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Collaborating With Horses to Develop Emotional Intelligence

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In May, 2013 The Center for Leadership Development (CFLD) completed a pilot research study on The Effectiveness of Equine Guided Leadership Education (EGLE) to Develop Emotional Intelligence in Expert Nurses. This was a two year intercollegiate collaboration between CFLD researchers, Patricia Dyk, PhD. and Lissa Pohl, MA., and University of Kentucky Healthcare’s nurse researchers, Carol Noriega, RN, MSN, CEN, Janine Lindgreen, APRN and Robyn Cheung, PhD., RN.

This pilot study is one of the first of its kind to explore how working with horses can develop emotional intelligence (EQ) in humans. The project included a control group of 10 expert nurses from the Neuroscience Surgery Service Line and an intervention group consisting of 11 expert nurses from the Trauma and Acute Care Surgical Service Line at UK Chandler Hospital. Nurses in the intervention group participated in a one day workshop consisting of a facilitated process with five different horses.

All the exercises were performed on the ground and no previous experience was necessary to participate. Each exercise was designed to develop the following EQ competencies: self-awareness; self-management; social awareness; and relationship management.

Both groups took the online TalentSmart® EQ Appraisal: The ME Edition before the EGLE workshop took place with the intervention group and again six months after the first assessment was taken. Nurses from the intervention group also filled out qualitative surveys immediately after their experience with the horses and again three months after the workshop. A comparative analysis of the before and after EQ scores of both groups was conducted as well as a thematic analysis of the qualitative surveys completed by the nurses in the intervention group.

Photo of horse

The ‘before and after’ survey results showed there was an increase in the EQ scores of the intervention group in all four competency areas when compared to the control group.

“Qualitative responses from the nurses participating in the EGLE workshop clearly attribute changes in their bedside manner to lessons learned from interacting with the horses.”

These initial results are encouraging and lay the groundwork for subsequent studies of larger and more diverse populations of expert nurses using a more rigorous longitudinal design.     

This study was funded by the Dorothy Brockopp Nursing Research Award, the College of Agriculture Research Activities Award and with the generous support of Winning With Horsepower’s online fundraising campaign. See below for more information on contributing to this pioneering research. 

Other Equine Assisted Learning Programs and Associations:

Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA)
Equine Guided Education Association (EGEA)
Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A) 
Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association (EFMHA) at National American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) 
EPONA Equestrian Services 
The Horse Institute
Horse Sense of the Carolinas

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