Okay, now that I have your attention--I want to talk about a serious subject: the size of your equine assisted learning (EAL) workshops.
When someone is learning new behaviors, especially in an experiential workshop, the size of the workshop becomes very important. Each of us processes information in our own unique way and in our own time. When they are interacting in equine assisted learning activities, an "aha" may be instantaneous for one person and take lots of time and discussion for someone else. As an Equine Assisted Facilitator, you need to make sure you create an environment that is open to learning. Each person comes with their own set of knowledge, experience, and yes, baggage. That means when you do a group EAL workshop, you cannot assume that everybody will profit from the experience in the same way.
Keeping the size of your group to a manageable level is one way of ensuring that the most people benefit from the experience in a way that will be most helpful to them. If you have a group of 25 or 30 or 50 in your training, it will be tough for each member of the group to participate in the discussion, let alone play an active role in the activity with the horses.
The more your group members can participate, the more they are able to walk away with "aha's" that can transform their lives. (We at E3A don't set our workshop objectives low--we're pushing for transformational change). If you have been hired to work with large organizations, consider dividing them into smaller groups and adding more facilitators. You not only want the bodies to help keep them safe around the horses, you want full discussions and facilitation of their experience so that they can get new learning and/or solutions to the problems they and their team face.
That's why we at E3A keep our workshops small. We want everybody to participate in the activities with horses, and in the discussion that follows. Typically, we don't allow more than 12 people, especially in our certification classes. That's because we want everybody to have an opportunity to do all the tasks and roles you will do as equine assisted learning practitioners in your own business.
It also helps protect your horses. Consider how it is for our equine partners when they are surrounded by a mass of chaotic energy, which is what you typically have in large dysfunctional groups. Why dysfunctional? They are coming to you for help with some issue(s) they are having as a team or as individuals. Even highly functioning teams display discomfort when interacting in this brand new setting with animals they don't know.
In my own workshops, we have typically had no more than 12 participants with two facilitators. Working as a team allows you to fully handle all the responsibilities, and ensures that everybody gets maximum attention and a full experience.
What's the ideal workshop size? As with all things, it depends on the type of workshop. I think usually 8-12 is ideal. That size gives you enough people to do the activities and have a spirited, juicy discussion without people getting ignored (or if they do get ignored, you can spot it and utilize it in your debriefing). On occasion, I might go up to 15 or do a workshop with as few as six people. Each EAL practitioner will make his/her own decision about the size of the workshops they hold.
Keep in mind: Equine assisted learning is intense, powerful work, and for participants to benefit the most, they need to be more than one person in a huge herd. Size does matter, because by keeping workshop sizes small, you can better ensure that participants get the best you and the horses have to offer.
Linda Pucci, Ph.D. is a founding member of E3A, an E3A Certified Advanced Practitioner with a Specialty in Corporate Training, and an E3A Master Trainer. She has been doing equine assisted learning since 2003. Linda is a personal and business coach at the Inner Resource Center, LLC, specializing in business growth, mindset issues, and overcoming obstacles to success with her clients. She can be reached at Linda@InnerResourceCenter.com or through her website www.InnerResourceCenter.com