By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager
While team-building activities are a common tool used by businesses to strengthen culture, an experience that revolves around working with horses is a bit more unusual for most accounting professionals.
“The thing about working with horses is that they're herd animals; everything about them is ultimately about the team,” said Celia King. “And when you’re around a horse, that horse is trying to figure out where you fit in the herd dynamic and if you are the leader or not.”
King, who is the lead consultant at Arrants McSwain, a Canton consultancy that helps businesses and individuals with leadership and team-building, joined The State of Business podcast this week. In addition to private sessions, King offers professionals an opportunity to work with horses to gain a new perspective on how they can grow in their personal development.
Sessions with horses have been part of her business for about five years, and King said it started after hearing about an agency that does equine-assisted therapy. She saw an overlap for the work she was already doing with what horses could teach professionals and said the unique environment can lead to progress that her clients might not have seen in a more traditional setting.
She partners with Pegasus Farm, a therapeutic equestrian center and works with a herd of six horses. During sessions, she cofacilitates with an equine professional and helps her clients connect what happens in the horse arena to what happens in the workplace.
“One of the great things about those who study accounting is their love for structure and order and their ability to create it,” she said. “But it can also be frustrating. So much of what happens when you're working with people can feel like chaos if you're focused on structure. We can help them figure out what to do when that logic gets out of step and how do they manage themselves in that process?”
King said the horses provide a great learning experience because it takes the participants out of the typical office setting and the horses have no emotional ties to whatever is happening.
“The horse doesn't care what your degrees are, doesn't care what your income is, doesn't care about your job title. It's just trying to figure out how to move along,” she said.
The animals help give clients a perspective on learning and growing, she said, especially for those who might be perfectionists and are scared of failing at something new.
“Everybody working with horses all the time keeps on making mistakes,” King said. “That's what's fun about being with the horses is that we're always learning, too. And that's the same thing in leadership and teams.”