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Developing Sentient Partnerships, Part I: Language Matters

19 April 2021

The language and words we use matters: after all, it’s the starting point and foundation upon which all else grows.

The words we use reflect our mind-set and attitudes. These in turn directly influence our behaviour and the behaviour of those we impact in our work. We hold an important position in this regard as we can greatly influence the people we work with through how we speak and write about our work with horses.

Language also influences the wider culture, so we have a responsibility and an opportunity to contribute to a positive shift in the way humans regard animals and the natural world generally when we consciously shift our own language.

I take as my starting point that I am partnering with sentient beings. I work with; alongside and in partnership with horses. Horse are my partners, colleagues and fellow team members. We collaborate and in this way bring the best of both worlds to the table, or rather, field.

To shift into this kind of habitual way of regarding our practice moves us out of unconscious, harmful and out-dated modes of thinking and practice. We move away from top-down beliefs and actions which involve "using" horses, or any other animal, as tool, vehicles or props, towards an entirely new focus and outcome:

We carry out this work together; each species contributing, benefiting and learning from the other equally and positively. Each lifting the other up to their highest possible potential and in so doing, not only do we create and ensure the best possible conditions for our horses to bring the most they can to the session. But in the process, we also model to our clients, participants and trainees a new way of regarding horses which honours their sentience, well-being and fulfilment in every moment. This is where no response or feedback from the horse is disregarded, overlooked or downplayed to serve our own purposes. Nor do we ask our horses to do something which is potentially or actually undesirable or detrimental to them, in order to serve our client.

© Angela Dunning, The Horse’s Truth.
Author: 'The Horse Leads the Way: Honoring the True Role of the Horse in Equine Facilitated Practice'.

See also:
Sentient Partnerships Part II: Sentience and Sapience in Equines. (Coming Soon).
Sentient Partnerships Part III: Sentience in Action - How to Practice: A Code of Ethics and Practical Toolkit for Equine Facilitated/Assisted Services. (Coming Soon).

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