The Quick Answer
It depends on your approach and who you certify with, but approaches broadly fall into two categories. One is of the ‘horse/ animal as a tool’ who is used to bring insight, learning or healing to the client. The other (followed at Healing Hooves and by Pro-EFW) is of the ‘horse/ animal as a sentient being’ who you partner with in this work to jointly facilitate the potential for that insight, growth or healing in the client.
While we refer primarily to horses and Equine Facilitated Wellness (EFW) in this article, these considerations equally apply to other species and to the broader field of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT).
How you define and view the horse and his role in EFW is likely to impact many things, including:
- How you – and your clients – treat, interact and work with your horse/s;
- How you approach this work;
- How the work is likely to affect – positively or negatively – your horses’ well being;
- Your horses’ longevity as a therapy animal; and
- The extent to which you can draw upon the potential benefits of engaging in an animal assisted approach.
The Longer Answer
Note: If you are unsure of any of the terminology or acronyms we use here please refer to our earlier blog post where we define and review common Equine and Animal Assisted Therapy terms for you.
Ethics around the impact of this work upon the horse (and other therapy animal) have always been important, and over the past decade awareness of this factor has greatly increased. The ‘horse as tool’ approach still exists but is not usually defined this way and even then, awareness of the impact of this work upon the horse has increased. Increasingly programs are adopting the ‘Horse/ Animal as Sentient being’ philosophy advocated by The Professional Association for Equine Facilitated Wellness (Pro EFW) and several other professional organisations in the EFW and AAT fields. The aim of this post is to explore what this means, and how it impacts both how we treat our horses and how we work in the EFW and AAT fields.
‘Sentience’ is defined as being capable of experiencing and feeling emotion.
This usually partners a belief in the need and Right for animals to be allowed to safely express these emotions.
National certification body, Pro EFW has the following to say about this:
“Equines have their own perceptions and emotions, and can also attune themselves to the presence and feelings of others. Through their remarkable sensitivity, perceptiveness, and intuition equines are able to offer valuable feedback and information to clients. It is crucial that they are able to express themselves spontaneously and freely through their actions and reactions when working with clients.
In order to support their equine partners in this field, it is incumbent upon human facilitators to be aware of the impact that this work may have on equines, and safeguard their physical, mental and emotional well-being at all times. They must ensure that their equine partners are treated respectfully and ethically, both within and outside of client sessions. Human partners need to understand that their equine partners are completely dependent upon their stewardship, and do their utmost to meet their psychological and physical needs.”
Similarly, Pet Partners states within their AAT Handbook: “As a handler, you have a significant responsibility to the other member of your team — your animal. A close and trusting relationship is crucial for successful therapy animal visits” and “Being your animal’s advocate also means you make decisions based on the preference of your animal, rather than your own preference. “
This area of discussion is one of the most critical to consider early on in your explorations of the Equine and Animal Assisted Therapy journey. Whether you are exploring Equine Therapy or AAT as a potential client, considering it as a new career, or adding horses or other animals into your existing practice, we highly recommend that you ask yourself what you believe about the emotional lives of animals, and how you would like to work with animals for your, your clients’ and your animals’ well being.
How we view the horse in equine therapy (or the animal in animal assisted therapy) is both impacted by and influences almost all aspects of the work and the human animal bond. It sets the tone both for how the horse is treated and cared for, and for how we are able to consciously draw upon and benefit from the horses’ wisdom and contribution to this work and relationship.
How Does the “Horse as Sentient Being” View Impact our Approach and the Potential Benefits of Equine and Animal Assisted Therapy?
While we explore this in much more depth in our series Why Horses, some key considerations include the following:
Simply being with horses in a healthy environment and relationship is good for us: An ever growing body of research indicates that animals are good for our physical and emotional health, well-being and development. For example, studies show that children who have positive contact with animals tend to have higher self-esteem, and are more empathetic and nurturing. Further research shows this bond is especially powerful when we are feeling vulnerable, stressed or are facing challenges, loss or major change. Animals can help us express emotions, seek social support and problem solve.
A key pre-requisite for many of these benefits is the existence of a positive attachment between the human and animal. I believe this is best achieved when we value the animal as a sentient being.
Integrating horses or other animals into a healing environment can help the human facilitator provide the conditions, as defined by Carl Rogers, required for therapeutic growth to arise: Genuineness, Empathy and Unconditional Regard. While this can greatly enhance the potential for effectiveness within an EFW program, it is important to note that it also creates an increased duty of care as clients may drop defenses and become more emotionally vulnerable.
I believe horses provide these conditions, whether or not we recognise and value this. However we are much more likely to facilitate, build upon and benefit from these conditions if we see and work with our animals as sentient beings.
The presence of the horses can motivate someone to attend a therapy or other support session and accept help. We have had many clients who have not, for a wide variety of reasons, been willing or able to attend or engage in counselling elsewhere; coming to a place where there are animals is often different. The presence of animals can simply make it safe to show up – both physically and emotionally.
The simple presence of the horses and other animals may well be enough to motivate a client to shown up physically; But I believe it takes an environment where the animals are valued and worked with as sentient beings to create the safety for a client to show up and engage emotionally.
Integrating horses into your approach allows you to work indirectly and one step removed. The advantages of this approach, particularly with our more vulnerable clients is discussed in the articles One (Horse Step Removed); The value of Sharing Stories and How When and To Whom to Read the Therapeutic Story, The Prodigal Pony
This approach requires us to see and reflect upon our animals as having emotions, thoughts and opinions; in other words, as sentient beings.
Horses offer us lots of experiential opportunities to learn about and develop improved relationship skills, including enhanced understanding of body language, non verbal communication and boundaries.
We can certainly engage in, learn and benefit from experiential work with horses and other animals while viewing the animal as a tool. In these case we are exploring our own behaviour, emotions and thought processes in relationship with ourselves, the other people involved in the exercises, or our perception of some problem, person or situation we see the animal as representing in that moment. All valuable opportunities to learn and grow.
Yet, if we view the animal as a sentient being, we open up so many more possibilities. Yes, the horse can provide us with a mirror, but he is also his own being, with his own emotions, thoughts, opinions and needs. Experiential work within this broader context provides the potential for richer, deeper and, I believe, more meaningful healing, learning and growth.
How does the “Horse as Sentient Being” view impact how we care for and treat our horses?
Again, this is a huge topic and we are only scraping the very tip of the surface in this article. Some things to consider, beyond caring for the animals’ physical needs and well-being, include:
- The right for the horse to (safely) express discomfort, including emotional discomfort, preference, needs and opinions during and in between therapy sessions, without repercussion.
