ArticlePDF Available

Horses, mindfulness and the natural environment: Observations from a qualitative study with at-risk young people participating in therapeutic horsemanship

  • Sirona Therapeutic Horsemanship, United Kingdom


The field of Equine-Assisted Learning and Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAL/T) where horses are co-facilitators in therapeutic and learning interventions claims to offer valuable benefits for young people and adults experiencing psychosocial difficulties. Some of the reported positive outcomes from participating in EAL/T include growths in self-confidence and self-esteem, increasing self-awareness and behaviour modification, building trust and attachment, and a host of other physical and mental health benefits. However, the area of how being with horses may enable participants to experience benefits from the natural environment together with aspects of mindfulness has received little attention. This paper is drawn from a qualitative, ethnographic, doctoral research study with seven "at-risk" young people aged between 11-21 years participating in a Therapeutic Horsemanship programme in the UK. In addition to similar themes identified above the study found benefits related to the mindfulness and nature therapy literature. These included "being calm" and relaxation, being "in the moment", psychospiritual aspects of "feeling free", and links to theories of "emotion regulation" and "authentic functioning" (Chambers et al. 2009; Heppner and Kernis 2007). The study has clinical implications to the fields of social work and psychotherapy as it suggests that horses may offer a valuable additional intervention for "at-risk" young people who may benefit from alternative therapeutic and learning experiences.
The International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation
Horses, Mindfulness and the Natural Environment:
Observations from a Qualitative Study with At-Risk Young
People Participating in Therapeutic Horsemanship
Dr Hannah Louise Burgon
Cardiff University, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff, UK
Burgon, HL (2013). Horses, Mindfulness and the Natural Environment: observations from a
qualitative study with at-risk young people participating in Therapeutic Horsemanship. International
Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation. Vol 17(2) 51-67
Hannah Burgon
Sirona Therapeutic Horsemanship CIC
The field of Equine-Assisted Learning and Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAL/T) where horses
are co-facilitators in therapeutic and learning interventions claims to offer valuable benefits
for young people and adults experiencing psychosocial difficulties. Some of the reported
positive outcomes from participating in EAL/T include growths in self-confidence and self-
esteem, increasing self-awareness and behaviour modification, building trust and attachment,
and a host of other physical and mental health benefits. However, the area of how being with
horses may enable participants to experience benefits from the natural environment together
with aspects of mindfulness has received little attention. This paper is drawn from a
qualitative, ethnographic, doctoral research study with seven “at-risk” young people aged
between 11-21 years participating in a Therapeutic Horsemanship programme in the UK. In
addition to similar themes identified above the study found benefits related to the
mindfulness and nature therapy literature. These included “being calm” and relaxation, being
“in the moment”, psychospiritual aspects of “feeling free”, and links to theories of “emotion
regulation” and “authentic functioning” (Chambers et al. 2009; Heppner and Kernis 2007).
The study has clinical implications to the fields of social work and psychotherapy as it
suggests that horses may offer a valuable additional intervention for “at-risk” young people
who may benefit from alternative therapeutic and learning experiences.
Keywords Equine-Assisted Learning; Equine-Assisted Therapy; Mindfulness; At-Risk
Young People, Nature Therapy; Ecotherapy
The paper is drawn from the larger doctoral qualitative ethnographic study I
completed into the benefits of Therapeutic Horsemanship (TH), which also discusses themes
related to the risk and resilience literature, attachment theory, and psychotherapeutic themes
of relationship, identification, projection and metaphor. It is based upon a TH programme I
established whilst working for a foster care company in order to provide an alternative
therapeutic intervention for young people in foster care assessed as requiring additional
therapeutic and/or learning support. The young people participating in the study were
understood to be “at-risk” due to their psychosocial disadvantages and backgrounds and
therefore at possible increased danger of experiencing negative life outcomes (Rutter 1995;
Masten et al. 1990). Therapeutic Horsemanship and its allied professions, Equine-Assisted
Learning and Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAL/T), seek to provide meaningful therapeutic and
educational experiences where participants can gain psychosocial skills and resilience factors
to enable them to have more positive futures.
Horses have played a fundamental role in shaping our modern world since they were
first ridden between 4-6,000 years ago, most visibly in transport, agriculture and war. In
addition, the cave paintings of horses in Pech-Merle in France indicate that early mankind
revered horses and believed them to possess magical healing powers. Indeed, the medical
profession has links to the Greek philosopher Hippocrates the word hippo meaning horse
(Chamberlin 2007; Mayberry 1978). Because of their close and long relationship with
humans it is argued that this has resulted in a special relationship with the horse that has
archetypal and healing significance (All et al. 1999; Kohanov 2001; McCormick and
McCormick 1997, 2004) and that “horses have been shown by anthropologists to be deeply
implicated in the production and reproduction of culture and society” (Latimer and Birke
2009, p. 2).
More recently the field of Equine Facilitated Mental Health and Education which
includes Equine-Assisted/Facilitated Therapy, Equine-Assisted/Facilitated Learning, Equine-
Assisted/Facilitated Psychotherapy (all amalgamated as EAL/T for the sake of this paper) and
Therapeutic Horsemanship (TH), is capitalising on the unique characteristics of the horse to
provide therapeutic interventions to young people and adults (Hallberg 2008). Emerging
studies are claiming that EAL/T can provide many benefits ranging from building confidence
and self-esteem, increases in self-awareness and mental health, opportunity for positive
behavioural change, and for building healthy attachments and relationships with both the
horse and therapist (Bass et al. 2009; Bizub et al. 2003; Burgon 2003, 2011; Ewing et al.
2007; Kaiser et al. 2004; Schultz et al. 2007; Trotter et al. 2008; Virdine et al. 2002; Yorke et
al. 2008).
Despite the fact that a large element of EAL/T is that it is located in the outdoors due
to the nature of the horses’ habitat, the natural environment is not mentioned as a factor in the
therapeutic process of EAL/T in the majority of studies. A notable exception is Garcia (2010)
who argues that equine-facilitated activities can provide opportunities for ecological
awareness through “transformative experiences that positively influence relationship to self,
others, and the ecology of the Earth” (Garcia 2010, p. 88).
Claims for the benefit of being in the natural environment are wide ranging, from its
spiritual, aesthetic, and physical realms, to the more recent fields known as nature therapy,
ecotherapy and ecopsychology (Rozak et al. 1995). Biophilia theory proposes that we have
an innate connection and affinity with nature which is essential to our health and wellbeing
(Kellert and Wilson 1993; Nebbe 2000). Other authors suggest that a multitude of conditions
ranging from rising obesity, mental health issues and even a lack of vitamin D are the result
of our modern technological lifestyles which have corresponded in a distancing from the
natural environment (Louv 2008; Misra et al. 2008; Munoz 2009). Conversely, spending time
in nature is claimed to lead to stress reduction (Korpela et al. 2001) is important in children’s
development and learning, for young people with attention deficit disorder (Kellert 2002;
Taylor et al. 2001) and can be a useful therapeutic setting as it can “diminish hierarchies”
(Berger and McCleod 2006, p. 91). Furthermore, the natural environment can provide
“attention restoration” benefits where participants can get away from negative thoughts
(Kaplan 1995; Korpela et al. 2001).
I go on to provide examples of how the young people participating in the TH study
seemed to gain benefits from being with horses in the natural environment later in this paper,
and how these have links to both the mindfulness and nature therapy literature. Mindfulness
practices are based around bringing moment-to moment awareness (Kabat-Zinn 1994) and
being “a method for observing what is happening right now, in our bodies, minds and the
world around us” (Halliwell 2010, p.16). Mindfulness is also concerned with bringing an
uncritical approach to our thoughts and feelings and instead just seeing them as “mental
events” (Teasdale et al. 2000). The opposite of mindfulness has been referred to
as mindlessness by Germer (2005) who describes this as manifesting as behaviours such as
rushing through activities, being unaware of tension, carelessness, and a preoccupation with
future or past events. Mindfulness in the Western medical concept of the practice evolved
from ancient Buddhist meditation traditions concerned with principles of compassion, loving-
kindness, empathic joy, and equanimity (Shaver et al. 2007). These authors suggest that
modern psychological approaches to mindfulness have attempted to adapt these principles to
fit with Western values of individualistic and less socially connected ways. A growing
evidence-base claims that mindfulness practices can offer health and psychosocial benefits to
a wide range of populations (Baer 2006; Biegel et al. 2009; Brown and Ryan 2003; Germer et
al. 2005; Heppner et al. 2008; Kabat-Zinn et al. 1992; Segal et al. 2002; Zylowska et al.
2008). Whilst there are competing theories as to whether mindfulness is a process, practice or
construct, a main reported benefit of mindfulness practice is relaxation, although authors are
keen to point out that this is a side-effect rather than an aim of the practice, as a core principle
of mindfulness is to be open to all experience rather than being goal-orientated, which is a
Western preoccupation (Chambers et al. 2009; Germer 2005; Kabat-Zinn 2003). The main
mindfulness practices to be implemented and introduced into mainstream health services are
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
(MBCT), which have largely evolved due to the success of the stress reduction and relaxation
programme developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre (Kabat- Zinn 1990;
Mason & Hargreaves 2001). It will be seen that MBSR techniques appear to have the most
commonality to TH and EAL/T as they include an element of body movement and
experiential approaches to mindfulness practice, which are possibly more acceptable for
many young people than traditional talk therapies, and are inherently part of being with
In terms of work with young people it is claimed that mindfulness can provide a
useful alternative therapeutic intervention as, “some adolescents do not view psychotherapy
as a beneficial treatment option” (Biegel et al. 2009, p. 855). These authors suggest that
MBSR techniques may be useful to employ with young people, finding significant
improvements in depressive symptoms in 14-18 yr olds with mental health problems
participating in their randomized control trial (Biegel et al. 2009). Other authors propose that
mindfulness practices that include body exercises and “multiple sensory systems (e.g.,
listening, tasting, smelling) or that involve movement” (Wagner et al. 2006, p. 186) are
especially relevant as they are more easily accessible to children and young people who
communicate more readily through non-verbal methods than adults, and are predisposed to
being in the present moment (Goodman 2005). In their study with young people diagnosed
with ADHD Zylowska et al. (2008) employed mindfulness methods including walking
meditation and encouraging participants to bring mindfulness to their daily routine. The
authors reported improvements in attention, anxiety, and depressive symptoms and concluded
that the experiential nature of mindfulness practices provide a useful medium in which to
work with young people with attentional difficulties (Zylowska et al. 2008). As many young
people who have encountered trauma and distress in their childhoods are perhaps not able to
process their pasts through talk therapies due to their experiences being too “raw” for them,
together with age-related, developmental, factors, MBSR practices that incorporate exercises
such as mindful walking, yoga, stretching, and other exercises may be useful in order to
encourage relaxation. It is suggested that when the mind is agitated or a person feels
pressured, “it is easier to be mindful with a practice that involves physical movement than
with one that does not” (Segal et al. 2002, p. 181).
