Researchers in the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Agriculture recently completed one of the first studies to explore how working with horses can develop emotional intelligence in humans. UK Center for Leadership Development researchers, Patricia Dyk, PhD, and Lissa Pohl, MS, collaborated with three UK Healthcare nurse researchers—Carol Noriega, MSN, RN, CEN; Janine Lindgreen, APRN; and Robyn Cheung, PhD, RN—on the two-year study, titled "The Effectiveness of Equine Guided Leadership Education to Develop Emotional Intelligence in Expert Nurses."

“With Lexington being known as the ‘Horse Capital of the World,’ it is only fitting that the University of Kentucky is conducting pioneering research in the emerging field of equine assisted learning”, said Dyk, director of the Center for Leadership Development.

The project included a control group of 10 nurses from the Neuroscience Surgery Service Line and an intervention group consisting of 11 nurses from the Trauma and Acute Care Surgical Service Line at UK Chandler Hospital. At the start of the study and again six months later, both groups took the online assessment appraising emotional intelligence. Nurses in the intervention group participated in a one-day workshop that involved experiential learning with horses.

“Each exercise in the workshop was designed to develop the four emotional intelligence competency areas of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management,” said Pohl, research project manager and workshop facilitator.

Nurses from the intervention group filled out qualitative surveys immedi