REFLECTIONS ON EQUINE WELFARE AND HORSE-HUMAN CO-EXISTENCE

IMG_8615

…and on relationship building in general.

I hear, meet, speak to, more and more people who choose to fully remove themselves from almost any kind of interaction with horses (not so much other animals), and any kind of equine assisted interventions (EAI). Because they feel that the way we humans typically (and traditionally) are interacting, have been interacting – with horses, does not feel good to them, does not sit well with them.

I have struggled with this for years. To me it looks like plain avoidance. Instead of being, staying in a difficult relationship, that can be hard to navigate, but rewarding, many choose to give up, to remove themselves. And decides that humans are, in general “bad” for/to horses (and I often the reasoning is that unaware, highly emotional “clients” would be the worst humans for a horse to be around). But there are several different parts to this – from what I have seen and heard. Some of it has to do with convictions that us humans are not allowed to request anything from a horse. As they have not chosen to be here, with us. While I understand that argument, I also do not believe in one-sided relationships. In relationships, requests go both ways. As responses do.

Continue reading
  117 Hits
  0 Comments
117 Hits
0 Comments

Trauma Sensitive Equine Assisted Mindfulness (TS-EAM) – Interview

IMG_0481x

Katarina is interviewed by Annamária Jánosi, a psychologist in Hungary, working with equine assisted interventions: debrecenilovasterapia.hu

1. Katarina, you have been working with trauma and equine assisted interventions for over 10 years.

As I know you founded the MiMer Centre, an equine human education and research centre, in 2013.

Continue reading
  216 Hits
  0 Comments
216 Hits
0 Comments

UNITE SCIENCE WITH “OTHER WAYS OF KNOWING”

mongolia

I am still pondering this how I “see” horses… and how I teach about that “seeing”, how I facilitate courses inviting to different ways of “seeing”.

Have you seen the Netflix film “My Octopus Teacher”? It is a story of a man who for one year dives down to meet the same octopus every day – and what he learns from observing her, interacting with her, being in her environment – and so on. I think it is a remarkable film. It got critiqued, from a researcher for not being more “scientific”, for mixing human emotions and growth with more pure “behavioral studies”. Still, he consulted with 3 octopus scientists while doing the film. The science is there, but the way he presents it makes it more accessible to people. And it brings about questions as animal welfare, animal capabilities when it comes to emotions, playfulness, bonding etc. See it if you have no done so.

As I find my own ways of doing things, that includes the whole of me and all that I know, in all the ways I know them – I find myself wanting to pursue putting together more of a whole plate. I don’t want to keep to “just science”, neither do I want to not include it… I think by marrying a lot of different perspectives and ways of seeing, we deepen and broaden pictures.

Continue reading
  78 Hits
  0 Comments
78 Hits
0 Comments

HORSES AND SELF-CARE

IMG_7743x

Ponderings related to the field of equine assisted interventions…

Something most therapists, even coaches or whomever work to help people feel better and grow aim at is for their clients to be able to take better care of themselves. Self-care is a topic at the center of many interventions. Or at least, part of them.

The point with self-care – as one can hear from the name – is that it is based on your own ability to care for yourself. Part of self-care can be to reach out and ask for help, but also to accept that when that help is not possible to be gotten, it does not say anything about the validity of your request.

Continue reading
  797 Hits
  2 Comments
797 Hits
2 Comments

HORSES ORGANIZE THEMSELVES IN HETERARACHIES – NOT HIERARCHIES…

IMG_1267

For a very long time – I have debated that the one dimensional and linear traditional hierarchies that people tend to see in horse bands (or horse herds) are not there. I have written about it several times before, in book chapters, blogposts and in posts on FB. And now I will come at it from a slightly different perspective.

Maybe we see the hierarchies because we do not know what else to see? It is very hard for most people to see something that they do not know exist. Observing/looking/seeing without any preconceived notions is not possible. But if you do not even know what biases you are likely to have, or even does not know about biases at all, then you will think you see what you see. You will believe your own conclusions, based on your existing knowledge and experiences.

This is why the argument – “I know what I see” – is not valid. As you can only see what you already know about. To see something else, you need to open up for other possibilities.