- The right for the horse to safely say no to an activity, to working with a particular person or population, and even to this career.
- The horses’ need for relationships with other horses, adequate time off, and time with people they are not responsible for.
- The facilitators’ need to be able to read and respond to horses’ body language including signs of physical and emotional stress and calming signals.
- The importance of a healthy relationship between the therapy animals and the therapist.
- The need to emotionally support our animals during client sessions.
- The need to ‘debrief’ with our therapy animals after sessions, in ways which work for them personally.
- The need to screen, train and prepare our animals appropriately and adequately for this work.
- The right for the horse to retire or find a new job when this is needed.
Understanding, monitoring and managing the therapy animals’ well being is something we explore in great depth at all of our training workshops. Just as ‘self care’ can look different for different people, in many cases what we need to look out for and do depends on the the individual needs of each animal. For more information on this topic now please refer to our earlier article on equine therapy ethics where we explore this from a case study perspective.
If you found this article helpful, please share it!
Next Question in this series: Who Should I Certify With?
What about you? If you have any questions you’d like us to answer in this series, or questions on any of the above material, please use the comments section below!
Interesting to watch horses ‘choose’ to interact with strangers in their space. Visiting the herd with people to ‘visit’, without carrying a halter, can get widely varying responses- time of day( are they waiting for food), weather,(storm coming, windy) , flies, ( are they desperate for scratching) how large a group… then add how the visitors are approaching- thoughts, feelings, preconceived ideas,
“ While this can greatly enhance the potential for effectiveness within an EFW program, it is important to note that it also creates an increased duty of care.” I can actually see that forgetting about the increased duty of care animals need in therapy, can be so easily forgotten or second in concern when workering with clients. Reminding ourselves that we work with sentient beings is just so important to making sure that the increased care animals require is on the same level of importance as our clients welfare.
I completely agree that horses (and other animals, such as dogs and cats) are sentient. I have experienced their emotional world first hand, I know it exists. And I also agree with the “increased duty of care”–if I use my own horse for EFW, I am thinking about what I need to do to look after the impact of this type of work on her. I am also considering using one of my cats, and she has experienced trauma herself, so I am wondering how having her work with me in therapy might affect her own emotional world. Very interesting ideas 🙂
This question definitely has me thinking about my start up and how I will balance the number of clients with the number of horses I have that are ready work in EFW programs.
Awareness is so important in this regard. Awareness of the impact of the animal in different situations with different clients, and how the needs and care of the animals physical and emotional health is just as important as the clients.
It’s not just “doing the work” but observing, being aware and learning from both the animal and the client.
Love this so much. Just last week I was out with the horses and started sharing what I was seeing with one of our mares and her new foal. As I spoke I realize that what I was seeing was not perfect but almost a perfect mirror to a piece of my relationship with my kids…but mostly with my oldest daughter. I don’t think it’s coincidence the horses that we choose or that choose us. What a gift they are. I hope that this work we ask them to do heals them also and is not only a drain.
Having owned horses for 20+ years I have a very personal understanding that horses (and all animals for that matter) are sentient beings. But it was actually a very traumatic life experience that gave me this unwavering understanding. When I was younger (probably around 13), I was in an accident with my now 27-year-old horse where we fell though some ice in a muskeg. I had only been riding for a couple years and did not know about the dangers of this area and pushed my horse against his better judgment to continue going forward. When we fell though the ice we were alone and quite far from home. When we fell though the ice, I slipped underneath him in the water but was able to grab hold of the saddle horn. When I got out of the water, I realized he was sinking and without intervention would not have made it. I was able to stabilize him long enough to run on foot to the nearest road and flag down numerous strangers and we were able to pull him out to safety. It took a long time and a lot of trust exercises for me to re-establish a trusting relationship with my horse after this incident. But today after this trauma and many many years together I can honestly say that I have partnership with my horse that I can’t even put into words other then to say he understands me (and I him) on level that does not compare to any human to human relationship I have. I whole heartedly believe that horses have so much more to offer then being a tool to “bring insight, learning and healing” but that they are truly “sentient beings who you partner with you to bring insight, growth and healing in the clients”.
Kerie-Lynn, thank you so much for sharing this powerful story with us. It must have been an incredibly terrifying time for both of you. I am not surprised that once you worked hard at building your trust back up with your horse, that you have a partnership that you cannot even put into words. You literally saved each other’s lives! Had you not caught on to the saddle horn, and found passerby’s to help him, the outcome of this story could have been much more tragic. You and your horse are very, very lucky to have each other!
Thank you for sharing this experience with us Kerie. It sounds terrifying, but a wonderful example of how good things can, if we allow them, grow out of difficult and challenging situations.
I totally agree that horses are sentient. I have experienced this as a child with my horse and experience this currently with our weanlings. Watching them play, assert dominance, look annoyed, etc. They are just a bunch of babies with their own emotions, preferences and personalities. The care needs for horses are the same as human beings and vary from individual to individual in relation to emotion and physical connection, safety, etc.
I think that this article reinforced how we naturally approach our horses. I think that people often fear anthropomorphizing their animals, and in the process tend to ignore their animals’ emotional states completely. Knowing that animals are sentient and have their own emotions and thoughts requires us to work harder at accurately interpreting their behaviours in any situation. Just like in our relationships with people, getting to know our animals’ quirks and needs takes work. Although this may be daunting, it ultimately leads to a richer more fulfilling relationship between people and their animal companions.
I agree that horses/animals are sentient beings. They need to feel safe and assurance from us while they are ‘working’. It is amazing the healing energy that we can get from animals if we just slow down and listen and watch what is happening around us. I just wish my horse was still around to experience this journey with me. In his older (settled down) years he would have been amazing as my partner.
I hear you Holly! When I started out Healing Hooves I still had my old guy who I’d had since (me) being a teenager. We lost him shortly after starting HH but all that he taught me is still part of me, and a big part of what I do in my work through other horses now. You may find it ends up being a little like this with you and your connection to your horse too.
Great article. I feel that the “horse/animal as sentient being” approach is much more holistic for everyone involved. Acknowledging our animals individual personalities and limits is protective for the animal as well as our clients. This article makes me think how ignoring these limits could inflict more harm than good and place therapists in a ethically compromised position.
The part of this article that I have spent the most time thinking about is that the animal (horse in my case) needs to have the same level of care as I need as a counsellor in terms of self-care. This is an extension of believing that the animal is a sentient being that I had not thought about. I guess that is similar to when I started counselling and I was unaware of the importance of self-care for me. Knowing of the importance of it for myself, and reading the information provided means I can start EFW work with an understanding of this for my horse and be mindful of my responsibility to provide that for him. Thank you.
