I love horses. They have been among my cherished friends and teachers for as long as I can remember. When I tell many of my old friends that “I’m a trainer” they automatically assume I’m a horse trainer because they know my affinity and experience with equines. I have to explain that I actually train people more often than horses!
As I was contemplating what training topic to blog about this week, horses kept crossing my mind. I took this as a sign and started thinking of the many parallels that exist between training horses and people. Yes, there are many things that are similar (and many that are VERY different)!
Do you love training animals and people? Here are a few thoughts about the lesson’s I apply in the classroom that I learned in the arena.
- Horses are curious creatures. Engaging in their curiosity vs. using brute force, or the “because I said so” approach is always best. Makes sense with people, right? Structuring activities that tap into curiosity and creativity make learning fun and fast!
- Positive first experiences are key to success. Burn a horse with a bad experience once, and they might not be all that open to trying again, no matter what you do. It can take a long time to gain trust and willingness so you have to do everything you can to set them up for success. With people, this is critical…small wins will help to build confidence and willingness to keep learning and trying new skills.
- Smooth motions vs. jerky motions will get you where you want to be, faster. Sudden, jerky movements cause stress and can move into fear. How would you define this one with people in the classroom? When coaching/providing feedback, transitioning to new topics, when you’re asked questions that take you outside your comfort zone, etc? What small shifts can you make to make your classroom even more consistent and smooth?
- Repetition leads to consistency. With horses you can’t just try a new movement once and expect perfection the next time you try. It takes many hours in the saddle to perfect skills and if you get things right in one direction, it doesn’t always mean in a new direction you will get the same results. For example, you may get a horse to spin to the right with great ease…but the same move in the opposite direction can cause a melt-down. The skill is the same, but the situation is different. The lesson here…try skills in lots of different ways. Teaching sales? Your student might master the skills with one product, but make sure you have exercises that take the same skills, but applied to a different product. And then repeat until it feels more like a habit.
- Fear often drives behavior. Find out where the fear is coming from and do you best to get rid of it. If fear is present, you’re not going to be moving forward, period.
What have you learned about training people from animals?
Happy trails my training friends!