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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Everything hard or stressful is not trauma…

stress and trauma
The difference between trauma and stress and the difference between trauma in humans and "trauma" in non-humans The picture below shows the window of tolerance (and window of learning). This is the window in you that needs to be open enough for you to learn something new. It demands the factors – openness and tolerance to new information (but potentially also new situations, new environments, new beings (humans, non-humans) to relate to).  When you move too far to the left side in this picture (or bottom if you turn the picture around – a window has 4 frames…), you will gradually defend y...
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Horse, horse, horse, horse… he is a horse – and nothing else – but that is very much enough!

a horse is a horse
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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The other (species) – as a reference point in therapeutic work and personal growth

seeing the other
The beginning of an exploration… Why do we work with animals in therapy and learning programs? Having been involved in equine assisted therapy and learning for some years, as an equine professional, educator and mindfulness instructor – and as a client, this is what I think of it (right now…) To grow, to develop, to heal – we need "the other", that sees us, accepts us, accompanies, challenges and supports us – and at times comforts us, to help us see ourselves from their perspective.  Animals in Animal Assisted Activities of any kind are not different in these settings to what they are in...
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Unicorn Assisted Therapy

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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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Horses, emotions and feelings…

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Or – can human feelings be dangerous to horses? In my experience horses have no problems when people are coming to them with strong emotions or feelings. That is, as long as the person is owning her own emotions or feelings and taking responsibility for them. (Note – to make it easier for me through the text, I refer to feelings as emotions you are cognitively aware of, and to emotions as the raw emotion that you can feel but can't yet cognitively understand/place/identify – but that you can learn to regulate. I also refer to the client, therapist and equine professional as her, and to th...
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I am an EMHP – an Equine Mental Health Professional…

20190624-DSC_7867 Reciprocity - Mutual grooming
Or – how do we get to know the inner life of horses? How do we really get to know them? How do we know what they feel? Experience? When I work in teams in equine assisted activities and therapies – this is what I am. I am an EMHP – an Equine Mental Health Professional. It took me 7 years to figure that out… or at least I am testing it out… I "went" from being an equine specialist to an equine cognitive scientist/professional – to just being an equine professional – and considering calling myself an equine behavioral professional, but stuck with just equine professional, EP. I think I a might c...
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From the mind to the bodymind, finding embodiment with and without horses

Embodiment with horses
I step into the presence of horses and a felt sense of release and increased awareness travels through my body. It is almost as if I could feel the body and the mind reaching their fingertips towards each other and finally finding a way to hold their hands again. At that moment, I ask myself, where was I just a moment ago? Am I really hanging out here, out and about, in the world, most of the time, cut up into bite-sized pieces, handling only one part at a time? The mind going on about its hassles and busy times somewhere out there, leaving the body alone to the playground like an oblivious pa...
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Why horses don't heal anyone

horses-dont-heal
 Or why it isn't about healing at all... How do we "heal" from trauma? (that broadly speaking is anything that overwhelms you and you do not have "room" to contain, and therefor have to look at piece by piece until it is integrated in your life. It can be any hardships in life, broken relationships, deaths, sickness, injuries, accidents, war, natural disasters, robbery, an adverse childhood – just anything). If it is an old trauma (or series of traumas), you have used different defense and coping strategies that has served the purpose of protecting you from the trauma(s) and the pain and ...
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Giving the horse a sense of agency – positive equine welfare through Equine Assisted Therapies

Agency
 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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