Wow! What a great article Sue. In my heart, I have always felt and known that animals/horses are sentient beings that have so much wisdom to offer us if we just open our hearts to them. Reading this article, has provided me with a newer appreciation for the way an animals/horses physical needs and wellbeing should be considered and understood; in order to manage and provide a more holistic equine therapeutic approach to Counselling.
being your horses best advocate is fundamental as described here. Pet partners are saying YAYABA, you are your animal’s best advocate, my son is going over the pet partners program right now with his dog and I found lots of similarity with what I am trying to do with my horses.
This is such an amazing article, I absolutely agree that animals are sentient. We can learn so much from observing and interacting with all different species of animals. I love that this article highlighted the animal’s rights as in considering them sentient beings. A lot of my research for school has focused on animals in healing environments, and how they can create a therapeutic alliance in having someone attend counseling, or show up for appointments, especially within mental health and addictions. There is some fascinating work for animals being the reason people make changes in their lives and I feel like this article perfectly captures that. I am excited to expand and learn more on this topic in the training!
I loved this article as well! Each one of my horses has a different personality and you can tell by their actions that they have feelings. I always say my buckskin is the funny guy – he is the first to carry off your jacket – it seems he is always trying to get a laugh. Sometimes i see him doing things to the other horses to get them going as well. Just this week he reached over the fence and grabbed one of the ferriers files and tried to make off with it as my other horse was being worked on. My black horse is my healer, he is my Alpha horse, he takes care of the heard and makes you feel safe in his presence. My roan is my horse that brings out my fears. Each of these horses have been a huge part of my healing journey (I experienced the loss of my son in 2011) and i know they have felt my emotions right along with me. I want to make sure that they are well cared for as i most certainly feel as though we are in this together.
This is such an important article and I look forward to learning more. I so resonate with the part of the article that states…” if we view the animal as a sentient being, we open up so many more possibilities. Yes, the horse can provide us with a mirror, but he is also his own being, with his own emotions, thoughts, opinions and needs. Experiential work within this context provides the potential for richer, deeper and, I believe, more meaningful healing, learning and growth”. I grew up with horses as a teenager – and although I had a deep love and bond with my horse, I don’t think I fully appreciated this and the true honor I had to be in the presence of my horse. I don’t have my own horse yet, but every time I have the opportunity to be with horses I feel such a deep appreciation and sacredness in the experience.
The presence of horses as a motivator for clients to attend therapy is something I hadn’t previously considered. It makes perfect sense though. I was more focused on the potential difficulty in initially attracting clients to this type of therapy… Once a bond is established with a horse (or animal) I could see the client looking forward to coming back to therapy sessions! I also didn’t think much about the impact on the horses (or animals) as I was always focused on how the client would benefit from the healing nature of the horse! This post was very important and informative and I look forward to delving into this further as the training unfolds!
As Human “caregivers” of these (all) animals, it is our responsibility to safeguard their well being. What an honor that they have blessed us with!
Considering the needs and feelings of the therapy horse/animal is vital, in my opinion, if we are going to engage them in activities with people.
It will be interesting to me to see how you “debrief” each of your animals in ways that are specific to them at the workshop.
I agree! I’m curious to see what this can mean for different personalities and different animals!
I liked your line “It takes an environment where the animals are valued and worked with as sentient beings, I believe, to create the safety for a client to show up and engage emotionally.” I think that is very true, animals can perform tasks and be helpful “tools”, but if the help you’re seeking is emotional, it only makes sense to engage with the feelings and needs of the animals as well! It’s hard to relate to a tool, but so easy to relate to another personality!
From the readings I have done thus far, I see the role of the horse in equine therapy as willing co-facilitator, with my role being to interpret and guide the interactions towards the “potential for that insight, growth or healing in the client”. But that being said, there are some really important considerations/responsibilities on the part of the person to ensure emotional/physical safety of all involved in a respectful manner: prioritizing self care and honoring the spoken, as well as unspoken, wishes regarding involvement in the therapeutic relationship.
I love the approach at Healing Hooves and EFW where horses are treated as sentient beings, allowing a safe space to be created for growth, while acting as partners and co-facilitators in therapeutic interventions. Horses and animals in general easily facilitate connection which I believe is a foundation for growth.
It’s always important to know that animals have their own thoughts and experiences. They also have ‘on’ and ‘off’ days just like people do. Sometimes animals needs have to be met so they can perform to the best of their ability.
All animals as sentient beings is such a huge statement, love it! I wish people would stop referring to them as tools 🙁 I’m excited to see how the animals work with folks and how the folks will work with the animals. I have a horse that has experienced physical trauma two times over and has a visible scar from it. I wonder if that will draw trauma people? I wonder if my horse that has lots of “beans” will draw a like person or opposite? I firmly believe that all the animals will need their own type of care through this journey as well. Being open and attentive to their needs will help us all to be happier and much more helpful to each another all around. It’s important to remember this no matter what is going on. <3
I believe the horse as a sentient being adds to the ability for people to connect with horses. To me it’s like comparing a stuffed animal to a live animal – they are both soft and sometimes fun to cuddle but when you start to see the different personalities of the horses come through it is almost impossible to ignore it. Just like people, you won’t always connect with the same animals as someone else or enjoy certain qualities as much as someone else and watching how that develops is very interesting to watch. For people coming into the session it can be really powerful when they learn about that. For example- people often misinterpret my gelding as unfriendly but can often relate immediately once I suggest that he is just more introverted than my extremely friendly mare. I haven’t started using him in sessions because he is on my own property where my sessions don’t take place but I will be interested to see if this work is suitable to him because of that difference or if it will be too much for him.
I’m interested to see what debriefing for horses looks like. I also imagine we will learn about your screening / training techniques with program horses?
Great analogy Kenzie! Yes, we explore this more throughout the training. At the exploration level we touch on it during our safety and risk management section but we really jump into it more during the Foundation and Focus trainings – both within the specific horsemanship sessions and built into all of the other pieces. My hope is that you see it as a theme woven into all that we do here too!
We have a case study on the blog right now that explores what to do when a horse does not seem to be a fit – yet also how you can continue to build those themes into client sessions:
I think it’s so important to have rights for the horses since they can’t speak for themselves! It’s good to know our horses and know when they need a break as well.
I have always loved animals, but recently I have been more interested in learning about how they express themselves and in reading what they are trying to tell us. This course has really given me a deeper respect and appreciation for the needs of animals. It’s been great!
