Coach of the Month – Beth Duff

the red horse speaks is a unique Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) programme developed by coach and training consultant Beth Duff.

Established in 2004, her programme draws on the ability of horses to mirror human behaviour. The horses are teamed with skilled facilitators for courses in leadership, team-building and personal development.

The team of 10 people at the red horse speaksTM combine skills in coaching, team working, leadership and business development along with experience and love of horses.

As well as offering workshops from the home base near Aberdeen, there is a network of venues each with a team of delightful horses in UK and through our wider network can also offer workshops in US, Europe and Australia.

the red horse speaksTM is internationally recognised and as a result Beth is frequently invited to speak at conferences and is sought after as a teacher by others who want to enter this field or develop their skills further.
I asked Bet Duff, founder of the red hores speaksTM established the red horse speaks programme five years ago with her partner Aidan Duff. It grew out of their successful training partnership. I asked Beth where the idea came from.

“It started when we moved back to Aberdeen to care for family members and I decided to start riding again. I had owned horses before but was finding it difficult to find the right one this time around. Someone suggested Chelsea, who was 7 at the time and completely unsuitable! But we got on really well and so I took her on. It was a long process of building trust, including a lot of ground work, and I soon came to realise that the learning process was a two way thing! I was involved in training in leadership and personal development at the time and thought that it might be a good idea to offer this learning experience to my clients. This was six years ago and red horse speaksTM was born.”

“The programme draws on the ability of horses to mirror human behaviour. Horses have no baggage and are neutral in emotial terms. This makes them great teachers! Clients on the programme get the message really quickly as to whether the horse is going to co-operate or not!”

“About a year ago we also developed workshops and carefully monitored the training outcomes. Some activities were facilitated at different levels but as much as possible the potential variables were kept constant. We found that the outcomes, whether the clients were troubled teens or senior executives, were positive for everyone. Even though we were in the middle of a recession people said that working with the horses made them feel better. We investigated this by asking them to put a score of 1-10 on certain characteristics before and again after the programme. We also found that the longevity of the learning experience was excellent. It seems that that working with horses, which have a huge visual and sensory impact on clients, positively affects some memory pathways. It’s a bit like everyone remembering where they were when they saw the assassination of JFK. The visual impact of that event somehow fixes the experience permanently in the memory.”

“We have included the horses in our research too. They are our willing partners and always enjoy the sessions but we are still keen to measure their response to that we can satisfy ourselves and our clients that our programme is as good for horses as it is for humans. We hope that this research will help to set standards for horse care and selection for Equine Assisted Learning (EAL).” “Our target market is corporate clients but we work with young people too. We work with young people with challenging behaviours, children with learning difficulties and school leaders as part of their 6th form development programme. In this latter instance it has given teachers a different view of their pupils! The horses behave differently when working with different groups of people. They seem able to make very rapid assessments of the people they are working with. The same horse will behave differently when working with someone with an impairment to when working with a big, strong oilmen.”

“All of the training programmes are designed to suit the client but all are based on groundwork – we teach leadership not horsemanship. A typical course starts with an introduction to the horses and we encourage closeness to the horses. We will then do an activity, for example leading the horse and then look at how the activity has gone; what they have learned, what they are taking back to their workplace.”

” EAL is a recognised system of learning which uses a combination of activities and discussion to give individuals insight into their behaviour and their effect on others. Experiential learning is particularly beneficial for professional teams who may have adopted set patterns of interaction which need reappraising. EAL also helps with non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and problem-solving, leadership work, taking responsibility, teamwork and relationships, confidence, and attitude.”

“We are licenced to deliver Prism Profiles and Bar-On Emotional Intelligence profiles. We have designed activities with the horses specifically around these products for clients who choose to use them or are already familiar with them. We can also blend learning with horses with more traditional classroom learning, facilitation and coaching.”

“We recently established an academy for those with experience of training who want to develop their offering or who want to establish their own business. The academy has three modules; the first for those who want an introduction to EAL, the second for those who have experience and want to develop it and the third for people who want to teach EAL as red horse associates.”

As well as running red horse speaksTM Beth is studying for a PhD and is fast establishing an international reputation for the research she is undertaking around the learning outcomes of EAL for people and for the horses!