Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Modeling Mutual Respect

In a recent post on the EFMHA forum, Mari Louhi-Lehtio of Cavesson Ltd in Finland, spoke eloquently of the need for modeling authentic relationship between facilitator and the horse(s).

"...the relationships between facilitators and horses need to model at all times authentic, real and mutually respectful communication, trust and genuine affection... clients will spot (consciously or sub) anything modeling manipulation,domination, and different people/horses being valued and respected differently."

Sometimes, in facilitation, individuals get caught up in the activity and in the therapeutic goal and forget the horse entirely. It is the communication with the horse that is the heart of this work, and we want to always remember. The friendship model Mari discusses is different from the forced behavior model of horse training, even 'natural' horsemanship: "The basic principle of join up is to instill discomfort on the circle and“safety” with the human. Although that does result in the horse following freely etc., that does not represent truly free-willing co-operation the same way that horse friendship relationships model."

Just like real relationship is give and take, so it is in horsemanship and experiential activities. I like what Wayne Terrazas told me last Tuesday: "Respect isn't earned, respect is given. You give respect, and you are given respect back." With giving respect, the horse is giving its trust to you. Always honor that with genuine affection.