To help with that I am asking you to think about – can there be other ways horses organize themselves socially than in hierarchies, than having a lead mare or a lead stallion? Can horses interact with each other in other ways than either being dominant or submissive? Can they have other personality trait that goes beyond the dichotomy of dominant/submissive?

Continue reading
  2224 Hits
  1 Comment
2224 Hits
1 Comment

DON’T EVER MOVE YOUR FEET!

move-feet

Have you been told that too? That whatever you do – never let yourself “be moved” by a horse? That if the horse is the one “making” you move – you have lost the “feet-game”. Which would mean he is the boss and you are the follower… or at least it would imply that you are a very weak “leader”.

I was told that. In the beginning of my career as a horse owner. This is me with my very first own horse, Lafayette – a brilliant horse who let me get to know and learn so much about myself (and horses 😊)

So. I am standing very close to him, just having put on his halter, then he swings his head – and I do what I am told, I do not move my feet… I actually look down and check them (like you never know… they might have moved??). So this is me – not wanting the horse in my face, but believing I cannot move my feet to fix that. Also being me, not trying to move his head… but instead choose to lean backwards. So happy I got this on picture!

Continue reading
  1522 Hits
  0 Comments
1522 Hits
0 Comments

CO-REGULATION IS MISUNDERSTOOD

co_regulation

Why do you feel a need to calm someone else down? Why is important to you that “the other” do not harbor and show strong emotions?

Where do your need of fixing come from?

I watch beings. I am not good at understanding dynamics when I am in the middle of them, but I am a good observer and a reflective person, so here I am going to share some stuff with you that I think is super important. Actually, some of the more important stuff I have said lately.

Continue reading
  1652 Hits
  0 Comments
1652 Hits
0 Comments

THE AGENCY OF THE HORSE – AND THE AGENCY OF ME

139A0579

I work in the field of EAMH/L, as a provider, educator, and researcher. I am deeply passionate about my work. Because I know it works (and have a gotten deeper understanding of how it works), from my own experiences in the role of the client in EAMH. I spend much of my time thinking about this work, how we can improve it, develop it, do research about it, raise the standards of the educations that are provided and so on.

What I see today are two major phalanges in our field. One that still to a smaller or greater extent still ignores or pay very little attention to horse welfare, from the horse’s perspective. The other phalange moves towards questions like, is it even okay to do any kind of equine assisted work? Client work, is perhaps hurting horses? (with a focus on emotional harm).

I listen to all kinds of perspectives and views. I try to the best of my ability to put myself in different people’s shoes. And I ask myself, how is it to see our field, from their point of view?

Continue reading
  1007 Hits
  1 Comment
1007 Hits
1 Comment

Equine Assisted Mindfulness (EAM) for the Rehabilitation of Cancer Patients - Research Update

20201016-DSC_8204

MiMer centre receives fundings from the Ann Kern Godal’s Memorial Fund for Horse Assisted Therapy to set up a study group and lead a research project to test the efficacy of Equine Assisted Mindfulness (EAM) for the rehabilitation of cancer patients

Being diagnosed with cancer and embark in the treatment process is a traumatic experience, and it is common for patients with cancer to experience distress.

Research studies have shown that mindfulness-based stress management interventions, such as the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme, can significantly improve the quality of life of cancer patients.

Continue reading
  945 Hits
  0 Comments
945 Hits
0 Comments

The MiMer Global Village – introducing Marta Sikorska

IMG_5318

Marta contacted me in the fall of 2019, wanting to sign up to the first level of our Equines in Therapy and Learning program training (EiT/L) that we were going to run in January 2020 in UK. (Which turned out to be the last of our international trainings before Covid hit us – and I am so glad we got to run it – otherwise I would not have met Marta, at least not with this brilliant timing!)

Marta offers facilitation and mediation service with horses, in person, to her community in Poland, and to an ever-growing international audience online. Everything Marta offers is based on a non-violence philosophy. She works in a very inclusive way, always considering everyone’s welfare and everyone’s perspectives, also the horses’, of course!

As a long time equine assisted growth facilitator (she started this journey in 2008), running an NGO in Poland, she knows what she wants and needs, for herself to grow and for her business to grow and flourish. And she is certainly not short or resources, or great ideas.

