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Team Huddles versus Herd Huddles: safety in numbers in isolation

What has all of this got to do with Equine Facilitated Learning, I hear you ask.

Interestingly my reflection on ‘huddles’ started with the horses.  However, this was only after the Legal, Risk and Compliance team that I work in in the City of London, shortly prior to working from home, diarised weekly Team Huddles to be held first thing on a Monday morning.

efl huddle

This has since become a daily 10:00am Virtual Team Huddle during this period of physical isolation.

I also understand that the management team are holding a daily early morning Virtual Leadership Huddle to keep management coordinated, focused and efficient while in physical isolation.  This information flow then filters down to the individual Virtual Team Huddles helping each team within the organisation be kept informed, more effective and collaborative.  I understand that Team Huddles generally are a great way of fostering a positive culture with open communication, improving morale, motivation and productivity in the workplace.  I understand that some teams have even been having Virtual Quiz evenings.

I am so fortunate that during this period of isolation for many, I live in a beautiful property surrounded by approximately 17 acres of land and can gaze outside the windows during my virtual working day and experience nature and animals.  What I mean by experience is that I am not only able to see nature but also hear the noise of birds, the neighboring lambs and Cockerels.  Smell the cut grass, the spring flowers, even the animals .  I am virtually working in the City yet physically present and noticing nature.

efl horses

I have seen many people referring to our animals during this time as being unaware of this pandemic.  Whilst I believe that maybe our animals are not aware of the pandemic per se, they are living in the presence of many of us establishing a very different routine in uncertain times.  Life in our household today is somewhat different as well as being the same.  I am fortunate to be able to work from home, our little boy, up until this week, has been carrying on with his school work at home.  We are very grateful that the people that help us with looking after our horses are also with us in isolation.  This has meant that myself and my husband have been able to carry on with our day jobs, Thomas his schooling and all of our animals continue to be cared for in exactly the same way.  There is something about, at least in our household, safety in numbers in isolation.

As mentioned above, what I have found interesting about my reflection on ‘huddles’, both Team Huddles and Herd Huddles, is that it was the power of the horses that really got me noticing and thinking about all of this after observing the Athena Herd of horses last week end.  We opened up a new part of our Equine Track System here at Athena Herd (see for more information about how our Athena Herd of horses live).  The horses grouped together investigating their new space (a disrupter in their routine).  The horses here at Athena Herd live in a sense in isolation in the form of a settled herd living as naturally as possible on an equine track system.  The herd seems to take a kind of safety in numbers approach when faced with uncertainty and change.  They all huddle together (picture below taken when we opened up this new space).  Some of the horses interestingly displayed sudden behavior change due to the changes that we made to their environment and routine.

EFL horse huddle

If you compare the above picture with the picture below taken just three days later, aside from that amazing blue sky, the overall need for a Herd Huddle seems to have diminished.  Gradually each herd member has worked out his/her own safe space, amounting maybe to a form of social distancing, making daily choices around where to hang out and with whom to interact.  At times there may still be a need for a Herd Huddle: keeping each other informed of important information through the sharing of collective intelligence even routine i.e. look the humans are out filling up the hay supply, its time for breakfast, lets scratch each other’s backs to get rid of that winter coat, lets move to the barn for shelter as it is going to rain, lets spend some time socialising.  Horses are highly aware of their surroundings and live very much ‘in the moment’.  They live in the now, are present and connect with nature.

EFL Relaxed

So moving back to where I began: Team Huddles versus Herd Huddles: safety in numbers in isolation and what is the significance of Equine Facilitated Learning? Experiential learning if you like with horses.

My understanding is that holding “huddles” on a regular basis can create a sense of unity and positive culture with open communication.  As is the case with any meeting, both in the corporate and Equine Facilitated Learning space there is the importance of having a ‘facilitator’ to keep things on track and on time.  There is an element of routine required in both for example in the corporate space it is good to start and end a huddle at the same time every day, first thing in the morning often works best as it gives members a chance to share their priority for that day.  Clarity is of great importance in both: understanding who is doing what and how it fits in with the vision of the organisation, in managing expectations for example.  Being present is another important factor in both, either physically or virtually, having the opportunity to contribute to the vision.

When ‘huddles’ are used correctly they can really help to drive results.

Have you considered preparing your team for change through experiences with horses?

EFL Corporate workshop