Introduction to the 3rd Minds-n-Motion International „A Horse is a Horse, of Course!?“ Symposium - Ilka Parent

Ilka Parent will describe the idea behind the event and, leaning on current case studies, introduce and set the stage for the chosen speakers for the 3rd International Symposium.


Moving Beyond Descartes: Horses first In Ethics in Equine Assisted therapies - Arieahn Matamonasa

This presentation continues the conversation from previous conferences on the need for an ethical framework for horses participating in equine assisted therapy work. It provides a panoramic view on the history and contemporary ethics on horses and provides key concepts for discussion and exploration. Using concepts of speciesism and developments from the fields of psychology and ethology we will explore the assessment of potential harm, benefits and the 5 freedoms as a framework for guiding clinicians and equine specialists.


Challenging the concept of dominance hierarchies and it’s implications for the Equine Interactive Field - Lucy Rees 

Throughout the ages horses have been controlled, often violently, by humans in the pursuit of their own ends and needs, coercion being regarded as an unfortunate but necessary part of horsemanship. The continued use of painful pressure and punishment in an age when horses have little practical function have seemed to be justified by the ethological statement that “horses have strict dominance hierarchies”, popularly taken to mean that horses use and understand hierarchical authority, obeying dominants who have gained their status through aggression.

The evidence for equine dominance hierarchies is unconvincing, contradictory and based on unjustified assumptions. Worse, ethological dominance does not correspond to the dictionary definition of the word, for it refers to control of resources, not to authoritative control of behaviour. The inevitable misunderstanding that results suggests that ethologists have proven that dealing with horses will involve a competition for control that they naturally understand. Newer forms of early training eschew physical violence, preferring a more psychological approach and better use of negative reinforcement, but their end is the same, to deprive the horse of choice or agency.

The idea of dominance hierarchies is now being abandoned by ethologists who once supported it, for resource competition is unnatural to horses. Studies on horses’ collective movements show them to be self-organizing, based on democratic decisions and synchronous activity rather than obedience to leader or director figures. There is no authority or control, nor any indication that horses understand such human concepts.

These advances call for a revision of behaviour hitherto interpreted as dominance-related, especially that called conflictive or resistant. They also call for profound and honest questioning of what we do with horses, and why, for the idea that they are there to do what we want and live how we want is so deeply engrained in our dealings with them that their comments on their experiences often fall on deaf ears.

Increasingly, studies identify the commonest reason for the horse’s non-compliance: as unrecognized pain; poor teaching of signals or their incorrect use are also frequent. Increasing pressure or punishing the horse, then, lead to physical breakdown, confusion and fear. Belief in dominance hierarchies leads to misinterpretation of horse behaviour, ignorance of horses’ natural needs and compromises horse welfare.

Beyond physical necessities and freedom from pain, horses need social life, for which they need social education; they need training and teaching to perform the unnatural tasks we set them; and they have enormous emotional, cognitive and communicative sensitivities whose suppression deprives them of their psychological equilibrium.


The Implications of Equine Well-Being for the Human-Equine Relationship: The Animal Assisted Play Therapy™ Approach, Segment A - Rise van Fleet   

In their ground-breaking book, VanFleet & Faa-Thompson define their concept of a healthy human-animal bond and how one develops a reciprocal, mutually-beneficial relationship. This presentation outlines the nature of that relationship and how it impacts the humane treatment of equines on an everyday basis as well as while working together in therapy and learning programs. It begins by highlighting how practitioners sometimes fail to recognize the impact of therapeutic work on equines, covers the competencies needed for effective and ethical equine-assisted work, and discusses equine consent and other ways to build partnerships in which the equine point of view is well considered and animal well-being is deemed of equal importance to that of clients. The human-equine relationship is viewed as both a model and a metaphor for relationship within therapy.


Equine Welfare in Competencies for Mental Health Professionals who include Horses in Treatment - Nina Ekholm Fry

The American Counseling Association (ACA), the national association for mental health counselors (psychotherapists) in the U.S., recently published a competency document for animal-assisted therapy in counseling (AAT-C). The knowledge, skills, and attitudes that comprise the competencies create a standard of competence, or best practices, to which other categories of mental health professionals in the U.S. who include horses in treatment could also be held, given that no other national mental health association has published a similar document. When it comes to the safety, wellbeing, and welfare of horses in human services, what do these competencies state? Are they enough? What can be considered minimum knowledge and skill when it comes to providing equine interactions in treatment, and how are these determined?

This presentation includes a detailed overview of knowledge, skill, and attitudes specific to equine welfare laid out in in the ACA animal-assisted therapy competencies (including advocacy, equine rights, stress, and training). Examples of how these translate to client work are provided, along with supporting research. Finally, limitations and challenges are discussed, both in relation to the AAT-C competencies and for constructing best practices documents related to welfare.


Safety through Attunement: Is your Nervous System creating an Unsafe Environment for your Horse? - Heather Gunther

What are the potentially detrimental consequences of equine interactive programs on the nervous systems of horses? Can we as equine professional do more to increase the health and wellbeing of equines? Throughout the presentation, we will discuss the potential health risks associated with not providing equines with integrative relational experiences as it relates to the nervous system and interpersonal neurobiology. We offer a comprehensive explanation of the necessary components needed in a horses environment to foster long-term health and resilience, as it relates to neurobiology.


Partnering with Horses: The Masterson Method as Interactive Bodywork - Megan Dushin

“A horse is a horse, of course, of course. Go right to the source and ask the horse, he’ll give you the answer that you’ll endorse.” These lyrics from the Mr. Ed television show are quite applicable in The Masterson Method® Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork. As practitioners, we literally ask the horse where there's pain or restriction and partner with them to release tension. The Masterson Method is an enlightening approach to equine bodywork that is deeply respectful and that requires us to be relaxed and grounded in our own body. It is being used around the world and beginning to be recognized by the equine-assisted learning and therapy community as a means to not only provide wellness to horses but also to program participants and volunteers. It's a perfect win-win when we use bodywork as an equine-assisted activity for participants to learn how to listen to and partner with the horse through touch.