Continue reading
  1038 Hits
  0 Comments
1038 Hits
0 Comments

Is what “horse people” do to horses systemic oppression?

systemic_oppressio_20210124-175422_1

I read an article by Julia Alexander, named: WHAT HORSES TEACH US ABOUT SYSTEMIC OPPRESSION

https://www.juliaalexandercounseling.com/writing/2021/1/14/bfkfoqffc46vqrzstfg2ms0t1s57pj?fbclid=IwAR0NeCXdAPLnSZhnK-STJtT0dE1S0glm_KgP1sqD3fdhzQEWpM8ZRiQWmls

I have been sitting with it for a couple of days, first I reposted an older article/post of mine: Everything hard or stressful is not trauma…

Continue reading
  12386 Hits
  0 Comments
12386 Hits
0 Comments

The DIFFERENCE between Horses and Humans…

perspective_taking

Why is emphasizing the differences between horses and humans so important to me? Isn’t it nicer, kinder of me to look for the similarities? Is not looking for similarities between us and horses making us respect them more? Understand them better? Being able to empathize with them better and therefor provide them with better welfare and happier lives?

I do not think so. Because who am I really empathizing with? The horse? Or myself?

Empathy is recognizing that we are similar, have similar emotions, share some experiences because we all are alive and have experiences… but empathy is also knowing that we all are unique. We have species-specific needs – and then we all have unique, individual needs, personal needs.

Continue reading
  4307 Hits
  0 Comments
4307 Hits
0 Comments

TODAY IS MY STEPFATHER’S BIRTHDAY…

awareness

Don't worry the post is horse related!

He’s been dead for almost 10 years and the last time I met him was over 25 years ago. Still, he is present in my life in a way I wish he weren’t. He was my main abuser and set the stage for much of the rest of the abuse I endured, until I was finally “let go of”.

I grew up not knowing anything but being a victim, or on occasions, a perpetrator, or an enabler. I didn’t know I had choices, in fact, I did not know what a choice was, I didn’t have a voice, I didn’t know how to use a voice, I had no idea about what it felt to be understood, seen, heard. I didn’t grow up to become an autonomous individual.

Continue reading
  942 Hits
  1 Comment
Tags:
942 Hits
1 Comment

The Agency of the Horse vs the Agency of Me…

agency

For me, as a horse owner, a facilitator of equine assisted interventions, having had a riding school, a boarding facility, it became very important to not only look at the physical welfare of horses, but also their emotional, social and cognitive welfare. I have spent a lot of time the last 17 years thinking of this, from all kinds of aspects and perspectives. I have dived into the books, the clinics, the research – but also the experience of horses. I have prided myself with being a fast learner and a good thinker. Well… 17 years later – I am still not done… and I know with certainty (this is in fact the only thing I am certain of), that I will never really get there…

But it started long before that. It started the first time I entered a riding school when I was 8. I instantly fell in love with horses, but not the environment they where kept in, not the things they were made to do, not the people in the environment. I could hardly stand being in the riding school, but I did not understand why. I really wanted to. I wanted the dream that I read about in horse books for girls, the companionship, the adventures, the camps, the competitions, the hard work of being a horse girl… but I did not manage to go to the riding school, though I kept trying throughout growing up, turning into a young adult. I went to different riding schools (but their concepts were remarkable similar…), I went there, and I quit, I went there, and I quit… again and again and again. If it had not been for my sister, who were a riding instructor, who moved to a farm and had horses of her own, I would probably not be doing what I am doing today. With her, I felt safe enough to try some things out, outside of my comfort zone. That put me up to follow the path I am on today, working with horses and human growth. Doing research in the field, giving educations, assisting in starting programs.

I find the mental and psychological welfare of the horse to be so important. I have dived into topics and questions about choice, decision making, self-care for horses, problem solving, exploration and curiosity, the voice of the horse, his language through behavior, social dynamics in herds – you name it – I will have explored it, thought about it, and probably written something about it – and also of course, about the question of the agency of the horse.

Continue reading
  1158 Hits
  0 Comments
1158 Hits
0 Comments

Emplaced.... you are in relation to where you are…

IMG_8953

There is a lot of talk about embodiment these days. But what we forget is what I call “emplacement”. Where we live, in what environment we live in. And how that affects us.