Mindfulness practices have also been reported to have application in reducing
aggressive behaviour, and in emotion and behaviour regulation and “authentic functioning”
(Brown et al. 2007; Chambers et al. 2009; Heppner and Kernis 2007). In a nutshell it is
argued that mindfulness practice results in greater insight and self-awareness which can
enable individuals with fragile self-esteem who may be stuck in habitual negative reaction
patterns to begin to operate in a more positive authentic manner; “mindfully informed action
appears less likely to be regulated by ego-concerns, and thus is more likely to represent
integrated,authentic functioning” (Brown et al. 2007, p. 218). Whilst acknowledged as
containing controversial elements of determinism, authentic functioning is suggested to be
where “ones actions are integrated and self-endorsed” and aligned to a “core or “true” self”
(Brown et al. 2007, p. 217). It is claimed that high authenticity is related to many aspects
important to healthy mental functioning such as positive relationships, low stress rates, secure
self-esteem and high coping ability (Heppner and Kernis 2007; Goldman and Kernis
2002). A reduction in aggressive behaviour with adolescents and young people is also
attributed to gains in authenticity and secure self-esteem achieved through mindfulness
practice (Heppner et al. 2008; Zylowska et al. 2008). Shaver et al. in their paper on the links
between attachment theory and mindfulness, talk of the central tenet of “a stronger and wiser
other who helps a client or seeker of emotional stability become less anxious, less avoidant,
more secure, and more effectively mindful...” (2007, p. 269). It will be seen later in this paper
how the horse may provide elements of this “stronger, wiser other” together with many of the
other claims referred to by the mindfulness literature explored above, particularly in relation
to MBSR.
Being in the natural environment may also bring additional mindfulness benefits on
its own merit, as it facilitates a mindful state naturally according to Coleman (2006). As The
Yard practiced TH within a natural environment context and with an emphasis on the benefits
that this may bring, it was considered that this may bring an additional element to TH.
The research setting: “The Yard”
“The Yard” was a Therapeutic Horsemanship (TH) programme I set up whilst
working as a social worker to provide an alternative therapeutic and learning intervention for
young people in foster care. A total of 9 horses of varying ages, temperaments and stages of
training were resident at The Yard during the study, which followed a “natural
horsemanship” approach to management. This method fitted well alongside the child-centred
and experiential philosophy of TH practice followed by the practitioners and therapists at The
Yard. A natural horsemanship approach believes in allowing horses to live a more natural
lifestyle than traditional methods; for example the horses lived “free range” in that they were
provided with a large barn with open access to fields so could choose whether to be inside or
out, in contrast to conventional methods where horses are shut in stables for long periods of
time. In addition, natural horsemanship believes in non-confrontational training methods
working within an understanding of horse ethology as opposed to methods based on
domination (Birke 2008; Rashid 2004; Rees 1984). A combination of these factors meant that
the horses were generally relaxed and safe to be around as they were an established herd and
did not possess the behavioural problems of many stable kept horses. The Yard consisted of a
hard-standing yard area with an assortment of barns surrounded by open countryside.
Positioned next to a small office within the yard was a wooden picnic table. Many TH
sessions would take place sitting at this bench, drinking tea, eating lunch, and observing the
horses as they mingled around or ate from their haynets. TH sessions were generally set
between one and three hours, and young people would usually attend weekly or fortnightly.
In line with suggested best practice guidance from the USA based Equine Facilitated Mental
Health Association (EFMHA), a minimum of two practitioners were always in attendance.
The team consisted of a play therapist, counsellor, qualified social worker (the author), a
teacher, and a number of experienced horse handlers. Inherent in the activities that took place
in TH sessions was an emphasis on learning about horse psychology and the effect of
participants’ behaviour on the horse, together with building up relationships with horses that
the young people were drawn towards. These relationships provided rich ground for
discussion between the participant and therapist, and were useful in terms of opportunity for
metaphor and analogy within psychotherapeutic frames of reference (Chardonnens 2009;
Gammage 2008; Karol 2007). Unfortunately it is outside the scope of this paper to discuss
these aspects in more detail but they are covered in more depth in the larger PhD from which
this paper is drawn.
The Participants
Seven young people participated in the case study over a two-year time frame. Two
young people attended The Yard over the entire two-year period but generally participants
attended for a number of months either weekly or fortnightly, and this was more often than
not dictated by funding. The shortest number of sessions attended by a participant was six.
Five of the participants were girls and two were boys. They were aged between 11 and 21 yrs
old. The young people were referred to the TH programme from various agencies including
the foster care agency that I worked for, a youth offending team (YOT), pupil referral unit
(PRU) and residential facility. Two of the participants had a statement of special educational
needs (SEN) and two had an autistic spectrum diagnosis. Another young person received
medication for ADHD.
In line with a participative approach and ethical considerations of confidentiality the
young people were given the opportunity to choose their own pseudonym names. Participants
also helped choose pseudonym names for the horses. In addition to the young people a
number of adults participated in the research by providing their perspective of TH and its
effect on the young people. These included two of the therapists on the TH programme, a
social worker, a teacher, three foster carers and the mother of an adopted participant. They
contributed in detailed semi-structured interviews in addition to informal “field interviews”
and completed questionnaires.
Ethical approval was granted from the university ethics committee and was at the
heart of the research. Robust consent and confidentially procedures were in place together
with child-protection and additional policies in terms of ethical practice with both the young
people and horses. In line with the child-centred philosophy of The Yard, I was aligned to a
participative research approach and sought the young people’s collaboration on research
design such as questionnaires. However, it was found that my high ideal of a fully
participative approach was perhaps overambitious in the context of this research study, and
raised more questions of both an ethical and practical nature than I anticipated. For example I
found that some of young people in foster care seemed to find being asked questions
intrusive, and I respected this. From my experience of being a social worker I was aware of
this in a social work context but did not anticipate it being such an issue within the research
environment of The Yard. This meant that some of the young people were more fully
engaged in the research process than others and resulted in an unequal contribution to the
research design and checking of my analysis.
Research design and data collection methods
I chose a qualitative, ethnographic, reflexive, case study method aligned to a
psychosocial approach as this fitted with my personal value base, philosophical orientation
and particular features of the study site. By situating The Yard as the case I avoided
epistemological difficulties of positioning the young people as “cases”. A psychosocial
approach to research is interested in the unconscious as well as the conscious elements
present in the research process and often adopts psychotherapeutic questioning styles such as
loose, open-ended questions and reframing using participants own frames of reference
(Clarke and Hoggett 2009; Hollway 2009). In addition to semi-structured and unstructured
“field” interviews (Henn et al. 2006) I relied heavily on detailed fieldnotes written up shortly
after each TH session, together with sessional/therapy case notes. Finally, both the adults and
young people completed short questionnaires. Data analysis consisted of transcribing the
interviews and looking for emerging themes amongst all the data collected. Verification of
my interpretations was sought with a number of participants where possible, and this was
often done within TH sessions, going back to check questions raised whilst reading over data
after sessions. Coding resulted in a number of categories which were organised into themes
and then positioned within theoretical frameworks (Coffey and Atkinson 1996).
Being a practitioner on the research site I had the luxury of already having “gained the
status of insider” and having a rapport with many of the participants (Gubrium and Holstein
1997; Silverman 2005). However, this required an additional reflexive analysis of my
positioning and influence on the research process as there were the added complexities of
being practitioner-researcher, such as blurred boundaries between my roles with ethical
dimensions this raised. I attempted to counteract some of these possible criticisms by
employing a qualitative approach which hoped to “give voice” to the participants
experiences, and which attempted to reduce inherent power inequalities by striving to
encourage a shared exchange of information (Denzin and Lincoln 2002; Moustakas 1990).
Ethnographic observations from the study
A main theme to emerge from the data, and which was a thread that ran through many
of the other themes, was related to “being calm” and a “calming effect”. It appeared that both
the horses and the natural environment were factors in this, with the natural environment
perhaps providing the “backdrop to activities” referred to by Wals (1994). By providing a
safe therapeutic space within a natural horsemanship approach, together with an appreciation
for the natural environment, the holistic framework of The Yard may have enabled young
people to benefit from a number of factors, as opposed to an emphasis on any one single
element. Links to some of the benefits claimed in the mindfulness literature became apparent
through some of the exercises and activities practiced in TH sessions, including stress
reduction, greater attention capacity, and growths in personal awareness together with
enhanced relationships.
