Consultant’s secret? Just horse sense
June 16, 2014
If managing your office or business feels like herding cats, Greg Kersten says he has some horse sense for you.
Kersten operates O.K. Corral Series, a Pleasant Valley business providing personal development exercises that rely on horses to help everyone from troubled youth to struggling corporations.
Kersten says O.K. Corral's offering is something akin to rope courses — rugged outdoor team-building exercises — but utilizes horses to demonstrate herd behavior.
"Basically, it's horse psychology and herd psychology and dynamics used as a template for individual and family behavior," says Kersten.
Kersten says humans can learn a lot from herd animals such as horses, who place group safety above all else, including pecking order.
Seminars last anywhere from a couple hours to several days, says Kersten, and include outdoor work with horses and time inside a classroom where participants can talk about what they observed and, in the case of corporate clients, how to apply it to their jobs and businesses.
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"Businesses sometimes have a specific problem and sometimes it's just an open-ended opportunity to pinpoint where problems lie," says Kersten. "It's almost better when they figure it out themselves. A lot of time they come thinking it's a problem with staff and turns out it's something like transportation."
Kersten started out about 17 years ago, developing what he calls equine-assisted therapy for juvenile delinquents. The former U.S. Army dog handler and University of Nebraska graduate was working in Washington, D.C., with incarcerated teenagers when he started training horses on the side for extra cash.
"The horses were older and aggressive and they reminded me of the kids," says Kersten. "I told the kids about it and when they ran out of community service things for them to do, I asked the judge to let me take them to the ranch to clean stalls and do work with the horses."
That led to a national movement in what is called equine-assisted therapy and to Kersten working in California with children of entertainment industry executives, one of whom had the idea to apply the horse therapy to corporate culture, asking Kersten to work with employees from his company.
Since then, and mostly through word of mouth, Kersten has worked with a range of businesses, including investment company Fidelity, biotechnology firm Amgen Inc. and computer maker Dell Inc.
Six years ago, Kersten and his wife Jennifer, who has a masters degree in education and works with the corporate clients, moved to Yerington from Utah. A few months ago, they relocated to Pleasant Valley, just south of Reno, where Kersten hopes to work more often using his eight horses rather than traveling to meet clients.
And he plans to continue offering equine-assisted therapy, under contract with therapists, and teaching the method to others as well as team building work with corporations.
"I call it equine-assisted philosophy," says Kersten. "It doesn't scare the businesses as much."