Heritage Ranch program uses horses to help business colleagues communicate better

A new program geared to the corporate world has galloped into Heritage Ranch.

A new program geared to the corporate world has galloped into Heritage Ranch.

The Unleashed Team Building Experience uses the equestrian centre’s own horses to help colleagues communicate better for stronger and more interactive business teams in the office.

“The program takes multiple important things when it comes to understanding how to co-operate and succeed as a group and gels it all together out in the arena,” said Alan Getz, Heritage Ranch’s on site-facilitator of the new program. “It really brings out the value in listening skills, admitting mistakes, asking questions, watching your body language . . . Things like that.”

Things that are also crucial when it comes to thriving in the corporate world, added Getz.

And the best part?

“The horses don’t judge anyone.”

The program, developed and customized to each group by Getz himself, was launched at Heritage Ranch for the first time near the end of March.

Since then, they’ve worked with about one group a week on average, said Getz. They’re more than ready to take on more.

While there are other team building workshops with horses available around Central Alberta, Heritage Ranch’s program is one of a kind.

“A lot of the time, the groups will have to drive out to a ranch then meet in a conference setting somewhere else beforehand and afterwards to debrief,” said Getz. “I wanted something not only affordable but also a one stop shop — lunch too. We do that here . . . It’s relaxing and more enjoyable that way.”

Groups generally complete two horse activities in a day, said Getz. There’s a formal talk on safety and discussions about what they learned throughout the day as well.

It’s $95 per person for half a day, $195 for a full day and $295 for two days.

The idea for the program came from Getz’s own past experiences as a counselor in drug and alcohol treatment centres and his passion for horses (Getz was raised on a guest ranch in Langley, B.C. and was training horses by the time he was 13).

He said he knew first hand how valuable horses can be when it comes to human behavior and learning about trust.

“The equine team building has the highest return on investment in any team building approach on the market today,” said Getz, quoting a three year research study undertaken in the United States.

The United States military even uses equine team building strategies, he added.

Rick Burton, a commercial banking area manager for BMO Bank of Montreal, signed up his colleagues for Unleashed as soon as heard Heritage Ranch had such a program.

“We’re in the middle of merging two teams into one, so this was a perfect opportunity to really break the ice,” said Burton, who lives in Camrose. “It was great. I feel like we’ve laid out a foundation now, we’re comfortable asking questions of each other.”

Getz won’t comment too much on the details of what Unleashed is all about (he doesn’t want to ruin it for any potential attendees). But he did mention a big learning curve for everyone was setting up an obstacle course for Spike, a buckskin fjord cross horse. Without touching or talking, they had to get Spike to step over a certain object at the end of the course.

Getz said he plans on seeing the program grow and would one day like to even expand it.

“Maybe down the road I’ll do individual equine therapy sessions for those struggling with addictions or something like that,” he said.


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