Human – Horse Interactions and Relationships – Relating, Bonding, and Attaching: An Introduction – Ilka Parent

What takes place when horses and humans meet and interact in a therapeutic setting? Studies confirm that during any psychotherapeutic process, the quality of the relationship between the psychotherapist and the client has proven to predict positive outcome with much higher accuracy than any chosen treatment method. But what happens when the primary relationship is transferred to the horses? This presentation will provide a review of up to date literature on how humans interact with their environment, how relationships are formed, what they typically consist of and what is necessary for humans to be able to relate, bond and attach. The question as to the effects such relationships and bonds may have on the horses will be explored by providing a current literature review of the psychological and physiological effects during human-equine interactions, e.g the integrative function of oxtocin, leaving room to explore the ethical considerations necessary to take place to ensure the equines’ wellbeing in human-equine interaction programs.


Natural Lifemanship’s Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (TF-EAP™) – Tim Jobe and Bettina Shultz-Jobe

Supported by neurobiology research, TF-EAP conceptualizes the relationship between the human therapy client and the horse as a real relationship; the horse is not a surrogate nor is the relationship metaphorical. The horse is an essential member of the therapy team and is neither considered a tool, nor an object, nor simply a producer of bilateral rhythmic movement. TF-EAP revolves around the client building a connected relationship with the horse based on principles that apply seamlessly to human relationships. It is through the connection with the horse and the physiological benefits of mounted work that the client experiences the actual changes in the brain that heal the effects of trauma. This presentation will offer an overview of the TF-EAP™ model, which includes ground and mounted work, and in particular the role of the horse, and how the horse’s needs, safety and wellbeing are accounted for.


The Horse as a Sentient Partner in Equine Facilitated Practice: A Practical, Ethical Approach That Honors the Horse’s True Role – Angela Dunning

This presentation will focus on three specific components that are crucial to reducing stress and adverse effects while maintaining the horses’ health, wellness, enjoyment and happiness: 1) the horse’s true role in equine facilitated practice and how to work in a way that respects and honors them, their wisdom, feedback and needs; 2) the key benefits of adopting a somatic and embodied approach to equine facilitated partnerships for the horses, human facilitators and clients; and 3) further reducing the human interruptive (ego-based) element and enhancing the horses’ natural input. The importance of fostering equine choice, clear boundaries, respect and empowerment will be reviewed. Drawing on elements of her own approach as well as the Eponaquest Approach, Angela will share how horses have repeatedly taught her to drop her agenda, let them take the lead, and trust their choices and actions beyond anything else she might think she knows about them and beyond what she might wish her clients would experience with them.


EQUUSOMA: Incorporating Somatic Experiencing® and Attachment Theory to Guide Equine-Facilitated Trauma Therapy – Sarah Schlote

Founded in principles drawn from the field of trauma-informed care, the EQUUSOMA approach to equine-facilitated trauma therapy emphasizes the importance of understanding mammalian psychophysiology, trauma/survival responses, and attachment dynamics in order to provide an experience that is beneficial and reduces the risk of harm/retraumatization for both human and equine participants alike. The window of tolerance, activation cycle framework, 5 components of attachment, and principle of titration will be discussed as practical tools that guide interventions within this model and how they are applied as a lens and gauge of horse-human interactions.


The Inside of a Man-Made Herd – Vanessa Lee-Jones

Vanessa will share her experiences of living with her herd of 15 horses, mules ad donkeys over the past 7 years, as well as her observations of the herd’s evolution and functioning on their family’s 12 hectares of land. More specifically, she will describe the three levels of relationship: the equines with one another, the equines with her and her mother, and the equines with clients. Being able to understand these three dynamics from the animals’ viewpoint is what ensures that a working partnership with them is reliable and trustworthy. Particular focus will be on the equines’ vision of a herd life, their vision of working as an individual partner in equine-assisted programs, the different traits and contributions of horses, donkeys and mules, and the place of senior equines in this work.


Heart Connection Work: The Horse in a HEAL-Based Approach – Eva Balzer

Imagine living fully as a horse, roaming over large areas with your herd, foraging, finding water sources, forming and navigating relationships, raising young, and sensing safety or threats, all without words. Now imagine being a horse meeting human beings who tell you who you are, what you need, make decisions for you, and tell you they want to help you and be with you because they love you, without ever asking for your opinion. This presentation will invite participants to explore the horse’s point of view, and to be open to letting go of pre-conceived notions and methods to let the horses lead by simply being themselves. After sharing part of her story and how she came to change her way of being with horses, Eva will also provide an introduction to the HEAL (Human Equine Alliances for Learning) model and how the horses are seen and worked with from within this particular approach.