We too come from nature - we are nature...

I study Cognitive Science – and one branch of it is called 4E Cognition. It stands for embodied, embedded, extended and enactive. Some also add “ecological”, turning it into 5E Cognition.

Continue reading
  1345 Hits
  0 Comments
1345 Hits
0 Comments

INTERNATIONAL HORSE PEOPLE 500 AD…

20200828_134640

In Eurasia, during the 5th century large migrations of people (and their domesticated non-human animals) took place. It was an unstable time politically – with e.g. the downfall of the Roman Empire.

Yesterday I visited an exhibition at the Lund University Historical Museum, called “The Sösdala horsemen – and the equestrian elite of fifth century Europe”.

In Sösdala (and adjacent villages), in today’s southern Sweden, in 1929 and 1961 people digging for gravel and sand found a couple of thoroughly “slaughtered” horse equipment (saddles and tacks), close to a field of graves, a so called stone ship setting at Vätteryd’s burial ground. Some of these graves and these “slaughtered” horse equipment are consistent in time with each other, between 350-450 AD.

Continue reading
  2365 Hits
  4 Comments
2365 Hits
4 Comments

WHAT DO I SEE?

IMG_6632

… or with which of my set of eyes am I looking?

Digesting more of the reading in the course I am taking at the Kerulos Center (https://kerulos.org). This article, by Gay Bradswhaw*, is about the different ways to see, the difference between information and message, the point that knowledge is relational, the difference between collective and subjective knowledge – introducing trans-species psychology and the obvious incongruence that bi-directional inference between human animals and other animals create.

Now I will focus on the seeing…

Continue reading
  2231 Hits
  0 Comments
2231 Hits
0 Comments

The ”real” horses and their expressiveness – the Koniks at Wicken Fen

IMG_6300

A dual process…

In February this year, just before the Corona took over the world – I was in UK. We had given two trainings, but also manged so squeeze in one visit to the Exmoors and one to Wicken Fen, to see horses who live more or less in a semi-feral way.

We went to Wicken Fen the last day before I returned to Sweden. I have waited to write much about that visit, because I did not know how to. Now I have been sitting with the dual processes that took place (or there were more than two – but these two signifies the main themes of my visit there).

Continue reading
  2563 Hits
  2 Comments
2563 Hits
2 Comments

The Imitation Game – Part 2

IMG_5461

The Imitation Game is a Perception Game…

(And bear with me... this is about horses - and horse-human interaction, too.... I am stumbleing around about in this post - the text is not crystal clear - yet - I wanted to share it - something is forming in me, about the importance of embodiment, the shared nature of perception, how we form our beliefs as humans - how horses can help us see this - by being them.)

The imitation I talk about here has nothing to do with copying or imitating for its own sake. Imitation is an important way to, and of learning. You find imitation (of various kind; mimicking, mirroring, emulation, “true” imitation, teaching, schooling/herd/group behavior) in social learning, in language learning, in so called situated learning – as e.g. in apprenticeship models, etc. Imitation is also an important tool when to getting to know someone (as in the chameleon effect – which is about creating/ “achieving” liking each other – and in creating a common ground of understanding and communicating with each other – creating social contracts). Imitation is so much more than copying – and play a big role in all mammals’ development and growth into adults, but also in adult life. It is a corner stone of how we interact with each other, albeit often imitation is not conscious, it can be looked at, made conscious, and experimented with.

Continue reading
  2636 Hits
  0 Comments
2636 Hits
0 Comments

WHERE ARE YOU?

Where are you?
How many Attachment systems do we have? Bowlby's Attachment theory outlines one Attachment system, with variations on how we attach dependent on how well the relationship between the mother (primary caretaker) and infant functions and develops. Then I started to read Trevarthen and his work with infants and mothers (primary caretakers) – and how he sees our human development in our attachment systems as distinctly 2-folded with one system for: 1. Care, protection, and nurturance And another for: 2. Companionship, play, exploration, socialization (social learning/creativity/taking part in cultu...
Continue reading
  1719 Hits
  0 Comments
1719 Hits
0 Comments