Training

Training is not usually a word we use with leadership development?


Because training indicates that the specific skills you learn can be practiced during that training session or workshop.

For example, think of Excel training. You sit in front of a computer and actually use the excel program by inputting data, inserting formulas etc. if you make a mistake, it doesn’t matter - you are in a safe environment. The mistake won’t impact the organisations productivity or disengage the people. Mistakes are identified and rectified. You learn by practice, trial and error and real time feedback.

For some reason, training has become a “dirty” word when talking about the soft skills of leadership. We want to learn soft skills, we want to apply soft skills, we want to practice soft skills, we want to develop soft skills. But we don’t talk about being trained in soft skills.

And yes, it does take time to develop soft skills to a stage where their use becomes automatic – you don’t have to think about what you are doing.  

But we don’t do this with leadership.

Leadership sessions are generally about sharing theories, approaches, knowledge and stories. It is about providing theories and giving context. We do not go to a training session and ‘ practice’ our leadership skills. Except for role plays ..... and we all feel the same about role plays. One of the most hated activities in any learning experience!

So where do we “practice” our leadership? In the workplace. With our people. We may get direct feedback but more likely we get indirect feedback. Both positive and negative. If people leave or transfer, then this may be an indicator that your leadership “practice” has been unsuccessful! One of the reasons that leadership coaching has become so popular is that it crosses that divide between training (doing) and development (continual refinement).

Development is a longer, ongoing process often involving a number of different activities. For example, coaching, mentoring, online learning modules, face to face workshops, seminars, conferences, training days, watching you tube or TED talks, podcasts.

But how do we “train” for leadership? Learn the theory and new skills? Practice in a safe environment, get instant feedback, hone your skills. Is it possible?


Yes – but you have to search for, or develop, programs that provide this experience. It just takes innovation, creativity and a new way of thinking.

So it is not a case of leadership development vs leadership training.

It is a case that leadership development should include leadership training. Training where the skills can be practiced is a safe way, without impacting others and providing the opportunity to hone your skills.

If you want programs that provide leaders with both the frameworks and the opportunity to practice these skills in a safe and feedback rich, reach out. Call, email, or check out my website www.leadership.com.au.  Out of the box thinking to achieve real results.

Article 5: April 12th 2018
Ten Signs That Your CEO May Not be Up for the Job


All is not well.

You think that the CEO may not be as capable as they would like you to believe.  How can you tell?

There are a number of signs that may support your belief.


1.       There are regular restructures

If targets aren’t being met, it is a common ploy to blame the structure. If your business is going through regular restructures, this is a clear signal that should not be ignored. Annual (or more frequent) restructures are a definite sign.


2.       Attributing blame

Regularly and publicly Blaming individuals, particularly to the board or shareholders. If they say “John is in the wrong role” this month, next month it is “Fred is just not up to it” and the third month you hear “ Mary is incompetent” then this signals issues. Blaming others is easy. Looking into yourself and taking proactive positive measures is so much harder.


3.       Poor culture.

While everyone has a responsibility for organisational culture, the CEO has the biggest impact. They set the example through their own behaviours – what others see them say and do. The fish stinks from the head down.



4.       Strategy changes

The strategy keeps changing or CEO says ‘ it is the wrong strategy’. Sure businesses have to be nimble, adaptive to change – but constant strategy change is not healthy. The CEO is the owner of the organisational strategy. They are responsible. If it is wrong then they need to step up, express and address their concerns as it is being put together, not part way though.


5.       Doesn’t connect

They keep themselves isolated from the rest of the business. They may say that their door is open but their behaviours indicate otherwise. Only connects with staff informally. Does not actually get to the coalface and meet staff on the floor. Always has an excuse for not being involved in staff events.


6.       Lack of client focus

Views clients or customers as a hindrance. When someone complains about a customer, they agree rather than challenge this mindset.  This then fosters an ant- client culture. Customer care is central to the success of any business.


7.       Favouritism

They play favourites and this changes! Far too effusive about the capability of one person. Everyone knows it. Hero today can be zero in their eyes tomorrow.


8.       Denigrates the work of their predecessors.

Does not acknowledge that the position the business is at today is a result of the contributions of EVERYONE and EVERYTHING  that has gone before. Positions themself as the hero who will solve all the problems.


9.       Teamwork is a word, not an action

Does not have regular team meetings with direct reports. Prefers to divide and conquer and have one on one meetings.


10.   Silence and/or agreement in meetings

People are afraid to speak up and offer their opinions when in meetings with the CEO. There is no robust discussion. It is pointless. Their ideas and decisions are always the best. Groupthink abounds.


One of these on their own might not be a problem, but if there are three or more, your belief could be confirmed!