“Being calm”, horses and nature
The young people and adults articulated their understanding of “being calm” in
different ways; the young people often referring to the horse in their interpretations, whereas
the adults were more descriptive in the role of the natural environment and approach of The
Yard. In a questionnaire some of the young people completed for the research Minimax wrote
that the “horses change your mood and they help to calm me down”. Responding to the same
question Cinderella simply wrote “they (the horses) have a calming effect”. The foster carer
Laura, referring to a participant in her care, wrote “(he) is always calm and relaxed after a
(TH) session” and a youth offending team mentor, Peter, told me how Wayne was “always
noticeably more relaxed as we drove away than when we arrived”. When I asked Freya what
it was about the mare Ruby she liked she told me that she was especially drawn to the mare
because “she looks sort of kind...and calm”. In an interview with the participant Lucy she
went on to offer a further perspective,
Um, when I’m angry, they make me feel a lot calmer because you have to be
calm around them. You have to be calm and assertive around them, so, you
kind of, you know, end up being like that. Well I do anyway.
(Lucy, Participant).
That it was understood to be important for the horses’ well-being to be calm around
them was reiterated by some of the other young people. Kelly told me how “they like it best
when you are calm around them” and Emma said it was important “to be quiet, to be calm”.
During one TH session when a new young horse had arrived at The Yard and was displaying
some anxiety, Cinderella told me she felt we needed to be “calm and kind to her”.
Both Sally, a TH counsellor, and Linda, Emma’s adoptive mother, told me they
believed a combination of the natural horsemanship approach together with the natural
environment contributed to creating a relaxed atmosphere, Sally saying, “... the horses are
relaxed too in this environment, and that’s crucial”. One day the participant Emma was
telling me how the pony Timmy was much calmer since he had moved to The Yard, as
opposed to his previous stables where she told me he was permanently anxious. Emma told
me how she believed that the approach and natural horsemanship management system were
factors in this, saying;
Well they’re not forced to go in the stables (here) are they? They can come and
go as they please (.). And then they’ve got really big fields and they’re not
(Emma, Participant).
Minimax would often want to spend time relaxing with his favourite mare Ruby. He
would stand hugging her with his arms around her neck and his head buried in her long black
mane. During one TH session Minimax began to open up with us, getting quite agitated and
upset while he told us about how his younger brother was being adopted, and how upset he
was about the fact that he may not get to see him again. How he found some comfort and
stress relief from his interaction with Ruby is demonstrated in the short extract from
fieldnotes below.
We carried on quietly grooming the horses and giving Minimax the space to
express his sadness about his brothers. During this time Ruby continued to
stand calmly, not reacting to Minimax’s agitation but turning her head to him
from time to time to gently nuzzle him. Once he had calmed down, Minimax
put down the brush he was holding in his hand and put his arms around Ruby’s
neck, hiding his head in her long mane and hugging her. He stood quietly like
this for some time with just the rhythmical sound of the horses munching on
their hay in the background.
When the participant Wayne first started attending TH he was also very quiet and
withdrawn. This presented me with a challenge in terms of conducting ethical research as he
sometimes seemed to find being asked questions intrusive. During one TH session while we
were sitting at the bench eating lunch I was attempting to ask Wayne some questions about
the horses. However, he responded by saying he wanted to go and eat his sandwiches with the
horses instead, taking his chair and placing it under the trees from where he could watch the
horses in the field. I and the other TH practitioner that day respected his wishes and Wayne
sat quietly amongst the trees, with the only sounds being the occasional snort of a horse and
some lambs bleating in the distance. Wild flowers had just started coming out and we were in
t-shirts as it was an early warm spring day and altogether very calm and relaxing. Finally
Wayne came back and joined us saying “I could just sit here and watch the horses all day”.
As both Wayne and Minimax’s referral forms stated that they had problems with
concentration and hyperactivity it would appear that being in nature with the horses enabled
them to relax and provided them with some of the “attention restoration” elements claimed by
Louv (2008) and Taylor et al. (2001). Increases in attention and concentration levels are also
claimed in mindfulness education (Schonert-Reichl and Lawlor 2010) and mindfulness
meditation training with young people (Zylowska et al. 2008).
Whilst the participants did not tend to articulate these theoretical possibilities in the
same manner as the adults, Cinderella did tell me that being in nature was important to her in
terms of de-stressing, telling me, “it’s like, if you’re stressed, being in nature de-stresses
The counsellor Sally stated that she believed there were many elements to being in the
natural environment, suggesting,
And to be in an environment like this with beautiful views, it’s very still, it’s
got bird song, and you know, there is something very elemental about being
outdoors because you’ve got the air, the rain, the earth, you know, everything
around you. And the building removes you from that, the kind of elemental
nature of being outside.
(Sally, Counsellor).
Deana, a therapist at The Yard, spoke about how being in nature with the horses provided her
with some of the aspects perhaps related to the “restorative environment” that Kaplan (1995)
refers to.
You know, how different I feel when I’m up here, in myself. I can breathe! Like
a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Yeah. And I stop thinking about all
the things that I worry about that wake me up at 4 o’clock in the morning.
You’re just with the horse, smelling, feeling, riding.
(Deana, Therapist).
The authors Segal et al. (2002) and Moss and Barnes (2008) write about how mindfulness is a
way of being rather than a doing mode. It seems that perhaps this is what both Sally and
Deana were describing when they talk of being with the horses outside in nature. Segal et al.
suggest that being mode “is characterized by a sense of freedom, freshness, and unfolding of
experience in new ways” (2002, p. 74). A sense of freedom gained from being outside in
nature was articulated by some of the participants and therapists at The Yard. The participant
Emma referred to how she felt more freedom at The Yard as opposed to school, telling me,
“this place feels like it’s got more freedom and stuff”. Talking about a young person with
aspergers with whom she worked at a residential centre, the counsellor Sally told me,
So the minute he has space around him and fresh air, he doesn’t feel cooped up. He feels
he can move freely and that has a big impact on his behaviour and on how he’s feeling,
his well-being. And that is about this isn’t it? Being outside, in the elements, and just
kind of feeling more free to be.
(Sally, Counsellor).
Sally went on to explain that at his residential centre this young person would often appear
anxious and distressed but that as soon as he was outside at the EAL centre he would calm
down and become more relaxed.
Adapting behaviour and bringing self-awareness; aspects of mindfulness with
How different aspects of being in the natural environment impacted on TH sessions
and provided opportunities for learning and self-awareness is provided in the following
extract. In this case the weather influenced how the mare Ruby behaved and provided
opportunity for Wayne to gain some understanding of why this may be. Some exercises with
similarities to those adopted in mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) were employed to
assist Wayne to become more mindful and in-tune to his emotions and behaviour. Through
having the additional element of the horse Ruby, Wayne was motivated to adapt his
behaviour in order to have a successful and trusting relationship with her.
Wayne and Ruby: calm and confident
Wayne chose to work with the mare Ruby on this rather cold, windy, winter
day. Despite the wind Wayne was keen to try the obstacle course in the arena as
he had wanted to do this previously but had not had the opportunity. Before
commencing the obstacle course we talked with Wayne about the reasons
horses can get excitable and frightened in the wind and he correctly guessed
that this is partly due to them not being able to hear as well in the wind. We
went on to discuss the importance of acting “calm and confident” in order to
model a calming influence to the horse, who is always looking for a secure and
safe leader to follow, whether this is horse or human. Following this discussion
we taught Wayne the simple “body scan” exercise of noticing his breathing
pattern and of how to slow his breathing down in order to feel calmer and so
mirror this to the horse. Wayne seemed to enjoy placing his head against
Ruby’s warm body and feeling her slow breathing rate whilst she was at rest,
then mirroring this himself so they were breathing in tandem. He also
commented on how he thought, “she smells nice” whilst doing this exercise.
In this session in the arena Wayne had the opportunity to put this
exercise of modelling “calm and confident” and monitoring his breathing into
practice when Toby (a dog) ran over the bank causing Ruby to jump sideways,
snorting and almost resulting in Wayne dropping her leadrope and instinctively
running away. However, once we reminded him of his body language with the
simple prompt, “remember...calm and confident”, Wayne was able to compose
himself and remain with Ruby, standing quietly and calmly, then stroking her
neck gently and telling the mare not to worry. As Ruby calmed down and
turned to him for reassurance it would seem that this experience served a
powerful message to Wayne that he was able to effectively control and manage
his own behaviour and provide reassurance and comfort to another being,
something that perhaps had not always been provided to him in his childhood.
By being in the “here and now” and aware of his body language and breathing
Wayne could find that he could become “calm and confident” with effective
This extract provides an example of how an awareness of body language and the capacity to
be able to monitor one’s own behaviour and emotions is crucial in terms of working
successfully with horses. Being prey animals with highly developed communication skills
and a strong co-operative social structure, necessary for their successful survival over
millennia, horses are uniquely positioned to offer opportunities for gains in personal
awareness. Horses look to a calm, consistent, fair, and intelligent leader for survival and,
lacking another horse, will seek these qualities from their human handler (Rashid 2004; Rees
1984). This gives participants in TH and EAL/T the opportunity to model positive behaviours
with instant feedback, as in the case above with Wayne and Ruby.
In addition, because they live in the moment and are large, powerful, and therefore
potentially dangerous, being with horses requires “relaxed concentration”. Certain horse
trainers and teachers have become aware of the importance of breathing exercises and body
awareness in obtaining the relaxed, yet confident and mindfully embodied qualities necessary
for a successful partnership with the horse, adapting yoga, breath work and Alexander
techniques into horsemanship (Bentley 2001; Rolfe 2007; Tottle 1998). In terms of riding the
author Game suggests that what is important is,
relaxed concentration, a very focused and meditative state. Maintaining
connection and rhythm doesn’t work through the exercise of will power, but
requires a mindfully embodied way of being (Game 2001, p. 8).
In the following example of an “invisible riding” session with Freya she discovered
how a combination of exercises and a growing awareness of her own physiology and power
of intention had a powerful effect on her connection and success with the mare Ruby.