The definition of the role of a horse/animal as a sentient being makes complete sense to me as they truly are beings with consciousness that can feel and experience emotion. In realizing this and respecting this about animals, partnering with them will shed new light on humans in sometimes such unimaginable ways. Very healing and empowering.
I am definitely of the mind that horses / animals are our partners to work with, not tools to “use”; I also agree with their welfare being of the utmost importance. Horses are no different from humans in the sense that they are doing a job. All jobs require breaks – coffee breaks, lunch breaks, vacation time…. retirement. We also have to be cognizant of behaviours of our partners around the clients we are working with / the environment that we may be putting them in.
I think most of us have seen the effects that animals have on children in hospitals, elderly in care homes, and even ourselves when we’re having a bad day. The non-judgmental (well except for some cats, perhaps!?) response that animals give us can provide us with the love that we need when everything else may be going awry.
There is so much evidence of this – victim assistance sections of police services that provide court support dogs (my husband is a detective with the Child Abuse Unit and they have access to a few dogs even while they do interviews with victims/families), fish tanks in offices, etc – and study after study that animals can reduce stress, pain (emotional and physical), doctors visits and help our bodies heal quicker.
I definitely agree that horses are sentient beings. I have learned from owning horses most of my life that there are certain people and situations that they aren’t comfortable engaging with. I believe it is so important to respect their boundaries – they communicate in their own ways and we need to listen!
Such a great article with such a great description as to why the animal should be considered an equal partner in a relationship. Their ability and intuitiveness far surpasses what most expect and what most possess themselves. When you learn to work with your animal as partners, it can take a session to a whole new level of connection and empathy. Love this!
Taking the needs and care of the animal I am working with into consideration is one of the most important things to me. Not only their physical needs but also their general wellbeing. It is important to understand and recognize what is going on with your animal so that everyone can be safe and healthy. It is important to respect the boundaries of the animal and not push them, just like you wouldn’t push a client, to engage in activities that they aren’t ready for.
The blog makes me think about the delicate balance of ensuring the well being of both the client and the horse. I can imagine there are times when a client is making progress, but their horse partner says they have had enough for the day. Ensuring the right match between the client and the horse at the stage that both the client and horse are at will be important for effective outcomes.
I had not heard the term “sentient being” prior to starting this program. I love the focus on respect for the horses’ desires and needs as much as the client’s !
The respectful treatment of the horse as a sentient being, partner and co-facilitator is one of the most important terms of the Pro-EFW Code of Ethics for me personally and professionally. I loved this article.
I am of the belief that equines possess sage wisdom and an ancient sense of knowing that many of us humans have lost touch with. I absolutely uphold the stance that animals are sentient beings. Regarding some of my wonderings, I am intrigued to learn all about the process of selecting potential co-facilitating equines, how you debrief them after therapy sessions, and what kinds of experiments of play and exploration you have found helpful to support your horses in finding what self-care fits for them (what nourishes them and brings them back a regenerative place)!
This is a great question and actually quite a huge area, that we explore in more depth during Foundation and Focus training. I find each horse is different and thus needs something different, so part of the process is figuring that out! Some need to go for a run, others need a massage, others need to be turned out and allowed to be a horse. I do find I draw a lot on T-touch and similar approaches in debriefing – and we teach aspects of these at Foundation and Focus training
I was also curious about the debriefing after sessions, so the above question helped answer that. I am also wondering about selecting new equines; is there qualities that you are generally looking for? What attributes make a horse well suited? Or does it differ from horse to horse? I would imagine that a lot of thought goes into this process, as it would be important to mitigate the amount of movement of horses, to ensure that horses don’t end up in bad situations. I follow some rescues and know that this is something they’re navigating and are concerned about all the time.
These are important questions Chloe and ones which we explore in more depth within the trainings. It’s hard to give a simple answer as so much depends on individual situations – who you will be working with, your physical set up for the work, your own scope of practice and how many horses you will have. Usually having a range of horses is ideal and certainly having good relationships with each of the horses is important. I don’t believe they need one specific type of training but you do need to look at reliability, predictability and of course safety. The work has to be something that is good for the horse too and that is something that can be harder to predict
Really enjoyed this article! For me, I have had the privilege of so many opportunities to witness the poignant and transformative connections to be made with animals when we recognize their emotional worlds and individuality. I strongly believe in the animal as sentient being approach and hope that I can learn much from my animal therapists in the future.
I totally agree that animals are sentient. I have learned a lot from animals about life and relationships. Yesterday I watched our two six year old donkeys interacting. They chasing each other and rolling around on the grass enjoying life. Having a great time.
I agree 100% that animals are sentient beings….and they are our equals. I’m so happy to hear that people are moving away from viewing animals as tools, although I think there is a long way to go when looking at all the ways animals are exploited.
Thank you for the article and comments 🙂 I am grateful to have the experience of horses meeting each person exactly where they are and then walking alongside them to the next ‘edge’ of learning. In so doing, both the human and horse in partnership, grow. It is a delicate and precious relationship in each moment.
Animal are sentient beings and I see almost everyday how their presence positively impact both human and other animals.
the horse as a sentient being and partner in EFW aligns with my core values and beliefs. I particularly appreciate the acknowledgement
of the facilitators responsibility to provide for the horse’s physical, mental, and emotional well being and the caution expressed regarding the duty of care for our clients
This article makes me think of a time when I was in my teens riding my retired race race horse. I always took my time with him and would bathe him and give him his treats after our ride. One particular day I was in a “hurry” I think I had a date. I quickly road him and put him away in his stall. He did not get his bath, which he loved because I’d take my time, let him drink water and give him his treats. The next day I took his saddle off, I never had to tie him as he always just followed us around and stayed put. When I came out of the barn from putting the saddle away, my old horse was at the water trough, where we bathe them, pawing and neighing at me. He was NOT going to let me rush his personal time
he sounds like quite the character!
I loved reading this article, I have felt this way for the past 10 years. I have been called over protective of my animals, due to me taking my dog away from a child or saying Leroy the horse is not interested to day so let him be. I always explain, I know my animals well enough to know when they are uncomfortable, or just not feeling it, I am used to the odd looks now. I was not always this way. I rode reining horses for many years, back then I was not treating the horses as a sentient being, I was wanting to win. I feel shameful. After reining I took 6 years off of riding, I no longer was having fun, and I thought this is not why I got into horses. I am fortunate to have returned to riding, and I now accept them for who they are, and allow them to say no.
