Leeds Met's mane event ropes in care-leavers

June 30, 2011

Leeds Metropolitan University is pursuing its widening participation agenda by calling on the services of a former horse whisperer who offers "equine-assisted training" to students and staff.

The Leeds institution has been working with young people in local authority care to help them develop confidence and to encourage them to consider undertaking university study.

Tina Kennedy, widening participation project coordinator at Leeds Met, said: "A key event within this programme is hosted by Learning to Listen, a training establishment set in a farming environment, which uses horse training as a channel for developing communication skills, confidence and teamwork."

Last week a group of disadvantaged young people joined a group of Leeds Met staff and students at a farm near Wetherby, in Yorkshire, for an event run by Sarah Kreutzer.

Ms Kreutzer reports that while she no longer trains horses, she uses them "as a medium for people to understand their own behaviour better and acquire better styles of leadership".

Most people, said Ms Kreutzer, are "bewildered about how working with a horse can teach them teamwork. Yet the way you walk into the round pen shows how you walk into a room at work. And the horses respond accordingly."

She added: "Unlike colleagues or subordinates, horses can't fake it or craftily conceal their feelings.

"A horse will give you its full attention while you are engaged with it, but as soon as your concentration drifts it will start to move away. They are absolutely in the moment - they don't care what car you drive or how much you earn."

That is precisely what makes horses' "feedback" so valuable, she said.

It remains to be seen whether Ms Kreutzer will be effective in geeing up the Leeds teenagers and silencing the nay-sayers in the notoriously sceptical higher education sector.


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