Equi-Spective Leadership Plunge

Nine VCU students took the leadership plunge, equestrian-style, on May 4.

The Division of Student Affairs Leadership Plunge program gives students the opportunity to experience leadership from an outside-the-classroom perspective. On Wednesday, the University Student Commons and Activities Student Leadership and Involvement Center traveled to the Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg, Virginia. Nine students and four staff members participated in the Equi-Spective program.


The Equi-Spective program is a self-discovery program that unites horses and humans with the goal of developing leadership expertise regardless of experience. Using a hands-on approach, participants connect with horses while exploring relationship awareness, communication style and leadership techniques.

“This leadership program was an amazing experience that taught me a lot about self-awareness and my inner ability to lead through expanding my energy and improving my body language. I used the skills I learned to control my energy that night, and I got positive results,” Equi-Spective participant Rooma Elnasseh said.

In the first half of the leadership plunge, participants learned about the connection between personal energy, working with horses, intention and confidence. In the second half, each person had a one-on-one interaction with the horses.


“One-by-one, our students went into the corral and led horses around using nothing but their outward energy and confidence,” coordinator for leadership and volunteer programs Rebecca Halligan said. “This incredible telepathic connection with the horses varied from student to student based off of the different energies they were bringing to the horse.”

The Equi-Spective program has been developed and fine tuned for over 20 years by equestrian director Sheryl Jordan. Jordan has spent the last 40 years looking at the relationships between horses, humans and nature; which is where the idea for Equi-Spective developed.

“I loved that Sheryl was authentic and genuine as she shared her wisdom with us. She taught us, and showed us, how our energy can be felt by others, and how our energy can be used to communicate with horses,” coordinator of off campus student services and chaperone for the leadership plunge Lisa Mathews-Ailsworth said. “It looked like magic. I loved that one of the students was very powerful in his stance and stare, and another was very soft and subtle, but both were able to lead the horse.”


Student participants felt the same energy that Mathews-Ailwsorth described when working with the horses.

“(We were) able to feel the passive energy that the horses bring and use different communication methods to challenge (ourselves) as leaders in different surroundings,” Equi-Spective participant Ashley Rivera said. “You learn to have respect and dignity for these powerful creatures.”

While the Equi-Spective program has been around for over two decades, this was the first time SLIC has taken a trip there. Halligan said that in the future, as part of the leadership plunge, SLIC hopes to keep the Equi-Spective program part of their agenda. Halligan also plans to look into similar leadership program excursions that would include culinary and sailing experiences.


For more information on SLIC’s leadership plunge programs, contact Rebecca Halligan at rshalligan@vcu.edu.

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