It’s damn hard to cast-off the shackles of Patriarchy and its false legacy embedded in us from day one: that we humans have control over nature.
We are taught to suppress our feelings, control our body and our intuition from an early age. This is mirrored around us in our relationships to animals - our domesticated pets for instance, who seem to exist to serve us and who we have more or less complete control over. It is further reinforced in the wider world and the distorted relationship so many have to nature in general: the environment, all of its non-human species, the natural supplies of oil, gas, minerals, and even our attempts to control the elements. We even strive to conquer space in our desperate attempts to not feel impotent and out of control; which we ultimately absolutely are, of course.
Rather than work in harmony with nature, as our ancestors did and as some still try to do today despite the massive pressure to conform to modern-day destructive patterns, as a species we aim to control and dominate nature. Using and abusing our natural world to great peril which we are only now presently acutely aware of, despite an environmental movement that spans decades...
So, perhaps it is inevitable then that when nature tries to push her way back into our consciousness through the form of animal-led therapies, that at times we are at risk of falling back to sleep, and back into our default position of feeling we are the ones who need to still lead and control the process.
As we try to walk a new path, where another species leads the way, it can be hard to remember to really defer to them and let them lead us.
Therefore, for those of us practicing in animal-facilitated or assisted therapy and learning programmes, we need to be ever vigilant to the tempting pull back into this false legacy, and remind ourselves and our staff to really listen to and honour our horses: To always pay attention to their suggestions and feedback. And to avoid falling back to sleep and into our regressive, ego-led position of thinking that we, as the human part of this inter-species partnership, always know best.
In order to best serve our clients and to honor our horses’ help and gifts, I believe we need to take a vow of intent when we partner with another species: To honor and respect our horses and allow them the freedom to initiate the way forward, both for us in terms of our own growth and that of our clients.
In equine facilitated interventions it is the horse who needs to lead the way. It is the lessons from the horses which make this work so unique and powerful, and which seems to have the greatest impact on our clients. As interactions where the horses choose to engage with clients, can leave an indelible, positive and embodied impression that will never be forgotten.
Without this as the primary default of our practice, we merely offer another human-led intervention with some horses in the mix to varying degrees.
© Angela Dunning, 5 April 2016
My book The Horse Leads the Way: Honoring the True Role of the Horse in Equine Facilitated Practice is available to buy directly from me or via Amazon.