Equine Guided Education: Team Building and Leadership with Horses

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Equine Guided Education: Team Building and Leadership with Horses

Ariana Stozzi Strives to Connect the Public with Land and Agriculture

Article and Photo by Rachel LaFranchi, Farm News Production Editor

Published December 1, 2015

Ariana Strozzi at her Valley Ford Ranch.

A trained zoologist, Ariana Strozzi has always been passionate about animals and has worked with all types of exotics and livestock.

Strozzi began her career as a horse trainer and riding instructor in the 1980’s, but over time her path led her to something other than horsemanship, a form of working with people and horses called Equine Guided Education or EGE.

Strozzi said she had her own EGE moment when she was sitting on her horse at the top of a hill in Valley Ford. Coupled with her leadership training, she started to realize her experience with horses could be more than training and riding lessons and started the SkyHorse EGE program in 1999.

“I’m immersed in the animal world,” said Strozzi, “but I’m also fascinated with leadership. I don’t know why, but I like to make things happen. I love the way animals communicate, but not always the way people communicate.” 

As a pioneer of EGE programs, Strozzi now has participants from all around the world. She teaches two EGE certifications a year which are three weeks long. Additionally, Strozzi teaches groups and hosts company retreats working with multiple Fortune 500 companies.

Strozzi said EGE is about a reconstruction of what leadership means. “Leadership is about your way of being and the presence you have. Who better to tell you when you’re being present than a horse?” she asked.

“There’s horsemanship then there’s EGE,” said Strozzi. “In order to do this, you have to break down the traditional horsemanship roles. With EGE, you’re switching the roles and asking the horses to become leaders.”

Strozzi said EGE is more about working with the horses and not necessarily traditional tasks such as lunging and riding. For many, just being with horses can be inspiring and life changing. Strozzi said she can get to the core topic in a matter of minutes with a horse that could take more than six months in therapy.

“People make honest changes with horses more than any other self-development,” said Strozzi.

But it’s more than just horses. Stozzi’s EGE programs often help individuals by just putting them in a different environment: a rural landscape that may not even have electricity.

“There’s a different kind of common sense you have growing up on land with animals. Some people growing up in cities don’t have that and they’ve gotten lost,” said Strozzi. “The horses are just part of it, it’s getting people outside. It’s the nature, wildlife and animals. It’s the temperature of the air and just being outside.

“We have to reeducate people of the value of animals and nature. In a sense, it’s about walking more gently on the earth.”

Strozzi said she is excited about everything that’s happening in Sonoma County. People are getting back their roots and farming. She said it’s as simple as people knowing where their food comes from and who’s growing it.

Strozzi is moving her program from Valley Ford north to Point Arena, 15 minutes over the Sonoma County line where her program will continue on a 530 acre ag preserve. The Valley Ford ranch was sold to friends, and Strozzi knows it will stay in ag production. Strozzi has plans to keep a presence in Sonoma County including a satellite office in Petaluma.

No matter where she is doing business from, Strozzi’s goal is still the same: to get the public connected to land and agriculture.

For more information on Strozzi’s EGE programs visit www.skyhorseranch.com.

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