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Leadership Program   

You can learn a lot from a horse

Round-pen training offers important lessons about leadership and about managing people.

Horses have their own unique language, and we can learn to work with them by learning to "speak horse."


 “The traditional way of ‘breaking’ a horse is based on the natural pecking order that exists in a herd,” Avery explains. “When you break a horse, you say to it, ‘I’m tougher and stronger and meaner than you are, and I can outlast you.’” In 1960, Douglas McGregor’s seminal book, The Human Side of Enterprise, described “Theory X,” which sees workers as mules who need to be dominated.

“A broken horse will do what you want but he may never do it willingly,” says Avery. And if the rider or trainer drops his guard or weakens, the horse may challenge him for dominance. “That’s how the pecking order works,” Avery adds, “in a herd or in a company.”   

 McGregor’s “Theory Y” said that workers crave responsibility and achievement, and that they will follow a leader who meets those needs.

“The training is stressful for the horse because I’m trying to convince him to do something he’s not sure he wants to do,” Avery explains, “I’m pushing him outside his comfort zone. When he does what I want him to, I reward him by easing the pressure. He learns that doing what I want makes him more comfortable. It’s just like giving praise, recognition, or some other reward to an employee who’s performing well.”


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