This is such an interesting perspective and so helpful in my own process to release the ways I intuitively feel and could not articulate. My own horsemanship was born and raised in a rougher, “cowboy-up,” sack ’em out, ride the buck out way of dealing with horses. The goal was always submission. As I have grown in experience I have moved away from this more towards the natural horsemanship and a focus on interaction with the horses as the sentient beings and as equal partners. Who am I to demand submission?? But what a sacred connection to work with, trying to set up both free. I particularly appreciated the description of a horse being allowed to say no, which is not something I had ever really considered. Thanks for forcing me to face some of my own biases and think deeper.
I very much appreciate that the importance of caring for your animal partners needs (emotional and physical)is one of the first things addressed and one of the foundations of EFW. For all the many valued reasons stated in the article and also for the safety and well being of your program. A horse or animal who’s emotional needs are missed or ignored can be dangerous and can cause your clients to miss out on much of what could have been achieved in a healthier environment. I also appreciate that you explain the for the horse to “safely” express themselves. During the building of relationship, the horse has been guided to safe ways of expression. I also embrace the believe that the health of the herd (mental and physical) will be a direct reflection on the success of helping your clients.
Wonderful article, thank you! I too come from a background of more “old school” horsemanship originally. Things like “he should be more afraid of me than whatever he’s spooking at” or “just get over it and do it” instead of “why are you reacting like this, what do I need to do differently.” It has been a long process of unpacking that and changing to a more empathetic and understanding way of training. The difference in the horses I work with over the last 5-10 years has been great to see though. It’s amazing how much they have to say if you are only ready to listen.
The “The horses’ need for relationships with other horses, adequate time off, and time with people they are not responsible for” point is one that we had always tried to do at our center, but not nearly enough. The horses that actively needed schooling might have gotten more of that, but the “steady eddies” were lucky if they got one or two trail rides with a staff member per year.
Recently we implemented a “horse buddies” program, where each horse is assigned to a staff member or experienced volunteer to be “their” person. This person works with the horse 1-3 times per week, either riding, grooming, hand-walking, hand-grazing, or otherwise just hanging out. The difference we have seen, especially in the horses who weren’t getting much of that type of time before, has been amazing: they are brighter, more content, and seem to have an easier time in their lessons with clients. After reading this article it all makes sense, and it is something we will continue to prioritize and expand on, to properly honor all of the emotional needs of our equine partners.
I love the ‘horse buddies’ program idea Helgi! This is so attachment informed and wonderful to hear about the fruit you are seeing from this! I’m guessing that the staff/ volunteers are likely benefitting from this program too. This makes sense on so many levels.
I love the “horse buddies” idea too Sue and Helgi, was just talking to a friend about this at the weekend. She volunteers with RDA in East Lothian and they adopt a similar approach, works well.
I am grateful to read that treating horses as a sentient being is becoming more common in EFW. Working with therapy horses, I really feel that this is true. They do go through emotions, moods, and feelings depending on who they are working with. I would love to know more about how to debrief horses after their therapy work. I often feel like I could be doing more as a handler at therapeutic riding, typically we debrief afterwards with brushing and grooming, carrot or apple treats, and giving the horses free time to run in their pens. More ideas are welcome.
Hi Jacqueline – we explore debriefing with the horses during the foundation training so please be reassured that there is lots of info coming on this! The key is that you are aware that it needs to happen and then that you tailor what it looks like for each horse (and maybe different situations too) as they all have different preferences and needs. Sometimes time with you is what they need, other times time with their herd. Sometimes its to go for a run and other times a massage or some t-touch.
I definitely agree that animals are sentient beings and that we shouldn’t use them merely as tools. Id like to know more about the things to take into consideration beyine well being and physical care. Like how do we look for those cues or what a debrief looks like, etc.
Hi Leah – we explore this in lots of depth during our Foundation and Focus trainings!
I can attest that horses and dogs provide the trust factor that most clients need. From the other side’s perspective, as a past client and police officer, it was the only place that I did not have to be hyper vigilant. I felt safe around the horses and know if there is any type of danger or sound they will hear it first. It allowed me to relax and do the work on myself I had come to do.
To comment on the attachment part, no I did not cancel because I wanted to see the horses. When I made a connection with a horse on my most challenging day I wanted to see him again. The funny thing was he was not drawn to me any other time. The first session after the “big” one I took it personally, although just for a brief moment. I reflected and understood that I needed him that day and he did his job because my inner energy didn’t need him anymore. I had other to work with and actually gave me the insight that we need more than just 1 connection , horses/people, to get us through our journey.
Thank you for sharing this perspective Tanja! This is something we explore in trainings and it is so helpful to hear the perspectives from all sides!
Love, love the “debrief”. Such a valid and imperative part of acknowledging the participation the horse brought forward in a session and honoring his space and time that may be needed to “let go”. 100% horses are sentient beings, I believe this is an unconscious factor that attribute to the universal draw we has humans, have to horses and is reflective of how often the draw is stronger with children and adult females.
This concept supports the pathway to enlightened and may I say, critical thinking, on the human’s part, as to the toll or depth an experience or event, whether one time or ongoing, may have on a horse’s emotions, feelings, physicality, social standing, recovery, choices and innate spirit unique to each equine.
This was a great article. I loved the description of horse as a sentient being as stating that yes, the horse is a mirror but he is also his own being, with his own emotions thoughts, opinions and needs. This is so true! I see so many horse people sadly not allowing their horse to have its own emotions, thoughts, opinions and needs. They simply see their horse as acting out or poorly if they are having an off day. I tend to treat my horses (and all of my animals) as I have raised my children. I allow them all to have emotions, thoughts, opinions and needs that may not always be in line with mine. This is not always easy and takes a great amount of patience but I have come to recognize that my agenda or plans are also completely dependent on the emotions, thoughts, opinions and needs of the horse I am working with. I have no problem adjusting my plans accordingly in order to adjust to my horse (the sentient being).
This article went more deeply into what is meant by a horse being a sentinent being, with explicit examples. From my experience working with horses and being around horse people, most people have a very strong love for their horses and they want what is best for them. However, many of the practices that are in place do just the opposite. Being a compassionate rider and horse person is so important. This requires knowing that your horse has his/her own feelings and thoughts that are separate than your potential agenda or goal for that day.
The rights of the horse were particularly powerful to me, especially the 3 that I copied below. Horses have a right to their own emotions without repercussions, the right of horses to say no and disengage from an activity and the need for horses to have time off and have their own healthy relationships. Very powerful.
-The right for the horse to (safely) express discomfort, including emotional discomfort, preference, needs and opinions during and in between therapy sessions, without repercussion.
-The right for the horse to safely say no to an activity, to working with a particular person or population, and even to this career.
-The horses’ need for relationships with other horses, adequate time off, and time with people they are not responsible for.
