ECODYNAMICS

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Being a being is being relational.

Simple? Huh? – Yes. Seemingly so. Or. It is that simple. But we humans like to complicate things, and since I am a human, I am going to do just that! Not for its own sake, but when we look closer at things, go through the complex layers of something, look at it from different perspectives, we often come back, or home, to a simpler “truth” (insight). So, I invite you to follow me on a little exploration – in the hope that it will clarify some things. And if it doesn’t do that for you. At least, writing this – is helping me clarify my thinking, to me 😉

Dynamics. Another word for relationships – interactions – being with one another…(as the ones who read/train with me more regularly know - I often use the Intersubjectivity theory as a framework to look at relationships).

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WHAT DOES REWILDING HAVE TO DO WITH TRAUMA THERAPY AND MINDFULNESS?

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Everything. If we broaden Rewilding to include Rewilding of us humans. Which I think is absolutely necessary. In the bigger schemes of things – we cannot reverse the development of mass extinction and work towards diversity if we do not include working with the human psyche and mentality.

This is why we in MiMer work with our courses we call Rewild Your Heart. True and successful Rewilding depends on human awareness – of ourselves, how we function, what drives us, what our belief systems are and so on. We of course need species specific knowledge and knowledge about species environments and contexts, but without the puzzle piece that is us – humans – we will not succeed sustainably. I have looked at different Rewilding efforts of animals and nature, and their success rate all come down to how integrated the awareness of the huma component is.

So that is the start. The human, too, of course, is an animal. And since we have spread all over the globe, we impact everything. All environments are our environments. And everything that lives there needs to be able to co-exist with us. And we are the ones that need to make that happen. As we are the invasive species, and we tend to put our needs above all other species’ needs.

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COLLIDING MYTHS ABOUT HORSES

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It is so easy for humans to put our human ways of being onto horses. Seldom do we even notice it or notice it when others do it. If something sounds like a plausible explanation, we often just take it for the truth. Especially if it fills a gap in our story about horses. We humans don’t like gaps – the human mind always strives to fill the gaps. We do not like “not knowing”. And we like a nice and coherent “story”.

I love the space of not knowing – it is where exploration lives. Where imagination lives. Where experimenting and innovating lives. Where creativity lives…

I like when things are open. When humans are open to multiple ways of seeing and understanding.

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EDUCATION IN EQUINE ASSISTED TRAUMA THERAPY/TRAUMA INFORMED CARE

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 – NEXT TRAINING STARTS MAY 1!

I want to address how a training called pEATT – Equine Assisted Trauma Therapy with a psychodynamic approach – is not only an education in how to do equine assisted trauma therapy, but is open for anyone wanting to learn (or learn more) about how to deliver trauma informed and trauma sensitive equine assisted services. So this training is open for anyone in our equine assisted field, or anyone who wants to join it, whether they are “human professionals” or “equine professionals”.

As well as it is open to anyone with any kind/version of “school of thought”, direction, program… there is NO need for a psychodynamic background! Or even knowing what psychodynamic means or is (it will be explained of course in the training – as well as why it is there, and why we give this training from this perspective.)

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REFLECTIONS ON EQUINE WELFARE AND HORSE-HUMAN CO-EXISTENCE

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…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.

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

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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.

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UNITE SCIENCE WITH “OTHER WAYS OF KNOWING”

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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.

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HORSES AND SELF-CARE

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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.

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HORSES ORGANIZE THEMSELVES IN HETERARACHIES – NOT HIERARCHIES…

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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?

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DON’T EVER MOVE YOUR FEET!

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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!

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CO-REGULATION IS MISUNDERSTOOD

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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.

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THE AGENCY OF THE HORSE – AND THE AGENCY OF ME

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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?

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

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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.

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The MiMer Global Village – introducing Marta Sikorska

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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.

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

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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…

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The DIFFERENCE between Horses and Humans…

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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.

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TODAY IS MY STEPFATHER’S BIRTHDAY…

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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.

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The Agency of the Horse vs the Agency of Me…

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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.

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

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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.

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INTERNATIONAL HORSE PEOPLE 500 AD…

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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.

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