Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


Kimberly Smith-Jentsch, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Misty Loughry, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Ginger Killian, Ph.D.


equine-assisted learning, emotional intelligence, equine-assisted services, organizational training


Emotional intelligence is characterized as the ability to jointly use intelligence and emotions to enhance reasoning. Corporate trainers have employed experiential learning methods to strengthen emotional competencies and often utilize experiential learning methods that involve challenge course programs that incorporate ropes and belay systems. A novel training method, equine-assisted learning, has recently gained traction and reportedly leverages the empathic nature of horses to enhance learning. This study had three primary purposes: (a) investigate the impact of a 1-day equine-assisted learning program upon emotional intelligence as compared to a 1-day challenge course program in a workplace population; (b) examine psychological safety as a potential mediator; (c) test a standardized intervention developed by the McCormick Research Institute known as the Camp McCormick manual. Amongst the equine-assisted learning literature, intervention protocols are sparse, theoretical foundations deficient, and research mostly involves case studies, small sample sizes, and a lack of control and comparison groups. This study addressed those gaps by comparing the two experiential learning methods using a pre-post design that also included a control condition. Volunteers were randomly assigned to either the challenge course, equine-assisted learning, or control condition. Within-subjects results associated with both experiential conditions provided support for Camp McCormick’s manual. Between-subjects results indicated that the challenge course condition performed significantly better than the control condition. The equine-assisted learning condition was not significantly different than the challenge course or control condition. Psychological safety did not mediate the relationship between training type (equine or challenge course) on emotional intelligence.