Hi Brittney – I agree with your statement: “most people have a very strong love for their horses and they want what is best for them. However, many of the practices that are in place do just the opposite.” This is where I believe insight, awareness and discussion in this area is so critical – especially as we venture into the EFW field
Thank you for all the sharing
1. Pro EFW, PATH Int. and several other leading EFW organisations define the horse as a sentient being and partner. What is YOUR understanding of and position on the role of the horse in EFW? How do you think this will impact how you interact with horses/ other animals in this work?
I believe horses most definitely can change the outcome of any exercise we do, or want to do. Horses are a huge part of how and what the client learns, over comes, experiences. I have so much respect for how willing the horse we use for this program are. They sometimes do have bad days just as we all do and we have to be adaptable to that, both because they for one are allowed to have their own personality but also because it no matter what needs to be a positive experience for both the horse and the rider. I know in my own world with my own horses I give them the time/space they need and I try to always explain or show to clients how horses work and how we have to be respectful of them just as we do any other humans or animals we deal with.
I like the belief that it is a horse owner’s/ facilitator’s significant responsibility to look after the horse’s well-being in all aspects.
I think a good way to see the horse as a sentient being and how we might approach this is if we reverse the philosophy to consider a program for horses/ animals to attend where the purpose would be to have awareness of the horse’s behaviours through grounding exercises, ground lessons and observation and how we might analyze and approach issues that may arise.
The more time spent with our horses on the ground, silently observing and working with some of the many types of bodyworks on our horses, makes space for the important recognition that we are working with a sentient being. This genuine belief will allow role modeling a relationship with and respect for the horse in our lessons, to be a natural occurrence.
Recognizing what the horse needs I feel is so important!! It’s something I truly hope someday that the world as a whole understands when it comes to animals. They have an do give so much to us, and while their physical needs may be met by most their emotional needs are often missed.
so true Denay!
I think it’s important to remember the horse is a sentient being. When we forget this, we are in the danger of treating our equine partners as objects, as opposed to partners in our work.
I really enjoyed reading this article. So important to consider and listen to the horse.
I love the role of the horse as a sentient being and remembering that our horses can say no and help us in selecting a client.
It is certainly important to remember that the animals/horses we are working with also have emotions, fears, excitement, anger, frustration, etc….
Animals are very aware, always watching, intuiting the situation, area, beings and ensuring that they can “respond”, we as a people, especially in a facilitator position, need to honour that so as to ensure the health and well-being of all involved.
well said Kelly!
Animals as sentient beings is such a meaningful approach in AAT. I agree that it just adds so much more value when approaching therapy and the animal this way. What wonderful opportunities to model loving attachments when we view our animals this way. Even out of therapy, when I greet someone on the street walking my dog, how I handle the situation if she doesn’t want to say “hi” to them, or if she seems nervous and how I respond to her emotions is so often noticed by the other person. I think this approach really does create opportunity for the client and for us as therapists to experience a healthy relationship and enjoy our emotional systems as well as our animal’s.
Hi Dana – I love how you recognise the potential impact that how you relate to your dog can have on people. What a wonderful way to role model a gentler and more relational approach to a world that needs this so much! In trainings I often explore with students how we are constantly communicating to our clients through how we talk about and to our animals (including when they do something we don’t like!) and I really like how you have taken this concept out into your daily interactions.
I appreciated the whole article, but the section on how horses can encourage and motivate individuals to show up and to continue to show up for sessions is very profound to me. I knew an Equine Facilitated Therapist, and this was something we discussed – how often the relationship and attachment to “their” horse was the driving force encouraging them to show up to therapy sessions, despite how typical it was for client’s to cancel or get cold feet without the equine/client relationship. And alternatively, one of the problem’s we discussed is what happens when for whatever reason the horse the client has developed a relationship with isn’t available to them anymore – whether illness or injury, or an unfortunate passing. This seemed to be a trigger point where client’s became more likely to cancel or postpone, rather than the other way around.
Very interesting read!
Thanks for raising the impact that no longer being able to see or work with a horse – for whatever the reason – can have on a client. This is something we explore during training through an attachment model which can allow us to facilitate ways to continue to hold on and feel connected even when apart
An important reminder that our equine partners have awareness of and ability to feel things. Having a horse refuse to do something (which I have experienced on more than one occasion!) is such a learning moment for us. An important read. Thanks!
Such an informative article. It will be interesting to see all this put into action in person, particularly learning how to understand the ways that your horse is saying no or needs to debrief.
Hi Maria – these are important questions that we do explore throughout the training! I find that it is different with each horse so applying the theory in practice, with your specific horse and EFW practice, is the most important part. Our aim in the trainings and through mentoring is to support you in doing this!
I love the concept of relating horses to the core conditions of Carl Roger, complete non-judgement is something even Rogers admits to have maintained continuously with clients whereas it is something that horses always seem to offer. They do not judge but base their reactions on learning, experience and individuals.
Although I do wonder how you debrief a horse or animal after a session?
And how do you support your horse emotionally during a client session? Could this offend the client?
These are great questions which we explore in depth at the foundation and focus training. There are lots of things to consider here including the individual equine needs and the impact on the client so you are asking the right questions!
The section on how horses can encourage and motivate individuals to show up and to continue to show up for sessions resonates with the experience I have had working with forensic mental health clients. It is a challenge to develop rapport and to engage in theray when working with cleints who are on a detention order. I started do a BBQ every week at the horse stables to get patients interested in comming to the first session. If I can motivate them to come to try the program they often return every week thereafter because of the horses. Unfortunately my program is currently on hold due to COVID. Patients love the program and ask me every day when they can return to the Horse Stables.
I hope they are able to get back soon! And yes, working with any kind of mandated population can be especially challenging!
Thank you for the article, it was very educational! I was wondering if you had any recommendations for books or articles regarding horse body language. I could use some more knowledge in learning to notice when they are communicating more subtle signs of emotional/physical distress. I am familiar with “Language Signs & Calming Signals of Horses” by Rachael Draaisma.
I would recommend anything from Linda Tellington Jones and T Touch/ TEAM. We also explore calming signals and signs of stress in a horse at foundation training.
I loved how this article went more deeply into what is meant by horses (and other animals) as sentient beings and how
their mere presence can motivate clients to attend therapy or ask for and accept help. I wholeheartedly believe that the idea of animals can simply make it safe to show up. If animals are valued and cared for as partners and beings who are capable of experiencing and feeling emotions of their own, it only makes sense that a client would be more trusting and apt to engage both physically and emotionally.
