HQ Leadership India, a corporate training program happens in the one place where we would never guess, at the Chennai Equestrian Club! Here, the personal trainers for the people from the corporate world are horses, who respond to their “students” who carry and wave a whip!

This first-of-its-kind training program in the country was introduced by Ms Isabelle Hasleder, winner of various international equine dressage competitions and one of the most qualified horse riding trainers in the country. She has also held positions in senior management for BMW and Liebherr in India.

Isabelle Hasleder

Ms Hasleder was inspired by the “horse-assisted education” programme, which was initiated by the International Association for Horse Assisted Education in Germany.

The idea behind the concept was that, horses respond to the body language and the intentions of humans. Unlike much more domesticated pets such as cats or dogs, horses only obey to commands of authority, and do not form a unique bond with its owner.

This means, that if a horse senses fear from you, then it is unlikely that the horse will respond to your commands. “You will not be able to establish yourself as the leader”, says Ms Hasleder.

This is the primary concept in the horse-assisted leadership programme that Ms Hasleder created. The HQ in the name is expanded into Horse Quotient, which is a way to measure how a person manages a group of horses, or in the corporate work space, his employees.

Training with horses reflect how clearly a person communicates and how the person gains trust in others. The ability to command and lead is tested inside the horse pits, where the trainees try to make their horses obey various commands such as to make them run, stop and walk with them.

The trainees also get to improvise and change their leadership styles according to the nature of the horses and the different types of tasks they undergo. “This is called situational leadership, when a team is going through a new phase, it is up to the executives to lead from the front. That is called lead-by-example leadership style.” states Ms Hasleder

Likewise, different styles such as being alongside the horse, leading from behind, represents various types of leadership methods. “At the end, the leader just needs to lead his time into completing the tasks” adds Ms Hasleder.

The training takes place at the urban campus at Sholinganallur, where Hasleder alongside her husband, Mr Dhruv Futani oversee the programme along with 50 horses and ponies.