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...
Continue reading
  498 Hits
  0 Comments
498 Hits
0 Comments

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...
Continue reading
  933 Hits
  4 Comments
933 Hits
4 Comments

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...
Continue reading
  564 Hits
  0 Comments
564 Hits
0 Comments

Unicorn Assisted Therapy

IMG_1696
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...
Continue reading
  1645 Hits
  0 Comments
1645 Hits
0 Comments

Can horses get traumatized?

IMG_0101
... 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...
Continue reading
  750 Hits
  1 Comment
Tags:
750 Hits
1 Comment

Horses, emotions and feelings…

20190624-DSC_7502x
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...
Continue reading
  1320 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
1320 Hits
0 Comments

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...
Continue reading
  702 Hits
  0 Comments
702 Hits
0 Comments

What lies beyond training?

beyond training
In these times of thriving fitness industry and exercise hype, I find it interesting to look into how horses life and training regime is seen. Is it training that is in the center of attention or being a hrose? Is it exercise or is it movement? Sometimes thinking about horses is easier through thinking about humans. Sometimes it is the other way around. In this piece of text, sometimes, you can replace the word "horse" with "human" if you wish to look at it from that angle as well. I don't mean to say that horses and humans are the same but to express how at times it i...
Continue reading
  1281 Hits
  0 Comments
1281 Hits
0 Comments

Remembering Ourselves and Observations

observation
Both horses and humans respond to environmental changes, including changes in other individuals. Movement, new people, new sounds, new conditions can all affect how we and our horses behave. It is important, then, to recognize that our horses respond to changes in us, too. Horses are quiet herbivores who have evolved to be constantly observing their surroundings and their herd for changes. Anyone of them can signal the others to new conditions and they all learn to rely on each other for survival. In domestic conditions, we often keep our horses in smaller areas with fewer conspecifics, and so...
Continue reading
  1255 Hits
  0 Comments
1255 Hits
0 Comments

The Importance of Time

just being in the pasture
I'm in the middle of a research study that asks participants to go out into the herd and spend time with horses without agendas or pre-determined activities. I have restrictions on the kinds of interactions they are allowed to have, but give them permission to approach the horses and let the horses approach them. But if the horse leaves, they are not allowed to pursue. There are lots of reasons why I'm doing this study. I want to look at how individual horse behavior changes with different associations with individuals and the choices participants make with regards to their interactions. They ...
Continue reading
  3545 Hits
  4 Comments
3545 Hits
4 Comments

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...
Continue reading
  2794 Hits
  0 Comments
2794 Hits
0 Comments

Thoughts on rewilding and human-horse parallels

rewilding you
Here we are, at the doorsteps of winter, welcoming holiday season once again. Are we appreciating the seasonal cycles and changes that come along with it? Instead of performing the holidays, can we allow ourselves to literally rest and digest? Ethics and welfare of equines touch us. We care. We study. We try our best to accommodate our hairy counterparts in our human environment. We begin to understand the natural needs of equines on different levels and find ways to facilitate the wild nature inside of domestication. We switch from single boxes to large pastures with friends. We let the horse...
Continue reading
  1773 Hits
  4 Comments
1773 Hits
4 Comments

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...
Continue reading
  1348 Hits
  0 Comments
1348 Hits
0 Comments

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 ...
Continue reading
  1184 Hits
  0 Comments
1184 Hits
0 Comments

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

How-to-connect-with-a-horse
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 ...
Continue reading
  1177 Hits
  0 Comments
1177 Hits
0 Comments

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 ...
Continue reading
  2059 Hits
  0 Comments
2059 Hits
0 Comments

Horses and Time

Horses-and-Time
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 ...
Continue reading
  2959 Hits
  0 Comments
2959 Hits
0 Comments

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 ...
Continue reading
  2899 Hits
  0 Comments
2899 Hits
0 Comments

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.mimercentre.org/