Elements of the “rhythmic harmonization” achieved when riding, which is when unity is felt
between horse and human, may also be relevant (Evans and Franklin 2010).
Freya and Ruby: “invisible” riding
Freya arrived for her first TH session with the care worker from her residential
home and initially seemed rather quiet and withdrawn, finding it difficult to
engage or tell us what she would like to do with the horses. However, once her
care worker had left Freya did join us putting on headcollars and grooming the
horses but it soon became apparent that she had little awareness of personal
safety around the horses. She put herself in quite dangerous positions and
seemed oblivious to simple horse behaviour signals that other young people
would usually instinctively possess. On one occasion when the horses were
coming through a gateway and became a little agitated and bargy with each
other, a clear signal to keep a safe distance until they had resolved their pecking
order, Freya continued to stand in the middle of the gateway, potentially
allowing herself to be trampled. Because of this, and because her concentration
levels on keeping on task with grooming and yard tasks were difficult for her
we decided to take the unusual practice on a first session of suggesting Freya
ride a horse today. By being on top of a horse, physically being in one place and
connected to the horse, and also because she would need to be more aware of
her body in order to find the balance and control needed to stay on, we hoped
that Freya may be able to find some way of being able to concentrate and
become more mindful of her behaviour.
When we put the suggestion to Freya to ride, she readily agreed. Freya’s
reaction again appeared to confirm to us the risk-taking behaviour that was
stated on her referral form. Her therapist had relayed that Freya would often put
herself at risk with her peers and engage in risky behaviours outside the
residential home. Once up on the mare Ruby however, Freya’s distracted
behaviour appeared to wane a little and she became quieter in her body
language and manner, seeming to suddenly realise that she was perhaps a little
vulnerable on top of the horse. This appeared to enable her to listen to us and
take instruction more readily, and we took the opportunity to introduce her to
some “invisible riding” techniques. In the round pen we initially led Freya
around on Ruby, the mare seeming to understand that she needed to remain
extra attentive and alert today, perhaps picking up on Freya’s emotional and
physical state. We started off with some simple stretching exercises in order to
help enable Freya find her balance, tune in to the different parts of her body and
gain some more confidence, as well as being fun. Next we introduced some
simple “body scan” exercises where Freya concentrated on each part of her
body in turn, starting with relaxing her feet and moving up her body until she
relaxed her shoulders and neck. In order to make this more fun and engaging I
demonstrated these walking next to Freya, who copied the exercises riding on
Ruby’s back. Once Freya had found her balance and was more relaxed we
suggested that she close her eyes and ride Ruby with her eyes shut in order to
really tune in to Ruby’s movement. This is not as easy as it may appear but is a
really useful exercise for refining balance and for following the movement of
the horse. Together with this we demonstrated to Freya how she could slow her
breathing down, and breathe in and out in order to influence Ruby’s pace, and
learn how to bring her to halt and to walk on again just by the smallest body
movement and breathing. This exercise takes a lot of sustained concentration
and body awareness, together with real intention; it will not work unless you are
completely committed and “mindfully embodied”. After a few attempts we
knew when Freya began to get a sense of this feeling as she gained more ability
in co-ordinating her body language together with her breathing and
concentration. In turn Freya’s confidence in her newly found body awareness
grew and Ruby responded accordingly, causing Freya to exclaim, “look, she
slows down when I’m just thinking it now”. Later, as we finished the session,
Freya stretched down from Ruby’s back to hug her around her neck beaming,
“It’s like she can read my mind”.
In this TH session it is seen that through a connection with the mare Ruby, together with the
application of mindful exercises which enabled Freya to become more centred and aware of
her body, Freya was able to find an awareness which facilitated a change from behaviour
which arguably contained elements of mindlessness at the beginning of the session, to a more
mindfully embodied way of being by the end. Through a body scan exercise which has
similarities to those employed in some mindfulness practices; Freya became calmer and more
focused. Segal et al. suggest that,
A major aim of the body scan exercise is to bring detailed awareness to each
part of the body. It is where participants first learn to keep their attention
focused over a sustained period of time, and it also serves to help them develop
concentration, calmness, flexibility of attention, and mindfulness (2002, p.
The authors Shaver et al. draw on links between attachment theory and mindfulness to
write about a “stronger and wiser other who helps a client or seeker of emotional stability
become less anxious, less avoidant, more secure, and more effectively mindful...” (2007, p.
269). It may be that a combination of these factors were present in the TH session with both
Freya and Wayne with experiences with the horses providing some of the characteristics of
the “stronger and wiser other” who helped the participants become more “effectively
mindful” in their behaviour and body language. In the case of Wayne he found how he could
model these same qualities to the mare Ruby, so perhaps unconsciously allowing him to be
the stronger and wiser other in this case. Another theory put forward by Singh et al. (2004)
which may be relevant to TH is that of “mindful caregiving”. In their study they found
increases in happiness of people with complex disabilities when their caregivers participated
in mindfulness training (Singh et al. 2004). Some of the proposed increased positive changes
in the caregivers after participating in mindfulness training reported by the authors included
them being “non-judgementally accepting” and “totally involved with the individual” (Singh
et al. 2004, p. 216). As these are some of the characteristics it is claimed the horse brings to
EAL/T and TH (Hallberg 2008; Lentini and Knox 2009; Vidrine et al. 2002) it would seem
that participating in activities and relationships with horses may offer participants some of
these same benefits. Indeed, the participant Lucy told me how “the horses don’t judge
you...they just take you for who you are”.
During another TH session with the participant Cinderella, the horse Duchess
demonstrated how she reacted to behaviour she perceived as negative by walking away.
However, by Cinderella being able to discuss, process and then change her behaviour, she
was able to see how the mare only judged her behaviour and not her as a person, responding
to her as she was in that moment. This was because as soon as Cinderella was able to monitor
her body language and manner she found she could have a successful and positive
relationship with Duchess.
Cinderella and Duchess: “she’s just like my mother!”
Cinderella seemed very keen and enthusiastic to be back and came skipping
into the yard today. She had bought her own leadrope, hoofpick and a crop from
a riding shop local to her foster home. I didn’t challenge this immediately but as
she was waving the crop around rather erratically, I suggested that she put this
in the tack room for now and later explained that we don’t generally use or have
crops at The Yard, pointing out one of the policies on the wall which stated No
Whips. Cinderella initially looked rather deflated and then almost immediately
became very defensive, saying “well I won’t (--) bother again then”. I quickly
reassured her that we were very pleased that she was buying her own things for
the horses but suggested that they might prefer carrots to whips next time!
Cinderella seemed to perceive this as criticism, and obviously found it difficult,
so I suggested that we put a special hook up for her to keep her own leadrope
and hoofpick on especially for her to use with Leo when she came to The Yard.
This seemed to help shift her black mood to an extent and she helped put up the
The five horses were out in the field so we took headcollars and walked
out to catch them. We talked about which ones to catch first in order that the
rest of the herd would follow and Cinderella correctly identified the two mares,
Duchess and Ruby, “its them two isn’t it… coz’ they’re the ones the others look
up to”. As Ruby was over at another part of the field, I asked Cinderella if she
would like to catch Duchess and stood back to allow her to do this. However
Cinderella approached Duchess in a rather dominant, almost aggressive,
manner, which caused the mare to walk purposefully away from her, refusing to
be caught. Cinderella immediately got angry and frustrated, walking off and
throwing the headcollar down then throwing herself down on the grass loudly
exclaiming, “stubborn (--) cow, don’t be (--) caught then”. I sat down next to
her and, to her surprise it seemed, praised her for her actions, telling her that
sitting down and not chasing after Duchess was in fact a very good strategy and
one of the tactics I may try with a horse who didn’t want to be caught. I
suggested that we sit in the field and relax for a while and just observe Duchess
and the horses without necessarily trying to catch them, but at the same time
bring some awareness as to how she felt Duchess may be feeling. After sitting
quietly in silence for quite a long time with only the sound of birds and the
wind in the trees in the background, and with Cinderella appearing to be
ignoring me, she finally said “she probably doesn’t want to leave the others and
I suppose she doesn’t know me yet, but she’s still a stubborn (--) cow….she’s
just like my mother she is!”. I asked Cinderella what different approaches may
help Duchess to want to be caught and she replied “well, probably getting to
know me a bit more first so she knows she can trust me”. We followed this with
a short discussion about horse’s body language and whether Cinderella could
see if there were any different approaches she could try to help Duchess learn to
trust her. With this Cinderella agreed to try approaching Duchess together with
me in a slower, more controlled, and less aggressive manner, and did then
succeed in carefully putting the headcollar over her head. The other mare Ruby
then followed us into the yard where Cinderella put the headcollar on her with
no problem, her body language reflecting a much more gentle approach towards
the horses who responded accordingly.
A number of theoretical frameworks drawn from the mindfulness literature may be
applicable in this example of Cinderella and the mare Duchess. At the start of this TH session
Cinderella seemed to demonstrate that she found criticism difficult by reacting defensively to
my comment about the “no-whips” policy of The Yard. Heppner et al. suggest that young
people who have experienced traumatic pasts are vulnerable to fragile self-esteem and that
“aggressive behaviour may be one means by which people attempt to restore their fragile
self-images” (2008, p. 487). Because Cinderella’s fragile self-esteem and defensive coping
strategy had already been triggered this may have contributed to her approaching the mare
Duchess in an aggressive and dominant manner. Duchess responded by withdrawing and
Cinderella’s fragile self-esteem was further wounded, with her reacting with heightened
emotion. However, by being enabled to take time to be with these feelings for a while, within
the context of the relaxing natural environment, Cinderella was able to become more mindful
of her behaviour and apply some understanding of what may have caused the mare to behave
in the way she did. In their description of MBSR exercises Segal et al. (2002) claim that these
can help participants gain an awareness of how the body can express negative emotions.
