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 Post subject: Horses for Therapy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 11:45 am 

Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2007 5:11 pm
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Location: Wiltshire, England
If this question is in the wrong place I apologise!

A woman came to visit me to discuss how she "uses her horses to help damaged people"

and I wondered if we have any rights to "use" a horse - or any living creature - even if it be invisible way.

Is 'using' the horse in an emotional capacity any better than 'using' in a physical one?

I'm interested to know how people see this - as I'm unclear. When I try to untangle my feelings around it I find myself plunging into my own judgements about who I might or might not allow to interact with my horses.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 12:02 pm 
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I wonder if anyone does anything else than using horses. Or using other people. When we have our horses just because we love them and want them to be happy, that´s nothing else than saying that we get our personal benefit out of seeing that they are happy or maybe even like to be with us.

For me, every motivation to do things in general and to interact with others (people or animals) in particular can be tracked back to a selfish source. I don´t think that this is bad, not at all, for me this is just natural. But it becomes important when I wonder how to set my criteria for evaluating things, because if I think that motives for acting are necessarily selfish, then I can´t use the person´s motives as criteria but have to choose an outside criterion: the effect on others. So for me the main criterion in judging if an action is good or not is the question if the other one (horse, dog, partner, child...) does benefit or at least isn´t negatively affected by that.

To put it in a nutshell: for me, using horses for therapy is okay as long as the horses benefit from that, like it or at least don´t mind.


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 Post subject: Re: Horses for Therapy
PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 7:17 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2008 7:38 pm
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Location: UK
Diane wrote:
If this question is in the wrong place I apologise!

A woman came to visit me to discuss how she "uses her horses to help damaged people"

and I wondered if we have any rights to "use" a horse - or any living creature - even if it be invisible way.


Hi Diane, I am reading a book called ' Horses and the Mystical Path ' by Adele von Rust McCormick, PhD, for the most part it is about the relationship of the Iberian horse and humans. However the McCormicks do use their horses in therapy with damaged people, I have to admit that I am not comfortable with some of the descriptions of their work. Here is a quote from the book about a horse called Alicia ridden by a young girl called Carlin.

"Alicia took off running, and Carlin began to scream. She kept yelling 'I want to get off.' However that was not an option any more . Alicia flew around the arena, and all Carlin could do was hang on for dear life. We told her to stop wrenching Alicia's mouth and to stop screaming, but by that time she was to frightened to hear us."

I think it is wrong to use a horse in this way, my horses would be horrified by this. When my young niece and nephew come to visit I teach them to be kind and gentle around the horses. They are good children but even their childish behaviour can sometimes upset the horses.

Eileen

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 8:33 pm 
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Location: Norway
I think it is different form each horse..

I have four horses. Two of them would hate any kind of therapy for other people as they are not so fond of strangers. But the other two, if the people was thaught to interact with them in a positive way - they would love it. They LOVE interaction with every people and to explore new things.

But the riding around in circles I am not so fond of. I have been working with horses in therapy ten years ago, and some of it was people riding (for their bodies, it was a physiotherapist who was in charge of that). But a lot of the people came also for the interaction. thay cam just to be close. And the horses there liked it very much. I especially remember one girl - the only time she smiled during the whole week was when I walked her in the stable. In the door, watching the horses. opening the door to a horse, going into the box and toutch it... ONLY time she smiled. The horse choosen for this was of course one that loved to be with people.

YES, I think it is worth it. If done in a way that is good also for the horses.....


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 10:29 pm 
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Location: Pacific Northwest U.S.
I can't imagine having horses for therapy that are not "lesson" trained. That is, horses trained to respond to the teacher or handler over the rider.

It is natural, when horses work together for a period of time, if one uses voice commands to the students, that the horses begin to know and respond.

My "ready halt" would stop a runaway horse in an instant.

Though I worked mostly with advanced level students I did like to have a little class of beginners. It reminded me of many things I needed to remember with the more advanced students ... that the fundamentals are always important.

Two things are important for beginners. A riding area with no corners, and deep deep soft surface for the ring.

I used two feet of sawdust, and had it turned a bit each day to loosen it. It eased the horse's bodies, and that of the little (and sometimes not so little) bodies of any tykes that fell off.

