Horses as a mirror for human behavior

SHB student examines new approaches to conflict research

As Paul Watzlawick once said, "One cannot not communicate." But what does this widely cited quote have to do with horses? Andrea Winkel has been studying at Steinbeis University Berlin’s (SHB) Steinbeis Business Academy since 2011. She is working towards a Bachelor of Arts in Social, Healthcare and Education Management with a concentration in Equine Assisted Therapy. Her research deals with the potential to derive patterns in human communicative behavior from intervention methods using horses. "In our daily interactions, often gestures, mimicking and body language are more important than words. Since horses communicate for the most part with their bodies, they provide us with a great way to analyze our own behavior," explains Winkel.

Together with her partner, Josef Kathmann, the 45-year-old professional dressage trainer manages the Kathmann horse breeding farm in the Lower Saxony town of Hausstette. Much to her delight, she is able to draw on a wealth of practical experience and use it directly on her project as part of her project competence degree. "The effort to build links between scientific theory and practical work is what piqued my interest in this program." It was an obvious step for her to draw on her everyday work to formulate the topic of her project. "Working with horses and riders, I have noticed time and again how so many conflicts could be solved, or avoided in the first place, if people were more confident. And this is something that can be applied, for example, to teachers in a classroom setting," believes Winkel.

Up until this point, however, she hadn’t been given the opportunity to explore her observations in a scientific way and come to concrete conclusions. "Our program picks up just where these thoughts leave off, and gears itself particularly well to those with some kind of professional experience," explains Dr. Rosemarie Genn, director of the Steinbeis Transfer Institute of Equine Assisted Therapy and Management at SHB. "We recognize the extreme demand for skilled employees in the areas of business, consulting and management and know that the potential to use horses in a therapeutic or didactic capacity is far from being explored to its maximum."

The current student projects in Andrea Winkel’s study program span a range of interesting topics, including the evaluation of psycho-social rehabilitation and development with horses, the introduction of equestrian intervention methods at a school sports club, or the creation, implementation and evaluation of horse therapy concepts in occupational therapy.

As is the case with all degree programs at Steinbeis University Berlin, the Bachelor of Arts in Social, Healthcare and Education Management is also designed as an extra-occupational, modular program. Its core element is a project whose purpose is defined by students and their employers. The project must be completed within the term of study and benefit both the student and business in some way.

Students from all corners of the country meet on a regular basis in the city of Vechta for seminars and exams, which always revolve around actual practice. "Thanks to the carefully thought-through learning materials and the close, personal guidance from instructors, students are well equipped to succeed in their courses," Winkel adds.

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