Horsing Around at EMEC

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Horsing Around at EMEC

By Rich Luna | Feb 10, 2020

Big Brown, Little Brown, Chestnut and Blondie had quite the calming effect on a group of meeting professionals focused on improving their leadership skills.

The four horses were featured Monday during one of four learning journeys for attendees at Meeting Professionals International’s signature European education event, the European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC).

The learning journeys—leadership at an Andalusian horse ranch, managing stress through a program at Airbus, creating sessions that explore social impact with the Alala Foundation, and storytelling through the majesty of the Teatro de la Maestranza—were one of the unique education elements designed to get attendees more intimately engaged in learning at EMEC.

About 30 professionals elected the first session at Horsense Spain, which uses horses to help improve leadership skills through teaching unconditional responsibility, essential integrity and the elements of humility, said Carmen Valenzuela, owner of Horsense.

“What are your expectations?” Valenzuela asked the group. “That’s a great question to start with; to look inside yourself and think about your intent with this activity. What are you really looking for at your conference?

"Horses are very sensitive and so you have to be self-conscious. You’ll be amazed as how humans and horses are very similar, so the best thing is to not have expectations and make this a day to enjoy this experience. Compare your feelings now with the feelings you’ll have at the end."

“Horses are very sensitive and so you have to be self-conscious. You’ll be amazed as how humans and horses are very similar, so the best thing is to not have expectations and make this a day to enjoy this experience. Compare your feelings now with the feelings you’ll have at the end.”

Valenzuela shared how she has reached this place in her life and told the group her favorite quote from author Clarissa Pinkola Estes: “Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature; a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species.”

“This is what helped me create my company and start on a new path,” she said. “Today is a day to remember that there is a leader in all of us, a natural force.”

She said horses are natural leaders who “reflect who you are and what aspects you need to improve.”

The experience she attempts to present allows attendees to explore such topics as connecting with emotions, creating relationships with empathy, respectfulness and assertiveness, building trust and discovering the power of body language.

She took the group through three exercises: relaxation, trust in the horse arena by asking members to stand without reaching for the horse, and working as a team to guide a horse through a series of maneuvers. Several of the attendees said the session was rewarding.

"What I enjoyed the most was seeing three different experiences—the first to observe,” said Michelle Allgauer, CAE, CMM, CMP, vice president for meeting, marketing and education at Financial Services Institute in Washington, D.C. “When we’re in a leadership role we probably don’t observe enough. It was a good experience that had us focus on the moment."

“What I enjoyed the most was seeing three different experiences—the first to observe,” said Michelle Allgauer, CAE, CMM, CMP, vice president for meeting, marketing and education at Financial Services Institute in Washington, D.C. “When we’re in a leadership role we probably don’t observe enough. It was a good experience that had us focus on the moment.”

Lindsey Coleman Fornasier, with Venice Events Srl in Italy, said she was moved by looking into the horses’ eyes.

“I think we looked at each other and said, ‘let’s get this done,’” she said. “Both of us have to decide how we’re going to make this work. Everyone here is strong willed and wants to lead so it was refreshing to let that go and work as a team. This is something everyone should try.”

Sabri Belhadj with Dolce Al Hulpe A in Belguim, said the experience reaffirmed beliefs he had about leadership.

“This was my first time around horses, so this was really special,” he said. “I’m used to stepping into the ring because I box, and you have to manage your emotions. This was very similar. You have to keep calm around the horses.”

The third day of MPI’s 31st EMEC on Tuesday will focus on making sure attendees will be able to experience some of the highest-rated education sessions from Monday by taking part in the Best of EMEC series. New education opportunities for Tuesday also include a Master Class in designing authentic experiences, stress-management and decision making.

The MPI Foundation had its Rendezvous event Monday night to raise funds for scholarships, grants and industry research.

 

Author

Rich
Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.