I see this weekly in our therapy dog visits with high school students. My dog Audrey is healthy, happy and visibly enjoys the presence of teenagers. The students show their trust in her genuineness, empathy and unconditional positive regard by being exactly as they are in the moment and by sharing their struggles openly. They know she is willing to just listen and in most cases it helps them better understand their own complex emotions.
Audrey sounds like a wonderful partner! I think you would like our article https://healinghooves.ca/why-horses-making-it-safe-to-show-up/
Wonderful, thank you Sue!
I really appreciate the emphasis on sentient beings this article and EFW provide. And the care and consideration to be given for your equine/animals self care, and all the considerations that go along with that.
Loved this article! The awareness it brings to the importance of the animal’s feeling, for us to be aware them. The horse shows us love, and encouragement with no judgment, and to understand us. however, it’s equally important for us to do the same for them. To pick up on their body language, and what they are trying to tell us. To continue to show up for them every day/session as they do for us.
I really appreciate the observation that “just being” with animals can be therapeutic. A therapist who endeavors to work alongside horses may be more willing to go slow, be patient, and work “one step removed” when they firmly believe that simply being with animals is beneficial. I would hope that a person who works from this framework would not need to push their own agenda to provide a flashy therapy that looks miraculous; that flashiness may blind us to the potential pitfalls of a drive for quick and dramatic effects in therapy. Gentleness, a slow pace, and patience may be more aligned with the needs of the client (and horse) and result in deeper and more lasting therapeutic gains.
This was a really great article. I so believe that animals pick up on our emotions and if we don’t take care of them, they will not support the children we have in our sessions. I also believe in the sentinent being as I have seen countless times when the animals on the farm read the children before I do or they have made life long friends with the students and I have been working on it for months.
This was such an important article and I so valued reading all of the discussions (a perk to being behind I suppose!) I am struck by the fact that the old cowboy way of breaking horses very closely resembles the hurtful and judgmental approaches that clients have likely suffered at the hands of others. For example the statements that the horse is just being difficult, or needs to be shown who’s boss or just needs to get over it so keep being nasty to them. It sounds so much to me like the person panicking being old to get over it, the Veteran with PTSD doing exposure therapy being told to just keep suffering until you get over it, the person being told by their abuser that they don’t get to decide who they interact with. I reflect on all of this and truly see the value of how we model our reactions and responses to our animals and what our clients see us saying and doing in response to them. I used to worry about the impact on the session if my horse just opted out, but now I am really reflecting what a beautiful moment to model respect and nonviolence and that self care and boundary setting is alright and appropriate and can be respected. I see so much more potential growth and healing from the animal as sentient being approach rather than the tool approach. I am so excited to learn more about reading their cues and learning to debrief with them. I have been very worried about the impact of doing this work on my horses as they are young and impressionable. I have wondered about the debrief and self care for the animals, might it be good for both the animal and the client to be involved in the debrief? Or might that be just more work for the horse and take away the benefit? I just feel it may be beneficial practice for the client to be involved and soothed as well and to get the caretaking dopamine hit of helping the horse shrug it off while simultaneously emphasizing the benefits of self care? I am so excited to learn more to ensure I am caring appropriately for my animals as well!
These are some great questions Elicia! I will often have a client express some gratitude towards the horse at the end of the session and/ or do some caretaking of the horse. We explore how to debrief with our horses in the next training – there’s lots of ways to approach this and it’s best when it’s individualised to your horses and what works best for them!
Thank you for this article Sue. The sentience of horses is so real and profound. What amazes me about our horses is not only their unique personalities, but their unique relationships with the humans in their lives. We have staff and volunteers who have longstanding relationships with individual horses, and while we can all identify definite personality traits that we can all agree on, these horses have special ways of behaving with each of their human friends that is unique just to that person. For example, we all agree that “Pepper” is athletic and likes to be busy, and has an almost academic quality to his curiosity. With me he is bossy, edgy in disposition, and mounted is FRESH! Yet for others he is smooth and fully composed as a gentleman! Toby is considered rather boring, and an emotionless worker by some, and yet with me he is goofy and expressive and rewards generously when you do things his way!
These are such important observations Jason and something I see time and again in the relationships my horses form with clients
Thank you for this article. It brings into alignment for me how I have always felt about my horses; unique personalities, unique expression of emotion and feeling.
Yes it is so important that we know when working with out horses that we ensure that their ‘cup is full’ so that they are able to be there and ready to give all they can during session with a client.
This is so important I agree Jenn. At Foundation training we explore the ‘filling the cup’ concept for both ourselves and our equine partners, recognising that we all need this done in different ways and we all tend to resist it in different ways too!
I really enjoyed this article. There have been several times I have wished my horses could talk as I scrutinize their subtle shifts in body language in an attempt to understand what they need in that moment. I can’t wait to learn more about horsemanship and recognizing the nuances of their non-verbal language. I am also excited to learn more about how to support the horse during session and the debrief afterwards.
I currently work with my dog attending the Calgary Remand Centre through Pet Partners for the Corrections Officers. I have noticed a huge difference in the officers the more times we come. we are there every Wednesday and they are looking forward to Todd’s arrival. We missed a Wednesday and came a Friday instead and the Director advised so many people were asking “Where’s Todd”. This fills my soul to know the impact Todd is having.
The article really hit home on the animal doing a job, yes, however must be a high priority in watching what they are feeling and when it is time to move on. Depending on the energy in Remand, as it changes on the fly, Todd flows and moves with the energy. He picks it up off the officers or the inmates. I find it absolutely fascinating to watch his body language in certain situations. The most important piece for me is helping Todd rid the energy he has accumulated from everyone after our visit. He sleeps all the way home. I ensure we go to the river, if it is nice, so he can start by washing off the energy. I will then do some meditation/mindfulness helping him rid the energy through visualization.
This not only helps him to reset, but me as well.
I absolutely agree with seeing the horse as a sentient being, and I have been doing my best to “read” and respect my horses wishes. I do find that one of my horses in particular can give very subtle cues…I am definitely getting better, but he is a bit of an enigma to me still. Sometimes he is crystal clear, and as my teenage kids would say “extra.” Other times his cues are so subtle you might miss them if you blink. I have thought about not using him in therapy for this reason, but I actually think that it is for exactly this reason that he has so much to offer clients. Your article helps me to continue to turn this conundrum around in my head…I’m sure the section on ethics will further challenge my thinking:)
yes – more to come on this I promise!
Working with horses is so serene to me. Knowing that they have that ability to read you and connect with others is calming in the sense that you can trust them. My dad trained horses the old cowboy way and he would “break” them. But as he worked with them he always told me that they listen and they move with you. He taught me that lil body movements from you can speak to them once they bond with you. So now working with my horses and even just spending time with them I feel that connection and how they trust and how they speak to me with their silence as well.
