Engaging with People, Horses and More-than-Human Animals
I offer psychotherapy and consulting centered on the human-animal bond. I combine my expertise as a therapist and social justice educator with my understanding of learning theory and positive training methods, to offer equine-assisted psychotherapy rooted in the ethical inclusion of horses in human treatment.
I also love consulting as a way of supporting individuals and other practitioners who want to make the world a better place for people and horses. My consultations focus on the intersection between social justice and the horse-human relationship, informed by the most up-to-date information on equine behavior and ethology.
With social justice as my foundation and a deep understanding of animal behavior and learning as my lens, I've seen how an overarching misunderstanding of horses in mainstream horse culture has led to labeling, systemic violence and the preference for defining reality for our horses in a way that suits us. This is a reflection of our broader social context and history: The mechanisms of oppression humans continue to face and inflict on each other are the same mechanisms we inflict on our horses.
After 30 years in the horse industry, I know that people love their horses and want what’s best for them. I also know this love is accompanied by contradictory practices like the use of force, lack of choice and autonomy, and misinterpretations of equine behavior. This results in horses who are shut down and living in a state of learned helplessness, depression or anxiety.
Unfortunately, many equine-assisted psychotherapy programs borrow from unexamined practices in the horse industry. In these programs, horses that are used to help humans heal are often exposed to excessive amounts of aversive and punishing training techniques. You may have noticed these practices, too, and felt in your gut that something's just not right.
Reimagining Equine-Assisted Practices
I’ve shared my entire life with horses, from county fairs to dressage clinics in Spain. Over time, my focus has changed from being a dedicated dressage rider, focused on how horses could make me happy, to advocating for horses' emotional and physical wellbeing. As a therapist, I've watched how the excitement about equine-assisted psychotherapy has been accompanied by the image of a magical, mystical experience of equity and inclusion, all the while borrowing from what's been left unexamined in the horse industry.
Many of us who are committed to challenging the status quo with horses have felt increasingly uncomfortable with these contradictions, as we begin to recognize and name the systemic violence and oppression that are integral to mainstream horse culture and training – and many practices within equine-assisted psychotherapy.
The ethical inclusion of horses in human treatment requires stepping outside of a human-focused narrative and our own lens of experience.
It requires us to unlearn what we've known and reimagine equine-assisted practices, so that our experiences with horses can help bring us back to the essence of who we are.
You’re Ready to Unlearn and Learn Anew
Whether you’re an equine-assisted therapist or seeking therapy, I’m ready to support you in learning how to shift your perspective from a human-dominant framework to one of connection, dialogue and choice.
My approach is centered on advocating for the horse as a foundation of relational safety. I draw on my experience as a Certified Brené Brown Daring Way Facilitator to help you identify your deepest values and create practices and behaviors that embody those values. I create a container of relational safety and unconditional acceptance so you have space to examine what’s coming up for you as you unlearn and learn anew. Our work together provides you with room to speak truth to thoughts, feelings and actions that feel shameful, and I provide guidance on ways to move forward with self-compassion and self-kindness.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
– Maya Angelou
Creating New Paradigms
Connection and kinship with nature are at the heart of my work with people, horses and more-than-human animals. When you deepen your understanding of the needs of more-than-human animals, the impact of systemic oppression, and our own human lens, you can begin to create solutions for change.
In my work, I use positive reinforcement techniques, LIMA (least intrusive, minimally aversive) strategies, ethology and the Humane Hierarchy, along with all I know about interpersonal neurobiology, embodied social justice and compassion practices, to work toward ending the use of systemic violence with horses and to increase our curiosity, empathy and compassion for these incredible beings. If you’re ready to explore new directions and best practices with horses or other more-than-human animals,
I invite you to reach out.
Contact Me About Consulting
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