In addition I taught my lesson horses to stop if a rider was falling. I had a few horses that if a child got out of balance would move to get back under them to keep them on their backs.

Self preservation I think, more than anything. Having even a small child hanging off the side of a horse by the reins hurts.

Donald R.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 6:49 am 
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I think "using" can be viewed in many ways. I "use" my family, friends and animals for companionship, fun, exercise, entertainment, interaction, emotional warmth, to avoid loneliness, to overcome sorrow and depression, to relieve anxiety and stress, a whole bunch of stuff.

BUT this only works if the other creature is maximum comfortable and happy, so it becomes a "mutual admiration society" instead of a one-sided "I take and you give" relationship. That is where I identify the borderline - selfish or mutual? My animals "use" me to get food, care and interaction. My family uses me for a whole bunch of stuff. They all give back as much if not more than they take.

For example: I "use" food to get energy which is good and correct and healthy, but if I was using food for comfort or to become obese or to prevent someone else getting it that would be wrong and unhealthy.

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 Post subject: Re: Horses for Therapy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 5:47 pm 
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Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2008 12:03 am
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Location: Washington, Maine USA
Diane wrote:
I'm interested to know how people see this - as I'm unclear. When I try to untangle my feelings around it I find myself plunging into my own judgements about who I might or might not allow to interact with my horses.


Hi Diane,

Good question! And one that has many answers, as some of the previous posts explain.

Of course there are many different types of 'therapy', some simply physical, others have emotional benefit. For me it's how INVASIVE to the animal the therapy is. The horse that was bolting around the arena is invasive,

One type of therapy is using the predator/prey model or pressure/release. From what I have seen and read, the 'damaged' human (predator) learns to set boundaries by using -R (pressure/release) on the horse (prey).

Now it's very gentle -R of course (not like some round penning) but the people there are still learning how to use AVERSIVES to control another creature. Now maybe they do need to learn to say "My space...stay out! because of abusive histories, etc. But just think how cool (for both creatures) it would be if they taught them to use postive reinforcement to communicate instead (or as well)...now that's good therapy, eh?

Hmmmmmm....food for thought.

Brenda

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 5:49 pm 
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Location: provincie Utrecht
i go along with Romy..i think that is true what she was writing.
did you have seen this site?
http://www.taoofequus.com/
I have read her books, she is realy good.
i think if you use the horse "this way" and the horse is the first thing and the second the people who need some help it is okay. It is the horses decission to work together or not.

I think that animals can help you to learn who and what you are, only when you are ready for it, and realy wanted to know.
It is your own mind who has to be open for everything
and the animal can be a miror for you.

But i know that there are now a lot of people who think they can help people but they do not "use" their animals on the right way. As you understand what i mean.
And those i think are wrong...
The animal (do not care which one) must be the first. The helper must read his animal and stop when the animal said NO.
But some people missed that point


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 5:57 pm 
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Location: Washington, Maine USA
Romy wrote:
For me, every motivation to do things in general and to interact with others (people or animals) in particular can be tracked back to a selfish source. I don´t think that this is bad, not at all, for me this is just natural.


Yup! The bottom line is we all seek reinforcement! The problem is is that almost all crime provides reinforcement for the criminal, either positive and/or negative <G>. So I think that is it not always good...natural yes, as it is just the laws of behavior at work...we (and our horses!) seek pleasant consequences and avoid aversive consequences.

Brenda

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 9:39 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 16, 2007 7:51 pm
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Location: Netherlands
Good question! And answers too, I have little to add but to say that I don't have a clear stance on horse theraphy either.

I think humans can benefit greatly from it, but I've also read repeatedly that animals (especially horses and dogs) used for mentally disabled need time to get rid of the emotional and mental pressure that this work contains. Horses who aren't emotionally suited for this work - or become overworked - get depressed and shut down mentally and emotionally easily. I've also heard from people who have stronger telepathic abilities or are hypersensitive that they need a lot of time to regain their mental balance when they've been in contact (telepathic or regular) with ADHD- and autistic humans/animals.

