FENNVILLE, Mich. — Businesses are always looking for ways to get better.
Thanks to a group of local entrepreneurs, a space has been created where groups, businesses and community leaders can gather to strengthen their collaboration and improve company culture through interaction with horses.
Fred Bueltmann and his wife Ulla Frederiksen recently launched "Red Horse Center for Collaborative Leadership," on Red Horse Ranch, which the couple owns in Fennville, Mich. The mission behind the new business is to help strengthen collaborations for the greater good by working with humans and horses, through experiential learning.
"It wouldn't be appropriate to do group therapy with co-workers, but it is appropriate to dive into patterns and behaviors and work with the horses who bring those natural patterns forward," said Bueltmann, who is a former brewery executive and an expert in company culture.
The method is called Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy.
"Groups of 10 to 20 people come to our farm for a full day workshop, and while interacting with the horses, are able to really dig into how they can work better together and what changes need to be made," said Bueltmann.
The couple are certified facilitators of the Eagala Model, which is a distinctive experiential framework designed to hold space for clients to discover, learn and grow from horse and human interaction. Eagala (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) is the leading international nonprofit association for professionals incorporating horses to address mental health and organizational development needs.
"It's a team approach," said Frederiksen, who is a certified psychologist and an Eagala trainer. "There needs to be a certified psychologist or mental health professional of some sort, partnering with an equine specialist."
Fred Bueltmann is the equine specialist.
"A lot of stressors we have at work aren't spoken," said Bueltmann. They're beneath the surface, causing tension, disruption or lack of progress."
Bueltmann and Frederiksen say that interacting with horses help people communicate better, which leads to building better paths forward.
"Horses are a herd animal," said Bueltmann. "Non-verbal communication and assuring the togetherness of the herd and understanding who has which role is a matter of absolute need to them."
Each group's experience is customized based on the group's objectives.
"We start out with a conversation about what are they working on and what do they wish for their organization," said Bueltmann. "We then bring their themes to the horses.
"When you're around horses, you learn how incredibly subtle their communication is. They communicate as a herd and participants metaphorically see that and are able to open up more."
Frederiksen says she believes in Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy with strong conviction.
"As soon as you're in their company, something settles you inside," said Frederiksen. "It creates an opening for us to learn; to become aware; to gain insight and, therefore, change behavior."
Over the upcoming winter months, group size for any indoor gatherings will be determined on a case by case basis and will follow safe, COVID-19 protocols.
They are currently booking appointments for next spring.
"Experiential learning and the horses give people that moment of, 'Do you remember when that horse moved into our group; what that felt like; let's do that,'" said Bueltmann. "That's way more powerful than any slide in a presentation or any consultant saying, 'You need to be more assertive; you need to work better together.' Being told how to be netter is not the same as feeling the shift when you start to experience what it's like to change."
If you're interested in learning more about Red Horse Center for Collaborative Leadership, Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy, or to schedule a group session, click HERE.
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