What Is It?

team building 300pxEquine Assisted Development (EAD) is a form of experiential learning that can be used to bring about personal growth, leadership development, and team building.  

The EAD sessions are based around activities where participants interact with horses as they work toward goals and solve puzzles.  These goals and puzzles represent real world challenges that are meaningful to the participants, and the exercises provide a safe environment to practice life strategies and problem solving.

Specially trained facilitators set up the exercises, maintain a safe learning environment, and lead discussions where participants process and reflect on their experiences; however, the horses are the real stars of the show.

The activities are never scripted, the horses aren't trained to respond in a certain way, and the facilitators don't lecture or even choose the learning material.  The participants make up the details of each activity as they go (just like life!), and the horses do what horses do best.  They respond to each person as an individual with honest feedback based on that person's body language and emotions, the group dynamics, the environment, and the presence of any clear leadership.

EAD activities rarely involve riding the horses, so prior horse experience is not necessary or even desirable.  The power of EAD activities lies in the dynamic, unrehearsed interactions between the people and horses.  Every session is unique and offers participants an opportunity to leave with a fresh perspective, new ideas, and a memorable experience with some amazing four-legged teachers/entertainers.


Why Horses?

  • MadNBluLike humans, horses are social mammals and share an innate understanding of the roles of social structure and leadership in providing mental, emotional, and physical safety.  Horses, however, do not tolerate dysfunction in their social circles or their leaders.  Their lives depend on living in cohesive groups that trust and support one another.
  • Horses possess distinct individual personalities, complete with moods, preferences, emotions, and coping mechanisms. This provides a multitude of opportunities for learning about relationships.
  • Horses are masters of body language and non-verbal communication. They read and respond to a person’s intentions, whether those intentions match what is ‘said’ on the outside or not. They are powerful teachers of authenticity.
  • Horses don’t lie, have ulterior motives, hold grudges, or have a vested interest in a person’s success or failure. Their feedback is always spot-on, and the horse will change his response to a person as quickly as the person changes their behavior. …Instant, honest, unbiased feedback.  It's rare to get from another human, because people tend to project their perceptions and desires onto one another.
  • Horses and humans both possess innate 'fight and flight' responses to pressure and pain, whether mental, emotional, or physical.  Observing the horses can give us valuable insight into how appropriate and healthy our responses may be in various situations.
  • There is something about a horse that grabs our attention.  It's perhaps a respect for their physical power, coupled with an indescribable sensitivity and inner stillness.  No matter what it is, it's hard to share the same space with a horse and not get taken by a certain sense of awe.  They draw us away from our ingrained patterns of thought and behavior, even if only for a short while.  This is the first step to new perspective.

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handsEquestrian Arts Foundation is looking for a few dedicated individuals who are interested in being a part of our vision.  If you have time and/or expertise that you would like to contribute, we would love to hear from you!  Contact Us.

Contact Us

Maria Elizabeth Smith

EAF President / Founder

(937) 554-4116

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Maria Elizabeth Smith

Equestrian Arts Foundation