My worry about therapy-horses, is that horses who have an introvert and withdrawn up to depressed character often are seen as the most suited for this work (or as beginners riding horses is riding school) as they don't act out or stand up for themselves. And that is very counter-productive for their well-being.

So I don't know what to think either. I think that the most important thing for the horse is that he is emotionally/mentally equipped for this work, that he has a lot of time and recreational activities to get his mind off the job regularly, and that he is taught that his own opinions and feelings are still important and should be shown when needed. But it's a difficult balance, because as the riders are disabled, the horses are held under control all the time in order not to accidentally hurt the rider.

Tough question...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 8:56 am 
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Location: Norway
I have only worked this one place with therapy. And I think this is a quite uniqe plase - the owner is really nothing like any other horse-people I have met before.

But I can tell my experiences from there. There was therapy only twise a week, tuesday and thursday. The rest of the week this horses was race horses - yes, you read right, they was high performance trotters!! Okay, now you can say anything you like about that - but shut dow is very far from the description of these horses. And they was not in any sense of hard control during the therapy. They was usually in a lead, but a long lead. Or with better developed people they might was in the riding arena.

I can relate to Mirim, as I think maybe the only thing that these horses did not show they liked very well was very running/screaming kids (there was a few of those one hour a week).

But the people in wheelchair, who was unable to move - they was supported on the horse back - and the horses behaved so well with them, and seemed to understand of themselves they should be calm.

The strong mental cases didn't even ride often, just was there, saying hello to the horses, being around. The horses showed only positive interest - at least the ones I worked with in this.

There was no people dragging their reins, no people bumping their backs no people smashing their legs or a whip - I would much more want this for my horses than a riding-school....

Only "bad" I can say is that sometimes, with strongly damaged people, we sat together with them on the horseback, holding their balnce (they was unable to sit). This is of course much weight on the horseback....

A lot of peple thinks it is quite a present to work with damaged people (sorry the word, don't know any better). Find so much comfort in helping them get a better life, get joy in life.... I think so with some horses too.... But not all horses, and not all people. And not in any way of course. But this job, I could go into today again. The horses there was totally alive and joyful - not depressed and shut down at all....

But the owner was this kind of man that thinks anything works - horses are born good, and will stay good if allowed. All was his breed so they had grown up there, and not seen much bad in their lifes. He was really at the point of naive in my mind when I first got to know him - but later I understood he kew his horses, and he believed in them....


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 11:05 am 
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Location: Netherlands
I didn't mean to say anything against your experience, sorry!

I can only relate to what I know from the situation in the Netherlands, and I know at least some of the riding schools for the disabled that use the horses much more, up to daily and they have to be ridden by their caretakers at least once a week or they get sour/depressed. I think it was about two years ago that there was a new law instated over here that therapy horses should not be held on the headstall/bridle while leading the horses around during the lessons. The leash can now only be held up to 30 cm of the head and not closer, so that the horse still has space to move on his own and isn't kept in one bend all the time (towards the guide).

My view on therapy/riding horses is also somewhat colored by an experience I had last year when we used a riding school pony in a clickertraining clinic. She didn't do anything, didn't move if she didn't have to and was just so quiet, locked up mentally and depressed. With the clicker we carefull managed to get her out of that mental confinement and within half an hour she was extremely eager to earn the clicks, to show initiative and to offer ideas and exercises. She was totally changed, and when we walked her out of the training area she was very lively and interested in her environtment again - right up to the moment that she noticed that we were bringing her back to the pasture, signalling that this training was over. She slowed down, became silent, stood still frequently and when put in the pasture she turned round and very politely showed that she wanted to walk out with us again, looking really sad. It really broke my heart, and when I told the riding school owner how much she liked the training and asked if she was for sale, or to be retired soon (as she was quite old), he replied that they wouldn't sell her to anyone because she was the best beginner pony they had as she never did anything that wasn't asked and always did what she was told to do. I know that some horses really don't seem to mind being in a riding school and have no problems at all with staying true to themselves and sticking up for their opinions, but only now I realised that the horses who don't do all that (anymore) are actually often seen as the best beginners horses. I don't want to generalize and state that that is always the case, but it's something to be aware of.