In this paper I have discussed how being with horses in the natural environment has
links to some of the benefits and features referred to in both the mindfulness and nature
therapy literature. Whilst The Yard did not set out to provide mindfulness practices as such, it
was found that many elements of the TH exercises employed appeared to embody similarities
to some of the mindfulness techniques described by many authors (Biegel et al. 2009;
Schonert-Reichl and Lawlor 2010; Segal et al. 2002; Zylowska et al. 2008). As some young
people can find traditional methods of psychotherapy and learning difficult (Biegel et al.
2009) alternative methods of engaging these hard to reach and disengaged young people,
including EAL/T and mindfulness techniques such as MBSR may be more effective.
Through participating in TH many of the young people in the current study were
found to experience benefits which included becoming calmer and reduced anxiety, together
with gains in self-awareness. These would appear to have links to the self-regulation and self-
knowledge claims of mindfulness by Chambers et al. (2009) and Brown and Ryan (2003).
Cinderella, Freya and Wayne were all motivated to want to develop relationships and learn
new skills with the horses, which, in turn, enabled them to participate in exercises and
techniques that led to some of the benefits suggested above. In addition, the natural
environment was described by many of the adults involved in the study as being an important
factor, and this was also articulated by a number of the young people in different ways. The
natural environment may have provided some of the elements of the “backdrop to activities”
described by Wals (1994) and is claimed by Coleman (2006) to offer the ideal space in which
to practice mindfulness as “being outdoors provides mental space and clarity, allowing our
body to relax” (2006, p. xv). Proponents of Biophilia theory believe that this is because
humans have an innate connection to nature in a similar way to the Gaia hypothesis, which
believes that everything is connected and inter-related (Lovelock 1979; Kellert and Wilson
1993; Nebbe 2000). Through this connection we can find “ecological groundedness” a state
of healthy functioning (Cahalan 1995). This is perhaps where horses are uniquely positioned
to provide young people with a pathway to experiencing some of the claimed benefits of
being in nature. As horses are inherently connected to nature and largely influenced by their
instincts, as discovered by Wayne with Ruby’s behaviour on a windy day, they offer an
unequalled opportunity for people to connect with the natural environment that is not
provided by other animals. This is perhaps because horses are “in-between” animals offering
a bridge to the “natural” world. They are different to the fully domesticated pet animals that
live in the home, and they are unlike agricultural animals kept for our consumption and
maintained at arms’ length through quite complex cultural processes (Philo and Wilbert
2000). Horses perhaps offer a glimpse into the world of the wild animal, but, at the same
time, are willing and curious enough to allow themselves to be “tamed” and develop
partnerships with human. By entering the horses’ world, riding on their back, and learning to
communicate with them through body language we enter different domains of consciousness
(Brandt 2004; Game 2001). The combination of all these factors can perhaps provide
opportunities for experiencing some of the characteristics and benefits described in the
mindfulness and nature therapy literature, of being in the moment and experiencing a
connection to nature (Cahalan 1995; Coleman 2006; Kabat-Zin 1994; Rozack et al. 1995).
It is acknowledged that the small sample size of this study makes drawing
generalizations across populations limited. However, Payne and Williams suggest that
“qualitiative research methods can produce an intermediate type of limited
moderatum generalizations””(2005, p. 296). They argue that research concerned with
personal experience provides valuable insights into social interaction and the construction of
everyday life (Payne and Williams 2005). In this study I was interested in exploring and
conveying the participants’ experiences within “thick descriptions” (Geertz 1993) in order to
bring some insight into the relationships and interactions between the young people, horses
and both the physical and philosophical environment of The Yard. Despite a substantial
research base into the separate areas of animal-assisted therapy, the natural environment and
the growing area of mindfulness, investigation into the links between horses, nature, and
mindfulness has received surprisingly limited attention (Hallberg 2008). Further research in
this area would be useful in order to uncover additional insights and contribute to the growing
awareness of the psychosocial benefits of horses.
All, A., Loving, G. and Crane, L. (1999) Animals, Horseback Riding and Implications for
Rehabilitation Therapy. Journal of Rehabilitation, 65, 49-87
Baer, R. (2006). (Ed.) Mindfulness-based treatment approaches: Clinicians guide to evidence
base and applications. London: Academic Press.
Bass, M., Duchowny, C. and Llabre, M. (2009) The Effect of Therapeutic Horseback Riding
on Social Functioning in Children with Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental
Disorders, 39, 1261-1267
Bentley, J (2001) Riding Success without Stress: Introducing the Alexander Technique.
London: JA Allen
Berger, R. and McLeod, J. (2006) Incorporating Nature into Therapy: A Framework for
Practice. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 25, 80-94
Biegel, G., Brown, K., Shapiro, S. and Schubert, C. (2009) Mindfulness-Based Stress
Reduction for the Treatment of Adolescent Psychiatric Outpatients: A Randomized Clinical
Trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77, 855-866
Birke, L. (2008) Talking about Horses: Control and Freedom in the World of “Natural
Horsemanship”. Society & Animals, 16, 107-126
Bizub, A., Joy, A., and Davidson, L. (2003) “It’s like being in another world”: Demonstrating
the Benefits of Therapeutic Horseback Riding for Individuals with Psychiatric Disability.
Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 26, 377-384
Brandt, K. (2004) A Language of Their Own: An Interactionist Approach to Human-Horse
Communication. Society and Animals, 12, 299-316
Brown, K. and Ryan, R. (2003) The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and Its Role in
Psychological Well-Being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822-848
Brown, K., Ryan, R. and Creswell, D. (2007) “Mindfulness: Theoretical Foundations and
Evidence for its Salutary Effects”. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 211-237
Burgon, H. (2003) Case studies of adults receiving horse riding therapy. Anthrozoos, 16, 263-
Burgon, H (2011) “Queen of the World”: Experiences of At-Risk Young People Participating
in Equine-Assisted Learning/Therapy. Journal of Social Work Practice, 25, 165-183
Cahalan, W. (1995) Ecological Groundedness in Gestalt Therapy. In T. Roszak, M. Gomes,
M. and A. Kanner (Eds.) Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. San
Francisco: Sierra Club Books
Chambers, R., Gullone. and Allen, N. (2009) Mindful emotion regulation: An integrative
review. Clinical Psychology Review, 29, 560-572
Chardonnens, E. (2009) The Use of Animals as Co-Therapists on a Farm: The Child-Horse
Bond in Person-Centred Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy. Person Centred and Experimental
Psychotherapies, 8, 319-332
Chamberlin, J. (2007) Horse: How The Horse Has Changed Civilisations. Oxford: Signal
Clarke, S. and Hoggett, P. (Eds.) (2009) Researching Beneath the Surface: Psycho-Social
Research Methods in Practice. London: Karnac
Coffey, A. and Atkinson, P. (1996) Making Sense of Qualitative Data: Complementary
Research Strategies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Coleman, M. (2006) Awake In The Wild: Mindfulness in Nature as a Path of Self-Discovery.
Novato, CA: New World Library
Denzin, N. and Lincoln, Y. (2002) The Qualitative Inquiry Reader. Thousand Oaks, CA:
Evans, R. and Franklin, A. (2010) Equine Beats: Unique Rhythms (And Floating Harmony)
Of Horses And Their Riders. In T. Edensor, (Ed.) Geographies of Rhythm, Nature, Place,
Mobility and Bodies. Aldershot: Ashgate
Ewing, C., MacDonald, P., Taylor, M. and Bowers, J. (2007) Equine-Facilitated Learning for
Youths with Severe Emotional Disorders: A Quantitative and Qualitative Study. Child Youth
Care Forum, 36, 59-72
Game, A. (2001) Riding: Embodying the Centaur. Body & Society, 7, 1-12
Gammage, D. (2008) Case study 2: Equine-assisted therapy, Counselling children and young
people. BACP quarterly journal, March, p.5
Garcia, D. (2010) Of Equines and Humans: Toward a New Ecology. Ecopsychology, 2, 85-
Germer, C., Siegel, R. and Fulton, P. (Eds.) (2005) Mindfulness and Psychotherapy. New
York: The Guildford Press
Geertz, C. (1973) Thick description: toward an interpretive theory of culture. In The
interpretation of cultures: selected essays. New York: Basic Books
Germer, C. (2005) Mindfulness: What Is It? What Does It Matter? In C. Germer, R. Siegel,
and P. Fulton (Eds.), Mindfulness and Psychotherapy. New York: The Guildford Press
Goldman, B & Kernis, M. (2002) The role of authenticity in healthy psychological
functioning and subjective well-being, Annals of the American Psychotherapy Assn, 5, 18-20
Goodman, T. (2005) Working with Children: Beginner”s Mind. In C. Germer, R. Siegel, and
P. Fulton., (Eds.), Mindfulness and Psychotherapy. New York: The Guildford Press
Gubrium, J. and Holstein, J. (1997) The New Language of Qualitative Method. New York:
Oxford University Press
Halliwell, E. (2010) Mindfulness Report 2010. London: Mental Health Foundation
Hallberg, L (2008) Walking The Way Of The Horse: Exploring The Power Of The Horse-
Human Relationship. New York: iUniverse Inc
Henn, M.,Weinstein, M. and Foard, N. (2006) a short introduction to Social Research.
London: Sage
Heppner, W. And Kernis, M. (2007) “Quiet Ego” Functioning: The Complementary Roles of
Mindfulness, Authenticity, and Secure High Self-Esteem. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 248-251
Heppner, W., Kernis, M, Lakey, C, Keith Campbell, W., Goldman, B., Davies, P. and Cascio,
E. (2008) Mindfulness as a Means of Reducing Aggressive Behavior: Dispositional and
Situational Evidence. Aggressive Behavior, 34, 486-496
Hollway, W. (2009) Applying The “Experience-Near” Principle to Research;
Psychoanalytically Informed Methods. Journal of Social Work Practice, 23, 461-474
Kabat-Zinn, J (1990) Full catastrophe living: The program of the Stress Reduction Clinic at
the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre. New York: Dell
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness meditation for
everyday life. New York: Hyperion
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present and future.
Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 144-156
Kabat-Zinn, J., Massion, A., Kristeller, J., Peterson, K., Fletcher, K. Pbert, L., Lenderking,
W. and Santorelli, S. (1992). Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in
the treatment of anxiety disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 936-943
Kaiser, L., Spence, J., Lavergne, A. And Bosch, K. (2004) Can a week of therapeutic riding
make a difference? - A pilot study. Anthrozoos, 17, 63-72
Karol, J. (2007) Applying a Traditional Individual Psychotherapy Model to Equine-facilitated
Psychotherapy (EFP): Theory and Method. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 12, 77-
Kaplan, S. (1995) The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework.
Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15, 169-182
Kellert, S. and Wilson, E. (Eds.) (1993) The Biophilia Hypothesis. Washington: Island Press
Kellert, S. (2002) Experiencing Nature: Affective, Cognitive, and Evaluative Development in
Children. In P. Kahn and S. Kellert (Eds.), Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural
and Evolutionary Investigations, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press
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
Korpela, K., Hartig, T., Kaiser, F. and Fuhrer, U. (2001) Restorative Experience and Self-
Regulation in Favorite Places. Environment and Behavior, 33, 572-589
Latimer, J. and Birke, L. (2009) Natural Relations: horses, knowledge and technology. The
Sociological Review, 57, 1-27
Lentini, J. and Knox, M. (2009) A Qualitative and Quantitative Review of Equine Facilitated
Psychotherapy (EFP) with Children and Adolescents. The Open Complementary Medicine
Journal, 1, 51-57
Lovelock, J. (1979) Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. New York: Oxford University Press
Louv, R. (2008) Last Child in the Woods: saving our children from nature-deficit disorder.
(2nd ed.). Alonquin: Chapel Hill
Mason, O. and Hargreaves, I. (2001) A qualitative study of mindfulness-based cognitive
therapy for depression. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 74, 197-212
Masten, A, Best, K. & Garmezy, N. (1990) Resilence and development: Contributions from
the study of children who overcome adversity, Development and Psychopathology, 2, 425-
Mayberry, R (1978) The Mystique of the Horse is Strong Medicine: Riding as Therapeutic
Recreation. Rehabilitation Literature, 38, 192-196
McCormick, A. and McCormick, M. (1997) Horse Sense and the Human Heart; What Horses
Can Teach Us About Trust, Bonding, Creativity and Spirituality. Florida: Health
Communications Inc
McCormick, A., McCormick, M. and McCormick, T. (2004) Horses and the Mystical Path:
The Celtic Way of Expanding the Human Soul: Novato, CA: New World Library
Misra, M., Pacaud, D., Petryk, A., Collett-Solberg, P. F., and Kappy, M. (2008) Vitamin D
deficiency in children and its management: Review of current knowledge and
recommendations. Pediatrics, 122, 398-417
Moustakas, C. (1990) Heuristic Research: Design, Methodology and Applications. London:
Muñoz, S. (2009) Children in the outdoors: a literature review. Forres, Scotland; Sustainable
Development Research Centre, available online at [accessed 17/1/2011]
Nebbe, L. (2000) Nature Therapy. In A. Fine (Ed.) Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy:
theoretical foundations and guidelines for practice. San Diego, CA: Academic Press
Payne, G. and Williams, M. (2005) Generalization in Qualitative Research. 39, 295-314
Philo, C. and Wilbert, C. (2000) Animal Spaces, Beastly Places. London: Routledge
Rashid, M. (2004) Horses never Lie: the heart of passive leadership. Newton Abbot, Devon:
David & Charles
Rees, L. (1984) The Horse”s Mind. London: Stanley Paul
Rolfe, J. (2007) Ride from the Heart: The Art of Communication between Horse and Rider.
London: JA Allen
Roszak, T., Gomes, M. and Kanner, A. (Eds.) (1995) Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth,
Healing the Mind. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books
Rutter, M. (1985) Resilience in the face of adversity: protective factors and resistance to
psychiatric disorder, British Journal of Psychiatry, 147, 598-611
Schonert-Reichl, K and Lawlor, M (2010) The Effects of a Mindfulness-Based Education
Program on Pre- and Early Adolescents’ Well-Being and Social and Emotional Competence.
Mindfulness, 1, 137-151
Schultz, P., Remick-Barlow, G. and Robbins, L. (2007) Equine-assisted Psychotherapy: a
mental health promotion/intervention modality for children who have experienced intra-
family violence. Health and Social Care in the Community, 15, 265-271
Segal, Z., Williams, J. and Teasdale, J. (2002). Mindfulness based cognitive therapy for
depression: a new approach to preventing relapse. London: Guildford press.
Shaver, P., Lavy, S., Saron, C and Mikulincer, M. (2007) Social Foundations of the Capacity
for Mindfulness: An Attachment Perspective. Psychological Inquiry. 18, 264-271
Silverman, D. (2005) Doing Qualitative Research (2nd ed.) London: Sage.
Singh, N, Lancioni, G, Winton, A, Wahler, R, Singh, J and Sage, M. (2004) Mindful
caregiving increases happiness among individuals with profound multiple disabilities.
Research in Developmental Disabilities. 25, 207-218
Taylor, A., Kuo, F. and Sullivan, W. (2001) Coping with add: The Surprising Connection to
Green Play Settings. Environment and Behaviour, 33, 54-77
Teasdale, J., Williams, J., Soulsby, J., Segal, Z., Ridgeway, V. and Lau, M. (2000) Prevention
of Relapse/Recurrence in Major Depression by Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.
Journal of Counselling and Clinical Psychology, 68, 615-623
Tottle, S. (1998) Bodysense: Revolutionize your Riding with the Alexander Technique. North
Pomfret, Vermont: Trafalgar Square Books
Trotter, K., Chandler, C., Goodwin, D. and Casey, J. (2008) A Comparative Study of the
Efficacy of Group Equine Assisted Counselling With At-Risk Children and Adolescents.
Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 3, 254-284
Vidrine, M., Owen-Smith, P. and Faulkner, P. (2002) Equine-Facilitated Group
Psychotherapy: applications for therapeutic Vaulting. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 23,
Wagner, E., Rathus, J. and Miller, A. (2006) Mindfulness in Dialectical Behavior Therapy
For Adolescents. In R. Baer (Ed.) Mindfulness-based treatment approaches: Clinicians guide
to evidence base and applications. London: Academic Press
Wals, A. (1994) Nobody Planted It, It Just Grew! Young Adolescents” Perceptions and
Experiences of Nature in the Context of Urban Environmental Education. Children’s
Environments, 11, 1-27
Yorke, J., Adams, C. and Coady. N (2008) Therapeutic Value of Equine-Human Bonding in
Recovery from Trauma. Anthrozoos, 21, 17-30
Zylowska, L., Ackerman, D., Yang, M., Futrell, J., Horton, N., Hale, T., Pataki, C. and
Smalley, S. (2008) Mindfulness Meditation Training in Adults and Adolescents With ADHD.
Journal of Attention Disorders, 11, 737-746
Copyright © 2012 ADG, SA. All Rights Reserved.
A Private Non-Profit Agency for the good of all, published in the UK & Honduras
... In three records, the main focus was the evaluation of the efficacy of the Green Care with animals programs, but experimental designs lack of control groups [31][32][33]. Other 13 records analysed the benefits of Green Care with animals for users by means of qualitative methods [34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46]. As for geographical location, most studies were conducted in Europe, especially in Norway (30.9%), the United Kingdom (19%) and the Netherlands (14.2%). ...
... In three records, the main focus was the evaluation of the efficacy of the Green Care with animals programs, but experimental designs lack of control groups [31][32][33]. Other 13 records analysed the benefits of Green Care with animals for users by means of qualitative methods [34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46]. Comparing years of publication and countries, we can see that some nations published on this theme only in one year (Austria, Germany and Sweden in 2006 and Italy in 2019), while others, such as Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, published more or less every year. ...
... In three records, the main focus was the evaluation of the efficacy of the Green Care with animals programs, but experimental designs lack of control groups [31][32][33]. Other 13 records analysed the benefits of Green Care with animals for users by means of qualitative methods [34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46]. Finally, five of these records asked for the opinion of providers on the efficacy and benefits of Green Care with animals programs [47][48][49][50][51]. ...
Full-text available
Green Care (GC) and Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI) are recognised practices useful to enhance the wellbeing of people through interaction with nature and animals. This study aims at understanding the interconnections between GC and AAI by analysing deeply which interaction with animals is conducted. Therefore, we carried out a literature search through Web of Science and Google Scholar that allowed retrieval of 993 records; after the PRISMA selection process, 42 were included. Relevant information was extracted: year of publication, geographical location, objectives, settings in agricultural environment, animal species, characteristics of users involved, type of human–animal interaction, coexistence of other activities without animals, animal health and welfare issues. From the review emerged that research on GC with animals is common in high-income countries and that the line between AAI and occupational therapy is often vague. Moreover, the most common setting for these interventions appears to be the farm, and frequently animals involved are not selected according to their ethological characteristics. Users in this context are extremely various and not only involved in activities with animals. Within the included studies, we noted a lack in the consideration of animal welfare that indicates the need for increased awareness among practitioners and a more ethical approach when animals are involved.
