In order for Equine Facilitated or Assisted work to be clean, authentic and free from false interpretation, the following fundamental principles ensure best practice for the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing being of all horses engaged in any form of therapeutic, coaching or human development and learning modality.
All professional and responsible equine facilitators, instructors, therapists and coaches working with horses must have knowledge of the innate needs of horse and their natural behaviours both in the wild and in domestication in order to:
· Fully recognise suppressed or stressed horse behaviours.
· Fully understand the principles of projections, transference and counter transference and know how to handle these powerful dynamics both in themselves and their clients.
· Fully accept the principles that when domesticated horses live according to a more natural herd lifestyle, the innate needs of horses are best met.
The equines work as our co-facilitators and it is of the upmost important that their welfare and wellbeing is looked after. The 5 freedoms as set out by the Farm Animal Welfare Council ensure a basic level of welfare:
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
2. Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
In additon to this, all professional and responsible equine facilitators, instructors, therapists and coaches working with horses must:
· Be attuned to the fact that horses are highly sensitive to the energetic intentions and feelings in other beings and are easily affected by them. In work with highly emotional or disturbed people, horses must work only few hours per week and they must be given regular long periods of rest.
· Complete routine welfare checks before, during and after every session are needed for all horses in equine facilitated or assisted work. Any horses showing signs of undue stress or discomfort must not work.
· Agree to turn out horses into the herd after any assisted or facilitated session, where ever possible. Horses naturally shake and run off any stressors that may have occurred and they will easily relax into the normal state ‘back to grazing’ which is not possible if they are shut into stables or isolated from other horses.
· Organise regular health checks by independent professional healers, equine body workers, osteopaths, vets, dentists, farriers and equine behaviorists to monitor the health of the herd and ensure transparent accountability for the welfare needs of horses employed in facilitated or assisted work.
Not all horses are suitable for facilitated or assisted work particularly rescued traumatized or abused horses. Horses with difficult back grounds must have rehabilitation time need to fully recover - this can takes years.
All horses must be given a choice to work or not and they must have the freedom to choose how they will interact with the human. Horses must have enough space to make a choice of interacting or not and be free to walk away safely from the human if they so choose.
Vital healthy horses need a variety of work, play and exploration interests in order that do not become bored, frustrated or sour. We strongly recommend the ideas noted in Jamie Jackson's book "Paddock Paradise" .
Respectful appreciation at the end of any time shared together just feels good - so please remember to always thank your horses.
Additionally, Animal Welfare Act (UK 2006) requires owners of any horse, pony, donkey or mule to ensure the animal:
1. Has a suitable environment to live in
2. Has a healthy diet
3. Is able to behave normally
4. Has appropriate company
5. Is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
Animal Welfare Act (UK 2006): http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/45/contents
Coates, M. (2008). Connecting with Horses: The Life Lessons We Can Learn From Horses. Ulysses Press.
Farm Animal Welfare Council (1979). The Five Freedoms: Press Statement: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20121007104210/http://www.fawc.org.uk/pdf/fivefreedoms1979.pdf
Kohanov, L. (2001). The Tao of Equus: A Woman's Journey of Healing and Transformation through the Way of the Horse. Novato, CA: New World Library.
Kohanov, L. (2003). Riding between the Worlds: Expanding Our Potential through the Way of the Horse. Novato, CA: New World Library.
Jackson, J. (2007). Paddock Paradise. Arkansas USA: Star Ridge Publishing.
Jackson, J. (1992). The Natural Horse: Lessons From The Wild. US: Northland Publishing.