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A bit of horse sense for boardroom manners

business Updated: Jan 12, 2008 01:04 IST
Pallavi Polanki
Pallavi Polanki
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Are your colleagues getting on your nerves? Is the boss giving you a hard time? There is hope yet. And it comes on four legs.



Horses and dogs are teaching the corporate world a thing or two about communication skills. Companies are sending their employees to equestrian and, more recently, canine camps to improve inter-personal relations at work.



"At the camps, we use horses as teaching tools to develop non-verbal communication and team-building skills. The nervousness of being around the animal makes people react naturally to situations. This helps them understand themselves better," says Rohan More, owner of the Mumbai-based Japalouppe Equestrian Centre.



The Centre has conducted around 10-12 such camps for companies like Accenture, IDBI, Dun & Bradstreet and Empowered Learning Systems.



The camps involve what are called 'trust games', where employees, for instance, are paired together and required to depend on their teammate to instruct the horse that he or she is riding.



"The camps have a lasting effect on the employees. They are able to analyse themselves and perform better as a team," says Sulekha Vasanth, general manager HR, Bhagwati Designs Private Limited, which has done three camps so far.



Alka Ojha, a Delhi-based senior public relations executive at Blue Lotus Communications attended an equine and canine camp held in Talegaon, near Mumbai, last month. Her team won the prize for teaching a dog to dance to a Hindi number (

kajra re

).



"To get Cheese (a labrador) to follow the steps, we had to reward him every time he did it right. The purpose was to help us understand the value of rewarding and appreciating employees."



The camp, says Ojha, has made it easier for everyone to work as a team. "It was a great team-building exercise. We learned a lot about each other."



"The idea is to improve one's communication through the medium of training dogs. Employees overcome their fears, learn to manage stress and handle their egos in their attempt to communicate with animals and train them," said Junaid Merchant of Canines Can Care, a Mumbai-based dog training centre, which participated in the camp.