... Two of them offered reviews (Harper, 2017;Summers and Vivian, 2018). Of the remaining seven papers, five directly focused on children or presented at least a case on children and/or youth (Berger and Lahad, 2010;Burgon, 2013;Razani et al., 2019;Berger, 2020;Birch et al., 2020), while five looked at the effects of a nature-based intervention (psychological, educational, or both) on adversity (Berger and Lahad, 2010;Burgon, 2013;Hurly and Walker, 2019;Razani et al., 2019;Birch et al., 2020). Notably, approaches to nature therapy varied much and the same was true for the methodologies employed. ...
... Two of them offered reviews (Harper, 2017;Summers and Vivian, 2018). Of the remaining seven papers, five directly focused on children or presented at least a case on children and/or youth (Berger and Lahad, 2010;Burgon, 2013;Razani et al., 2019;Berger, 2020;Birch et al., 2020), while five looked at the effects of a nature-based intervention (psychological, educational, or both) on adversity (Berger and Lahad, 2010;Burgon, 2013;Hurly and Walker, 2019;Razani et al., 2019;Birch et al., 2020). Notably, approaches to nature therapy varied much and the same was true for the methodologies employed. ...
... Research paper-ethnographic approach toward the experience in nature with the horses in the Horsemanship program. Burgon, 2013. Child and youth case (not otherwise specified). ...
Full-text available
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are prevalent in many western populations. Large studies have put the likelihood of having at least one ACE above 50% of the general population. ACEs and the associated experience of chronic stress, moreover, have been consistently linked with a variety of negative physical and psychological health outcomes across the lifespan from behavioral problems and cognitive difficulties early on, to greater chance of suffering from a mental health disorder and engaging in self destructing behaviors. The literature puts forward several protective factors, such as mother-child relations, parental health, and community engagement. In this perspective paper we put forward the potential of regular nature engagement as a possible additional protective factor. Nature's therapeutic potential has been well documented, for many psychopathologies and mental health difficulties. Yet studies looking at the protective and therapeutic potential of nature with people with ACEs are remarkably limited in numbers. In this perspective piece we conduct a search of the literature to find previous applications of nature as a protective or therapeutic intervention for people with ACEs. We highlight the gap in the current literature, and put forward various mechanisms of action that justify a closer exploration of this area in further research.
... With an accreditation structure and professional standards in place, EFP is already serving youths in caring for their mental health and wellbeing (Brandt, 2013;Burgon, 2011Burgon, , 2013. EFP may be a beneficial treatment for a larger population of youth if the intervention becomes more accessible. ...
... EFP serves those seeking assistance in different areas of their lives including, but not limited to, improving relationships, processing trauma, grieving the loss of a loved one, working through anxiety and depression, identifying and reaching goals, learning effective coping skills, recovering from addictions and maximizing social, emotional, and behavioral abilities. EFP has been found to lower stress across populations including youths (Bachi & Parish-Plass, 2017;Burgon, 2011Burgon, , 2013McCullough, Risley-Curtiss, & Rorke, 2015;Vincent & Farkas, 2017). Bachi and Parish-Plass (2017) and Burgon (2011Burgon ( , 2013, evaluated the risk and resilience of "at-risk" youth working with mental health specialists in EFP. ...
... EFP has been found to lower stress across populations including youths (Bachi & Parish-Plass, 2017;Burgon, 2011Burgon, , 2013McCullough, Risley-Curtiss, & Rorke, 2015;Vincent & Farkas, 2017). Bachi and Parish-Plass (2017) and Burgon (2011Burgon ( , 2013, evaluated the risk and resilience of "at-risk" youth working with mental health specialists in EFP. Their research found that youth demonstrated gains in self-confidence, self-esteem, sense of skill mastery, and empathy. ...
Full-text available
An increased understanding of integrated behavioral healthcare highlights the importance of mental and physical wellness anchored by person-centered interventions. Evidence is accumulating in support of non-traditional, empirically supported mental health interventions such as equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP). Historically and currently, insurance companies neglect to cover EFP as a prevention and treatment strategy for children, youth, and families. Without coverage, the cost of participating in EFP is a financial barrier to accessing the intervention. Not covering and not reimbursing costs for this non-traditional intervention represents a crucial misstep by the insurance industry. EFP’s strong history and professionalization, its comparable cost to talk therapy, a growing research base demonstrating EFP’s benefits for youth, and policy efforts toward increasing person-centered, innovative, integrated healthcare approaches suggest greater access to interventions such as EFP is needed. Because EFP may be more accessible to those who might not traditionally attend or respond positively to talk-therapy sessions, it should not be available only to those with the most privilege. Insurance coverage and reimbursement for EFP is necessary to advance the field, aid service standardization, integrate service tracking systems, and increase the research quality, all of which would ultimately benefit youth mental health. This paper aims to serve as a resource for social work practitioners looking to recommend, engage in, or advocate for EFP.
... One at-risk youth explained that overcoming his fear of learning to ride helped him develop the confidence to attend a social group outing for the first time (Burgon, 2011). Another participant from the same study discussed how being up high on the horse was empowering in a way that she described as making her feel like "the queen of the world" (Burgon, 2011, p. 171 Findings also showed that horseback riding appeared to positively impact Mounted-EAT participants' emotional regulation (Burgon, 2013;Craig, 2020;, their ability to understand how their actions impact others (Naste et al., 2018), and provided an experience which allowed participants to practice empathy and giving comfort to others (Craig, 2020). Participants described that horseback riding in Mounted-EAT facilitated a sense of calmness and tranquillity (Burgon, 2013;Collingwood et al., 2021;Kern-Godal, Brenna, Kogstad, et al., 2016;Naste et al., 2018). ...
... Another participant from the same study discussed how being up high on the horse was empowering in a way that she described as making her feel like "the queen of the world" (Burgon, 2011, p. 171 Findings also showed that horseback riding appeared to positively impact Mounted-EAT participants' emotional regulation (Burgon, 2013;Craig, 2020;, their ability to understand how their actions impact others (Naste et al., 2018), and provided an experience which allowed participants to practice empathy and giving comfort to others (Craig, 2020). Participants described that horseback riding in Mounted-EAT facilitated a sense of calmness and tranquillity (Burgon, 2013;Collingwood et al., 2021;Kern-Godal, Brenna, Kogstad, et al., 2016;Naste et al., 2018). Horseback riding was also described as providing participants with a feeling of bodily Physical touch appeared to be an impactful part of the mounted experience for Mounted-EAT participants. ...
Across mental health professionals, there is growing interest in the field of Equine‐Assisted Therapy (EAT). Preliminary evidence suggests EAT is beneficial for a wide spectrum of client populations. EAT programs may be based on groundwork alone, where participants interact with the horses from the ground only, or they may incorporate mounted activities. It remains unclear whether mounted activities add therapeutic benefits to the EAT experience for participants. This scoping review explored whether mounted activities, specifically where the client rides the horse, contribute to distinct therapeutic benefits. Nine databases were searched for studies of EAT programs that included horse riding as a central component of the therapeutic intervention and 36 studies were included in the analysis. The results of these studies suggest that mounted activities positively contribute to a variety of issues experienced by different client groups. However, further quality research is needed to carefully examine riding activities as an independent phenomenon, in order to establish what contribution‐mounted activities, over and above groundwork, make to any therapeutic benefit of the EAT experience.
... ce on trail rides, in the arena, while riding, driving, vaulting, or performing ground work with the horse, or simply while grooming or being in the field or stable with the horse (Frewin & Gardiner, 2005;White-Lewis, 2020). Interaction with equines can have physical, psychological, socio-emotional, language, and cognitive benefits (Blakeney, 2014;H. L. Burgon, 2014;Uchiyama, Ohtani, & Ohta, 2011). EAAT can be part of education and therapy for people from young children to those in their elder years. EAAT involves all the senses, can promote teamwork, problem-solving, creative thinking, communication, leadership, physical and speech improvements, and encourage overall emotional growth and learning S ...
... Working with horses can promote a sense of being calm, relaxed, while at the same time increasing functional awareness and allowing presence in the moment, encouraging improvements in emotion regulation (Burgon, 2014). Activities such as grooming are considered to be calming, while leading can feel empowering, and simply meeting and stroking a horse has been shown to decrease tension and has the potential for emotional transfer (Hama, Yogo, & Matsuyama, 1996;Hartmann et al., 2021;Scopa et al., 2019). ...
Attachment Theory suggests interaction with caregivers in childhood impacts relationships and health throughout our lives (Bowlby, 1965, 1969, 1971), leaving many who have experienced insecure attachment with an inability to form healthy relationships or cope with stressors throughout their lifespan (Holmberg, Lomore, Takacs, & Price, 2011). Horses have interacted with humans for over 12,000 years (Hintz, 1995), holding multiple roles in human society, most relying on observation by humans of equine behavior, and formation of a human-equine bond (Hamilton, 2011). More securely attached humans tend to more readily decipher non-verbal cues, positively affecting their felt security and internal working model of Attachment (Bachi, 2013). Interacting with horses, who provide significant non-verbal cues, may provide an opportunity to enhance this process, providing useful feedback and insight. This study aimed to evaluate if a single ground-based encounter with a horse could bring about changes in women participants’ reports of Attachment and Emotion Regulation. It was hypothesized that participants would move towards more secure dimensions of Attachment and Emotion Regulations after the encounter with the horse and that behavioral interactions with the horse would differ for those with differing dimensions of Attachment or Emotion Regulation. This study incorporated a repeated measures mixed methods design, one twenty-eight year old Standardbred mare, “Wicky” Long Wick, interacted with 22 female university students with minimal prior equine experience aged 18-30. Participants completing a demographic and screening questionnaire along with the Experiences in Close Relationships –Revised (ECR)(Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998) and Emotion Regulation Questionnaires (ERQ)(Gross & John, 2003) at baseline, then the ECR and ERQ again both immediately prior to and immediately following encounter with the horse. The encounter was videotaped and included meeting, grooming, leading, and goodbye. Statistical analyses were completed using SPSS including paired t-tests and correlations. Videotape was evaluated, coded, and included in both quantitative and qualitative data analyses. Participants were recruited and participated in the study over the period of one calendar year. A significant decrease in Attachment anxiety was shown after encountering the horse (t(21)=2.915, p=.008 (M .237364, SD= .381941)), and significantly less time was spent between the horse and participant at goodbye than at meeting (t (21)=2.751, p=.021 (M 42.045, SD= 71.67)), particularly for those with insecure dimensions of Attachment (t (15)= 2.814, p=.013 (M= 45.75, SD=65.03)). Participants with insecure dimensions of Attachment showed significant increases in cognitive reappraisal after encountering the horse (t(14)= -3.732, p=.002 (M -.411, SD= .4266)), and the greatest decreases in Attachment Anxiety (t(14)=3.364, p=.005 (M .307, SD= .354)). The findings suggest interaction between horses and people differs along Attachment dimensions and show some support for positive changes in humans for both Attachment and Emotion Regulation dimensions after interaction with a horse.