I think it could actually be very beneficial to your therapy horses that they were race horses (or at least did something completely different with other people), as running (when they're not forced to) really refreshes the mind, something that I can also see with Blacky and Sjors.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 2:21 pm 
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Location: Norway
I completely see what you mean Miriam! I have also been in different riding-schools and seen the same. And I do know some places they also do therapy-riding.

I think this place I was in was quite uniqe - even if it was trotters and I really don't like all in that buissiness....

I, who was reaised in regular riding-schools. learned to watch out for kicks and bites, watch out for anything horses might do to get rid of you - and ESPECIALLY so if beginners and/or handocapped people around....

I thaught this man was pretty nuts actually. he could have his mares in the middle of the stablefloor (tied in their halter) and stallions in the boxes all around. Then there came a group of totally unexperienced people - some could not even walk... If someone mentioned horses might kick - he replied "nonsens!! Horses don't kick - where have you learned that??" :shock: Then he followed them around the horses to show.

He trusted his horses completely. Every one of them was born there (except two older mares, but they had been there for about 20 years). So he knew his horses, and I, who was used to people mistrust their horses all the way looked at him as inresponable. I really thaught he was. But there never happened anything - except if there came some EXPERIENCED horse-people, who came to "show the horses where the closet should be kept". THEN there might happend someone gpt thrown off or ran out with or something.

It is really not until the last year, after NHE and here I have really understood that the reason the owner behaved that way was because he TRUSTED his horses.... I never kne anyone who trusted their horses I think, until him....

(Oh, and not all the horses was used for therapy - a few showed they did not like it and they didn't have to. A few didn't like the riding part, and got driven in the wagon instead. I bet today I had seen some of them did not like it but still did as well, but that is really not my main impression - but this man is really not "normal" either. Oh - and I have taken the thread off topic, but it was kind of tot try to explain that it CAN be done well..... 8) :lol: )


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 4:13 pm 
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we have had a group of horses who had a little holiday of there ridingschool. They get every year a few weeks off and go into the fields and may eat as much as they can.
They are from the handicap-horse-school nearby. Smoe of them walk in front of a wagon or under a bed. And some of them used as a riding horse and some of them for therapy. Everyday when they are at home go for a few ours in to their own field, a few minits away from their stables. The rest of the day in the stable again. And do some work...

They let check their horses many times a year by a "natural" vet. (for the dutch people Eric Laarakker) so they are realy interested in their horses and they don't use them only for earning money as in regular ridingschools.
They do almost all with voluntiers, that's one of the reason why people love the horses so much.

it is great to see that there are some horseschools who are different then others.
Some of them knows realy how horses react on the disabled people. Some horses just walked away, done with work. And some of them said goodby to whom who they had worked with.
The disabled people enjoy such moments and you see them growing if they have a horse who just walked away they are a bit dissapointed.
Ill see this too with dogs.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 3:41 pm 

Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2007 5:11 pm
Posts: 9
Location: Wiltshire, England
Hmmm well ...not sure I am much clearer myself but thank you all for your marvellously interesting responses and thoughts.

Two of my horses have been extensively 'used' in the past - one to race and one to showjump before they came to live with us. I don't feel they should be asked to do any more. I ask them to tell me if they would like to do something - go for a walk in hand, to play, be ridden, or a gallop...whatever. I wouldn't feel comfortable asking them to offer humans therapy - I like to think that's what I am giving the horses - some therapy, their lives back to themselves... who knows which is what? But I think they have given enough of themselves to satisfy human needs. But how much of this is what I am projecting on to my horses?

My other pony - he's only 8 ish and I feel he wants to 'do' something ...he loves to play and get out and about but since his past had bad treatment I feel he is tense around people he doesn't know too well. Again ...is this me? How I see the world? I do believe the horses are our mirrors so what I see in them is something I need to own for myself. Am I tense around people I don't know? Have I given enough of myself over the years?

I have read the 'Tao of Equus' and 'Riding between the Worlds' and the earlier McCormack book and all the time I felt uneasy about subjecting the horses to humans' messed up emotions.

It's not raining in England today - which is rare this 'summer' - so I think I'll go and ask the horses again. (A good excuse to hang out with them for a bit!)
Thanks all ...very thought provoking


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