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What Is The Wider Context Of Equine Facilitated/Assisted Practice?

7 May 2022

Shifting the Paradigm - Our Responsibilities as Facilitators:

The horses can show us where we need to go, if we let them...

The wider context of equine facilitated work for me is about creating healing and balance, both within humans but also between humans and the natural world, specifically in our case with horses.

Therefore, there’s a mutual benefit implied and indeed the potential for this method truly is that it can be mutually beneficial; to positively affect both species, as well as the wider context of humans and the natural world being in greater harmony, balance and reciprocity.

Now, the element of reciprocity is vital. There has to be a two-way exchange and agreement between people and horses, otherwise we simply replicate the out-dated and harmful practices of ‘taking from’ nature which has got us in the dreadful mess we are now in, where we are utterly out of balance with both our own inner-nature as animals, and with the natural world.

Instead, we can create programmes that involve mutual consideration from the outset; that engender mutual benefits in terms of healing, health, well-being, enjoyment and expanded potential. This IS possible. We don’t have to continue replicating the typical human-centric approach where we TAKE from nature.

We can learn to work on a more equal basis, in partnership and always, ALWAYS with mutuality and reciprocity at the forefront of our minds in everything we plan and do.

We can change this paradigm through our work, our approach and how we talk about and present this work.

We can start to shift our own and others’ attitudes to horses and thus nature. We can stop taking and instead work together in harmony and partnership with another species.

But all of this comes down to be willing to change ourselves first. To seriously reflect on our own attitude, approach and our usual way of relating to horses; to be willing to stretch ourselves beyond our traditional techniques and mind-sets and to consider the horses at all times, and to consider that they can show us where we need to go, rather than the old human-led approach.

It is time to meet the horses more on their terms and their own ground and for us to shift out of our cosy human-centric world where animals are mere appendages or convenient ‘tools’ to improve our lives, personally and professionally.

We are all becoming increasingly aware of our impact as a species on the planet, the natural world and all other species we share it with. I passionately believe that our work is not separate to this, rather it is a fundamental part of it; a microcosm of what is happening on the global level. We cannot equally promote the benefits of working with and learning from nature to our clients, funding agencies and the wider public, whilst contributing to a system and mind-set which continues to take from nature. To do so is counter-productive and short-sighted in my view and dishonours the contribution of horses and their continued spirit of engagement and connection with humans.

Instead, we need to think and act in ways that are morally and ethically the right thing for both species concerned and which ultimately contribute to both species’ healing on all levels: individual, collective and global.

©Angela Dunning, 7th May 2022

Author: The Horse Leads the Way: Honoring the True Role of the Horse in Equine Facilitated Practice', 2017.

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