... Research suggests that people working with various species of therapy animals report feeling fully absorbed in the interventions and experience fewer distracting thoughts while they are interacting with animals (Schramm et al., 2015). This could be a function of both the novelty of working with animals during treatment and certain relational activities that involve a tolerable level of challenge, incorporate movement, and require focus and physical coordination with another species, such as the case when learning to ride a horse (Burgon, 2013). When people learn to observe the details of an animal's body language and behaviors, they can interact with the animal in purposeful, immersive ways. ...
Full-text available
Animal-assisted therapy in counseling (AAT-C) provides several key enhancements to counseling practice, including the promotion of emotional regulation and social skills. Various approaches exist for integrating counseling theories with AAT-C; however, the inclusion of therapy animals in positive psychology practice has yet to be explored in the counseling literature. In this article, we propose an integrated counseling treatment approach that blends AAT-C with the PERMA (positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment) theory of well-being. We review key concepts of PERMA and AAT-C, as well as delineate the beneficial mental health effects of human–animal interactions through the theoretical underpinnings of positive psychology. We then link animal involvement in AAT-C to specific intervention strategies and the understood mechanisms of change described in the PERMA model, followed by the description of a brief hypothetical counseling case example. We conclude with ethical considerations and implications for clinical mental health counseling practice and research.
... Cognitive reappraisal is generally considered more adaptive and healthier compared to emotional suppression as the former is positively associated with emotional and psychosocial outcomes unlike the latter that is negatively associated with these outcomes (Gross, 2002;Chambers et al., 2009). The involvement of the horse could aid with emotion regulation (Walsh, 2009) as learning to communicate congruently with horses facilitates client's awareness of mood changes, behaviours, body language and emotions (Burgon, 2014;Dampsey, 2017). ...
While there is increased involvement of animals in the clinical setting, studies investigating this form of complementary therapy suffer from methodological limitations that diminish the veracity of their findings. The involvement of horses in clinical settings for the improvement of mental health outcomes is known as Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), whereas participating in horsemanship activities with the horse without the involvement of a mental health professional is known as Equine-Assisted Activities (EAA). This study investigated the effectiveness of EAP and EAA on two strategies of emotion regulation, cognitive reappraisal and emotional suppression. In a single-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial, 90 young adults (21 males, 69 females) were randomly assigned to the EAP (N = 31), EAA (N = 26), or Placebo-Control (N = 33) condition, and then followed up 1 week after the experimental session. While results found no significant differences between conditions for cognitive reappraisal, both EAP and EAA revealed significant reductions in emotional suppression compared to the Placebo-Control condition. Results provide experimental evidence for the human-horse bond component present in both EAP and EAA, and theoretical implications are discussed.
... The framework provides a rationale for integrating techniques from other approaches, for example narrative practices such as definitional ceremonies to strengthen preferred identity narratives or the use of relaxation techniques to support YP to initiate co-regulation with horses. The complementarity between EAT/L and body-oriented interventions has been noted previously, and there are examples of their integration -for example interventions combining mindfulness approaches (Burgon, 2013) or dance/movement therapy (Ford, 2013) with EAT/L. ...
Conference Paper
This thesis explores the role of interactions between people and horses in Equine-Assisted Therapy and Learning interventions (EAT/L) for disadvantaged young people (YP). Part one is a conceptual review of the theories, methods, and techniques currently used in EAT/L research and practice for disadvantaged YP. Part two is an empirical research paper that explores the role of interactions between people and horses in interventions at a charity offering EAT/L for disadvantaged YP. It aimed to develop a theory of the role of horse-human interactions in EAT/L from the views and experiences of people facilitating and participating in it. It is a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with 13 young people and 6 staff, and observations of EAT/L sessions that they participated in. Part three is a critical appraisal of the research process. It focuses on the ways in which the researcher’s worldview, experiences, preconceptions and intentions influenced the research process, and how the process of the research influenced the researcher’s personal development and clinical and research practice.
... Equine-assisted psychotherapy features horses as co-facilitators in a therapeutic and learning environment. Equine-assisted psychotherapy demonstrates promise as an effective intervention option for children and adults suffering from psychosocial issues because it provides mental health benefits such as increased levels of self-confidence, selfesteem, and self-awareness (Burgon, 2013;Lanning, Baier, Ivey-Hatz, Krenek, & Tubbs, 2014;Rothe, Vega, Torres, Soler, & Molina, 2005). This modality specifically helps individuals at greater risk of mental health and behavioral problems. ...
Full-text available
The purpose of this study was to explore participants’ perceived benefits of equine-assisted psychotherapy and to understand if older adults with functional or cognitive impairment found meaning and purpose in their interactions with horses. This study employed a mixed methods study design with a concurrent triangulation approach. The findings from our study suggest that those impacted with functional or cognitive impairment can meaningfully engage in EAGALA model of equine-assisted psychotherapy and demonstrate the ability to find purpose from their experience. Their perceived benefits were not limited to their interactions with horses but instead wide-ranging, including positive influences from their peers, the outdoor environment associated with equine-assisted activities, and the increased level of social interactions through reminiscence. Social workers can serve a vital role in the use of equine-assisted psychotherapy among older adults, and equine-assisted psychotherapy may hold less stigma than traditional talk therapy to the older adult population.
Full-text available
Nature-based interventions hold promise for vulnerable youth experiencing mental, emotional, developmental, behavioral, or social difficulties. This scoping review examined wilderness therapy, animal assisted therapy, care farming, and gardening and horticultural therapy programs to raise awareness and guide future development of research and treatment options. Studies included in this review were identified through a systematic search of the literature informed by a scoping review framework. Studies were examined by design, sample, intervention, and key findings. The majority of studies were quantitative using repeated measures designs and were conducted primarily in the United States. Sample sizes were generally small. Interventions were residential and community based with varying degrees of duration. Outcomes were largely positive across a wide range of psychosocial and behavioral measures and often maintained post-treatment. We emphasize the importance of robust empirical designs, comprehensive description of the interventions and surrounding therapies, and identification of target groups.
Full-text available
Full-text available
Animal Spaces, Beastly Places examines how animals interact with people in different ways. Through a wide and comprehensive range of examples, which range from feral cats and wild wolves to domestic animals and intensively farmed cattle, the contributors explore the complex relations through which humans and non-human animals are mixed together. Our practices involving animals range from those of love and compassion to untold cruelty, force, violence and power. As humans, we have placed different animals into different categories according to notions of species, usefulness, domesticity or wildness. As a result of these varying and often contested orderings, animals are assigned to particular worldly spaces wherein they are supposed to remain.
This book offers an overview of the rapidly expanding field of Psycho-Social research. Drawing on aspects of discourse psychology, continental philosophy and anthropological and neuro-scientific understandings of the emotions, psycho-social studies has emerged as an embryonic new paradigm in the human sciences. Psycho-social studies uses psychoanalytic concepts and principles to illuminate core issues within the social sciences. The present volume contributes to the development of the new research methodologies in a number of ways. It is written largely from the point of view of practitioners who are also researchers. Although contributors draw largely upon object-relations traditions in psychoanalysis, other influences are also present, particularly from continental philosophy and the sociology of the emotions. It develops an approach to epistemology - how we know what we know, which is strongly informed by a living approach to psychoanalysis, not just as a theory but as a way of being in the world - that is as a stance. © 2009 Simon Clarke and Paul Hoggett for the edited collection, and to the individual authors for their contributions..
Domestication of animals began over 12,000 years ago and continues today. Animals and humans have been developing special relationships for centuries. Despite descriptive and anecdotal reports, research focused on the use of animals as therapeutic interventions and the unique relationship that often exist between animals and humans has been sparse and frequently not based on rigorous methodology. The following article reviews interventions and outcomes of animals commonly considered companions or pets and horses. Issues and implications for rehabilitation professionals in regards to their awareness and use of these less than traditional forms of interventions are explored.
This edited volume provides chapters on the leading evidence-based mindfulness interventions as of 2006: mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. Applications for clinical, medical, and nonclinical but stressed populations, as well as children, adolescents, and older adults, are described. Each chapter includes a detailed case study illustrating how the intervention is implemented, conceptual background, empirical support, and a discussion of practical issues that clinicians wishing to use these treatments must consider. A second edition (2014) focusing on MBSR, MBCT, and related treatment programs is also available.
Earlier treatments of moderatum generalization (e.g. Williams, 2000a) explicitly addressed interpretivist sociology. This article extends that earlier argument by examining some of its implications for a wider range of qualitative research methods. It first adopts an empirical approach, providing concrete illustrations from the most recent volume of Sociology of what sociologists actually do when describing the meaning of their findings. In the light of this, we reconsider the significance of moderatum generalization for research practice and the status of sociological knowledge, in particular making the case that research design should plan for anticipated generalizations, and that generalization should be more explicitly formulated within a context of supporting evidence.