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?
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…
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.