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

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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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Can horses get traumatized?

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

observation
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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Why horses don't heal anyone

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 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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How to connect with a horse – the science side of it

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How do you connect with a horse? Is it important that a horse always is in connection with the human he is interacting with? This seems like straightforward questions, right? But to answer them, we need to look closer at the horse-human interaction, but also at the concept of interaction between subjects (individuals). And we need to define what we are talking about.  Follow me into this discussion – and you will see that they are far from easy questions and that there are no simple answers. But this is an important topic, and we need to untangle some common use of words and concepts. It ...
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Giving the horse a sense of agency – positive equine welfare through Equine Assisted Therapies

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 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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Horses and Time

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How do horses perceive time? Do they have agendas? Are they always in the here and now? Cognitive scientists are now debating how good non-human animals are at planning – which imply they have an inbuilt sense of time, and are not always present in the now. That they understand the passing of time and can act out of this knowledge. That they can plan ahead. But also that they can mix up the now with the past.  In the horse world, I have many times heard the "truth" that horses have no agenda and always are in the here and now. Is this true? Or is that purely human projections? Do we want ...
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Wild horses in Mongolia

Mongolia A family group in Saikhanaa's band. A youngster looking up.
Wild horses. Listen to the sound of the word. Wild, as in free. Every human has a relationship with horses. If you never met one in real life, you have seen them on TV, read about them in books, met them in commercials. Beautiful, proud, free horses. We, who have met them in real life, almost always get forever spellbound by them. Because the horse is a strong archetype, a primordial image, means something to us. Some kind of a horse is there, somewhere deep inside of all of us. Most deeply the horse lives, ingrained, in the soul of the Mongol. The horse is by far the most important animal in ...
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