Introduction and case examples – from the horses’ point of view – Ilka Parent

Ilka Parent will present the opening questions for this year’s “A Horse is a Horse, of course” with case examples taking from her years of experience – from the horses’ point of view, raising questions about the impact of equine assisted traumawork on the horses’ welfare and well-being.


Learning about horses: time for a paradigm change in equine education? – Rhys Evans

From the turn of the decade, there have been multiple discussions within the communities of equine researchers that we are witnessing a fundamental change in the role horses play in human lives. This change, from “work horse to hobby horse” (Evans, Franklin 2009); from “production to consumption” (Evans, Vial 2015); and increasingly towards becoming more of a companion animal (Shuurman, Franklin 2017) or therapy assistant (Hallberg 2008) has been accompanied by changes in standards in horse keeping, horse training, and indeed, in the ways that horses themselves are being seen.

The majority of equine education, however, is rooted in traditional streams in which a practitioner travels from embodied learning (riding school lessons, etc.) to equine practice (the skills to keep horses and run equine businesses), and, for a few, to university – although there are very few places, even within the veterinary sciences, and the paths to these positions often follow a science-oriented path.

This presentation focuses on Equine Veterinary Education and the need for welfare to involve not only the physical biology of a horse, but also its cognitive and affective components. It is clear that mainstream veterinary education has not seen a similar change in teaching about horses that those who deal with horses are experiencing and promoting.

This emerging change, increasingly detailed in the work of human-horse relations researchers, amounts to a paradigm change in what horses do, what humans do with them, and in all the wider implications this brings.


Horse biology - how can we measure welfare? – Maja Tarka

How can we tell if an individual is stressed? What is stress and can we determine the stressors? Is stress always negative? What are the signs and symptoms in behaviour and physiology? In what ways can we alleviate negative stress in our horses?

I will give a brief review over research done on stress physiology in horses and other animals and give a few examples of methods used to measure stress responses. We will discuss which of these methods can be applied to investigating stress levels in horses.


Equine welfare and wellbeing – and the role of the equine specialist in EAA – Katarina Felicia Lundgren

How can we, in Equine Assisted Activities, change our focus from avoiding and treating symptoms of negative equine welfare? To take preventive measures, to promote and ensure equine physical, mental and social health? To see how EAA can contribute to positive equine welfare?

One way is to look at the role of the Equine Specialist, what kind of knowledge the ES needs and brings into EAA teamwork, how this knowledge improves the quality of life for equines, as well as the quality of services in EAA.

What is a study curriculum for an ES to include? I suggest more and deepened knowledge about equine cognition and behavior (e.g. emotions, learning, communication, play, relating/bonding/attaching, problem solving, stress reactions). But also knowledge about equine-human interaction, how to improve observational skills, how to see (and understand) the equine's perspective in sessions of EAA, as well as outside sessions.

Another way is to look at the ethics of letting equines work with clients. How does it impact them? What problems do we see? How do we formulate our ethics? In our teams? In the field of EAA?

An equine is an equine, but also an individual, a subject, have a personality, is an agent, with a unique life history and experiences. This means not all equines are the same. How do we consider the individual equine in equine welfare and wellbeing? When we formulate our ethics?

In discussing these and other related questions we will see that knowledge about equines and equine-human interaction is as important in EAA as knowledge about humans. It will clarify the role and function of the ES in the team, as well as his/her responsibilities.


Applying knowledge about feral horses on all horses – Lucy Rees

Horses, of course, evolved as prey animals, although their defence behaviour has hitherto not been studied. Observations on feral horses predated by puma and jaguar lead to a new, adaptive interpretation of their social relations based on the self-organising algorithm of coherence, synchrony and non-collision, the formula that allows safe massed flight. Their natural lives do not include competition, resource control or power relations and there are no dominance hierarchies or fixed leaders. Horses do not share our concept of authority but cooperate in collective defence.

Applying these principles in training, handling, riding and therapy opens the way to human-horse relations that horses naturally understand and the development of interactions and games that invite voluntary synchrony and cooperation.


An alternative perspective on equine-human interaction and equine welfare – Arieahn Matamonasa-Bennett

In 2013 the author, (an EAT practitioner and researcher) completed research which addressed the need for discourse and dialogue on ethics in the fields of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) in general and equine-assisted therapy (EAT) specifically. Utilizing animals as partners in a therapeutic process requires major cultural paradigm shifts regarding intelligence and emotion and consideration of the ethical implications for the care and agency of these animals. There is a paucity of literature and very little is known about the impact that therapy has on animals. The 2013 study suggests that this blind spot may be the result of the legacy of underlying, post-Christian, Western scientific beliefs about human-animal relation- ships. Practitioners in the field tend to fall into the broad categories of ‘utilitarians’ or ‘stewards’. The author, an EAT practitioner from Native American cultural healing tradition, offers suggestions on the ways in which Native American constructs about animals may provide valuable alternatives to commonly-held Western view- points creating opportunities for deeper, more authentic relationships, reciprocity and a greater understanding of horse-human relationships.