Can horses get traumatized?


... or why I am not an EMHP (Equine Mental Health Practitioner) … Yes. They can. Is the short answer.  The next question would be, do they get traumatized in the same way as humans? I am inclined to say no. Why? Because the horse mind is not the same as the human mind. Horses and humans share much of their CNS (Central Nervous System), as all mammals do. This means we biologically react in similar ways to stress, and thereby to trauma. This we know from research on "animal models" (which is a nicer way to say that we do all the research we are not ethically allowed to do on humans, o...

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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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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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I see you – the necessary skill/art of observing/noticing


I have been interviewing and talking to horse nomads, horse herders in Mongolia, and I asked them, how did you learn about horses? How do you become a good horse professional? And with smaller variations, they always answer the same: You need to spend a lot of time with horses, be with them, watch them, get to know them, and let them get to know you. By doing this constantly and for long periods of time – you develop a way of understanding them, without having words for it, and they, in the same way, develop a way of understanding you. It is a mutual and reciprocal process. And almost all of t...

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


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

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…


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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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…


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


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).

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Moving motivation

moving motivation

The other day I was puppy-proofing our apartment to be ready for our new furry family member and it got me thinking about the reasons for why I move, what motivates me in the process and what goals I enjoy working towards. These thoughts started running through my head as I was squatting underneath a table in the middle of my partner’s music equipment cable jungle. Organizing those cables in a tight space in between lots of sensitive “toys”, truly put my movement practice into something functional. There was a moment of “aha!” as I did my best to move in between the cables without tripping on anything and causing an expensive accident. There was a functional task with a goal: “organize and hide the cables”. The task required many odd and awkward positions, fluidity of movement, and precision, like playing “the cables are lava”. At that moment I was thankful for the movement practice I’ve done, as it makes these kinds of everyday tasks easier to do. Yes, that is the goal of my practice in general. 

Sometimes I forget why I practice, besides the obvious physical and psychological benefits. As sometimes, just knowing that it is good for the body-mind is not enough to get one moving. Lack of motivation is also a real thing for a movement enthusiast like me. That is where defining one’s motivation to move comes into the picture. For some, it is enough to get to practice simply because they want to be able to do e.g. a handstand or run a marathon. For others, like me, these types of goals may lack deeper meaning, and causes a struggle to consistently practice towards a goal that feels more like a “party-trick” (and don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that!) than something with “real-life value” or functionality. 

Motivation plays a big role in keeping a consistent movement practice. Having intrinsic motivation and -goal helps to keep the practice going on in the long term. 

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Cohesion, Synchrony, Swarm Intelligence, and Hierarchy – Group-Structure and Dynamics in Horse Bands

Social animals live in groups, that include horses, as well as dogs and humans. So what do these group structures look like? How are they organized? What principles do they follow? Humans have for a long time wanted to see and prove hierarchy structures in other species, besides our own, but are hierarchies really there, in the way many of us think of them? If they are, what purpose are they then serving? Or are they just a misunderstanding from our side? First of all, I think we mix things up. Other animals, besides humans, are living, spending their lives in different kinds of groups. That i...

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Horse, horse, horse, horse… he is a horse – and nothing else – but that is very much enough!

The woman, who had been feeling depressed for a long time, and felt she could not climb out of her own rabbit hole, and not really describe to her therapist what was "wrong" with her, had been offered to come and have equine-assisted therapy. She did not really know what that was, so she googled it. She found a lot of web pages describing facilities, therapists, organizations, and models telling about how fantastic equine-assisted therapy is. It seemed that finally, she was going to have some therapy that would help. She could read about how horses would be able to read her body language, how ...

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Learning as Welfare - Good EAP is Positive Equine Welfare

learning horses

Horses, as all other living beings, thrive when they learn. One of our basic mammalian emotional systems is the seeking system, which is strongly linked to our attraction to rewards. The seeking system is motivated by our attraction to novelty and elicit emotions such as anticipation, curiosity, and eagerness (and is balanced by the fear system) (Panksepp & Biven, 2012). Making it look like this: Or – it goes more in a spiral movement – it is a circular and forward movement at the same time. We have a "novelty center" (the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area or SN/VTA) in the brainstem...

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Unicorn Assisted Therapy


Or why we work with HORSES in EAP… *Trigger warning – to be read with personal and professional self-distance* Unicorn Unlimited is offering Unicorn Assisted Therapy (UAT) to everybody who wants to be healed. Come and meet our unicorns, and we promise you some magical and unforgettable moments. They will find what is broken in you and mend it. This they do by being in resonance with our ancestors, their ancestors, the earth, the universe, all spirits and all shamanic power that is "out there", and everything else magical and unexplainable. They will also send heart waves your way and cohere yo...

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What lies beyond training?

beyond training

In these times of thriving fitness industry and exercise hype, I find it interesting to look into how horses life and training regime is seen. Is it training that is in the center of attention or being a hrose? Is it exercise or is it movement? Sometimes thinking about horses is easier through thinking about humans. Sometimes it is the other way around. In this piece of text, sometimes, you can replace the word "horse" with "human" if you wish to look at it from that angle as well. I don't mean to say that horses and humans are the same but to express how at times it i...

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Remembering Ourselves and Observations


Both horses and humans respond to environmental changes, including changes in other individuals. Movement, new people, new sounds, new conditions can all affect how we and our horses behave. It is important, then, to recognize that our horses respond to changes in us, too. Horses are quiet herbivores who have evolved to be constantly observing their surroundings and their herd for changes. Anyone of them can signal the others to new conditions and they all learn to rely on each other for survival. In domestic conditions, we often keep our horses in smaller areas with fewer conspecifics, and so...

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Thoughts on rewilding and human-horse parallels

rewilding you

Here we are, at the doorsteps of winter, welcoming holiday season once again. Are we appreciating the seasonal cycles and changes that come along with it? Instead of performing the holidays, can we allow ourselves to literally rest and digest? Ethics and welfare of equines touch us. We care. We study. We try our best to accommodate our hairy counterparts in our human environment. We begin to understand the natural needs of equines on different levels and find ways to facilitate the wild nature inside of domestication. We switch from single boxes to large pastures with friends. We let the horse...

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Giving the horse a sense of agency – positive equine welfare through Equine Assisted Therapies


 When we talk about horses in Equine Assisted Therapies, we are more often concerned with the negative impact meeting clients and dealing with their emotional hardship can have on them, than with the positive impact these meetings can have for their welfare and well-being. Before I continue. I'm an avid spokesperson for better equine welfare on all levels. To be able to call it welfare, I think it is necessary for equines to have their biological, as well as their social, emotional and cognitive needs, met. And my welfare standards are set high. So high, I can't reach them myself, for my ...

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