Horse (or dog, cat, etc) as sentient being, resonates with me SO very much!
The more I work with horses, the more I understand their uniqueness and the fact they have such different personalities and how important it is to know their individualness and also that, like us, days can vary greatly. Years ago when we got our first horses to bring home I remember a very disturbing situation that I think really made me start to look at things in a way that worked for me because this didn’t. Our new horse “didn’t trailer well” the previous owner explained and used a chain to basically cause him to enter the trailer under duress. I saw his fear and the way this chain was used on his delicate nose sickened me. After getting him home, I told my husband I wanted to try to clicker train him to trailer cause I hated that so much. By the second day clicker training him, he walked right up, a far cry from the chain experience. He was scared and uncertain of the trailer and had never been taught in a safe supportive environment that regarded him as a sentient being. He became a solid trailer horse in the months to come and no more chains were needed, just carrots and lots of love and care.
I’m so glad that this horse had you in his life!
I really like the approach that ProEFW and Healing Hooves follows seeing the horse as a sentient being. This approach facilitates the connection between the person and animal. It also highlights the communication and respect between both of them. I think we can learn from animals as much if not more than they can learn from us. This approach helps ensure they are treated in a fair and ethical way.
I am still sorting through my approach in my practice but have started with more of a sentient approach. However, the horses I work with have been previously used for trail rides in the past they have not had much say. I found it pretty special to go out to the field and let them choose if they wanted do therapy that day.
I also feel that considering them as sentient helps to focus more on attachment and shifts outside of our cultural norms for fast pace work, which I am already noticing has more benefits for the clients. It is also so much easier on me as there is less stress of program planning and managing safety etc when we get to slow down and connect.
I completely agree with everything in this article. I believe that the animals have to want to be present and want this career or there will not be a connection between them and our clients. Just as this is emotionally demanding on us, it is also so for the animals working with us. I also can’t help but comment on the reluctance of people going to therapy, but as soon as an animal is presented there is this shift in mindset for the client. I believe when we introduce animals into therapy, it takes the focus off the client and allows them to focus on the animals. I believe this makes an environment that relaxes clients and they will naturally open up more.
Absolutely! That is one of the many powerful aspects of this work – having the option to work indirectly, relationally and within a natural environment and context makes so much difference!
This article really tweaked my interest into how equines (and other animals) are screened, trained and prepared for this kind of work. I found it also emphasized how important it is for the clinician/counselor to have the knowledge and skill to effectively identify suitable animals. I would assume that this process would ultimately have great impact on the relationships between client and animal, and on the development of trust that is so integral. I’m excited to learn more!
Your assumption is spot on Chaundra! And yes – this is something we continue to explore and build upon throughout the training process. We also dive much deeper into the process of equine selection, training, ongoing assessment (including of their emotional wellness) and care
This article really made me think about how often I just expect our horses to go along with what we want or expect, as a lot of what we do is repetitive and they seem to enjoy it so rarely disagree. In fact last year when one horse was lame and couldn’t participate in our Saturday sessions she clearly missed being there and all the attention from the children so we tried to make up for this in other ways. I appreciate horses are sentient beings and love all the benefits this provides for the young people we work with, especially empathy and unconditional positive regard, and intend to be more sensitive to times they don’t wish to participate in the future.
The fact that your horses are wanting to be a part of sessions is wonderful Donna! Even when your program is quite active (and thus requires horses to be sound) maybe simply bringing them in for grooming or ‘hanging out’ time if/ when they can’t participate in the more active side of things would be beneficial to all!
When I think about animals working with us in partnerships, I can’t imagine them not being recognized as sentient beings. In my personal opinion, if they are not regarded as sentient beings, not only would this work be unhealthy and dissatisfying for them, but it would send unhealthy messages to our clients about how to build safe, and healthy relationships. Love this article!
sounds like we are very much on the same page here Patricia!
I’ve always valued the horse as a sentient being. Having not been raised around horses, I realize I have much to learn about the subtle and sometimes direct ways they communicate with us, and how to interpret this behaviour. As a social worker, I appreciate the point about needing to debrief with our animals after sessions, and attend to their care as we care for ourselves in this work. So interested to learn more.
I’m wondering how clients view horses who have dual roles with them? Are some of the horses ridden by the same client that they are involved with in therapy sessions? Would this give mixed messages to the client?
That’s a great question Judy!
At Healing Hooves we have a different person teaching riding and horsemanship lessons than delivering EFW sessions and rarely have a client who attends both riding lessons and EFW sessions so this avoids some of the problems. That being said, our way of relating to the hores (as sntient beings with the right to express opinions (safely) and have choices) applies to all of our services so this limits any potential challenges too!
Really appreciate the ethics, respect and care for the horse emphasized in this work and the article.
I love the perspective in this article. Growing up, I feel like I’ve had to advocate for horses being sentient beings as not many of my extended family or friends really understood horses the way I did. As a young adult, my work with my own horse gave me experience in exploring and implementing “self-care” for her to improve her health and well-being. I look forward to applying the lessons I learned with her to future horses in my practice in order to find ways to ensure they are respected and cared for to the best of my ability.
I hear you Melissa! Hopefully within the EFW world you’re going to find lots more likeminded people in this aspect!
Great article that highlights the importance of honouring and respecting our horses/animals in this field of work and how that relationship can transfer to our clients lives. Such a very powerful process that I look forward to learning more about!
yes, I find that working with the horses this way really is beneficial for all involved!
Growing up on the farm the horses were more tools than anything. They were forced to do what they were told and had no say in their life. I did’t like this way of living for the horses so I’m so happy to know that we are going in a new direction with the horses and giving them a platform to speak from.
I hear you Keltie – it can be such a relief to find a field where the philosophy feels right!
I believe that horse’s are sentient beings. As a certified Equine Canada Instructor, I have all of my lessons. treated horses as sentient beings I work at matching the ability of the rider to the horse, as well as what the horse can handle. The horse’s opinion is always listened to. I work on and teach me students to work on , what the horse is trying to tell us, and how to adjust our behavior to help her.
I have always felt and known the horses as sentient beings and appreciate how you really shine a light on that. Hopefully;lly moving forward in this world in the times we are in even more people will come to recognize this and give these beautiful creatures all of the grace they deserve.
I hope so too Lori! I trust that the more we can lead this by example hopefully people will see the difference and get curious!
I’m really looking forward to learning how to understand if a horse is suitable for this kind of collaboration, and learning to see more from the horse’s point of view, as a sentient animal with feelings, emotions and choices to be taken into consideration.