Equine Centred – Relational Horsemanship Philosophy
The IFEEL Method of human equine interactions does not endorse or teach any one style of horsemanship. As with other areas of human endeavour, there is a multigenerational lineage of esteemed horsemen/horsewomen, behaviourists and ethological researchers in various fields of equine activity who are regarded as the ‘forebears’ of today’s best relational practices. The common denominator is that all endeavour to put the welfare of the horse at the forefront and origin of the relationship between the horse and the human. As research and understanding expands so we evolve, inspired to embrace best practice whilst holding positive regard for all on this journey. We align strongly with an ‘equine centred’ approach as first coined by Jenny Eichner in 2017.
Models used to assess the suitability of equines, and equine welfare include the Five Domains/Five Provisions Welfare Aims paradigm (Mellor 2016) and the SAFE Professionals Code of Care for Equines. This is to ensure that all horses’, clients’ and facilitators’ psychological and physical wellbeing is safely managed at all times .
The horse in its natural state has survived for close to 55 million years without human support. By studying the lifestyle and environment of the few remaining free roaming horses and applying it in the domestic setting we stand to influence profoundly the future of the horse/human relationship.
IFEEL upholds high standards of horse welfare and well-being as defined by SAFE Professionals ethics and codes of conduct and of the UK HETI Human Equine Interaction Register (HEIR).
IFEEL Method for Horses and Herds
“Instead of thinking what can the horse do for us, we might better wonder what we can do that is in service to the spirit of the horse, in this way we may learn how to be humane” – Sun
Herds have complex social structures and like us, horses need a community of their own kind in order to learn from each other and to feel safe.
Horses are innately very curious and benefit from a stimulating and enriched environment, both socially and in terms of the land they inhabit. When observing domesticated horses living as a herd and roaming freely on tracked pastures or woodland walkways you can see more clearly aspects of the original ‘blueprint’ of the wild horse, and their natural affiliative (bonding) behaviours.
Horses roam in groups, often in single file. All horses have a place and identity within a well-established herd, all with nuanced characteristics with individual habits and tendencies. Where theories of dominance and hierarchy have now been debunked through evolving research in this field, important relational dynamics remain in constant play. The herd model also promotes behaviours that allow horses to mature and develop their confidence by naturally activating emotional agility and problem solving, for example: accessing resources, navigating boundaries (physical and relational) and thus nurturing mentally stimulated and emotionally balanced horses. Young horses learn best to be a horse from being with other youngsters and within a herd of mature, emotionally fit horses.
The relationships and social, affiliative interactions between herd members, establish and maintain social bonds that evolve in fluid rhythms across the lifespan, dramatically reducing conflict and injury. The herd’s interactions naturally cause the horses to move around the land, keeping them physically active and stimulated.
Living more in accordance with the ‘wild horse blueprint’ promotes the health and vitality of horses, for example,veterinary studies show that a horse’s digestion and cardiac systems only function properly when they are able to move throughout the day and night.
The wild horse travels on average approximately 20 miles a day. This movement naturally trims the hooves and stimulates more growth. The hooves absorb the concussion and weight of the horse through a subtle flexing motion which aides circulation to the lower limbs. This gentle flexing conditions the hooves and binds the cells. This is a perfect self-maintaining design that has been successful for 55 million years.
The horse in its natural state has survived for close to 55 million years without human support. By studying the lifestyle and environment of the few remaining free roaming horses and applying it in the domestic setting we stand to learn and influence profoundly the future of the horse/human relationship.
We invite you to look into the eyes of these horses and see what a free, spiritually connected, emotionally fit horse looks like. We may then have the rare opportunity to glimpse the true essence of these incredible beings.
Biodynamic Land and Equine Management
The horse is an ancient creature of a very ancient land. Biodynamic land management practices are attuned to the natural wild ways of nature’s rhythms and seasons. Unnecessary toxicity in processed horse feeds, synthetic medicines, horse care products and accessories are deemed to be harmful to horses, the earth and ultimately to us. Biodynamics are self-sustaining organic practices using homeopathic potency and herbal preparations along with natural grasses, flower and herbal lays relevant to the needs of the land and the animals living on it. Biodynamic land management ideally produces all the resources needed to feed human communities and animals in sustainable, ecological ways.
Introduction of vibrational medicines such as homeopathy, acupuncture and subtle energy body release treatments often work very well alongside allopathic veterinary practices. Practices such as zoo pharmacology where horses are free to self-select a range of safe herbs is proving an efficient, effective and non-invasive form of natural treatment.
Natural Hoof Care
Since their domestication around six thousand years ago the horse has had to adapt to many man-made conveniences, most notably stables, so they were easier to quickly access for use. This and factors of centuries of use for war and industry meant the practice of horse shoes came about to prevent their hooves deteriorating due to their unsuitable living and working conditions. In modern management systems horses are often unable to cover the desired amount and type of ground for natural wear, the hooves grow long and lose their tough outer calloused layer. Combine this with unnatural foods and the hooves can literally fall apart.
By returning domesticated horses to a more natural lifestyle where they can move freely over varied terrain and self-select natural grasses, flowers, herb and hedgerow foraged foods, alongside the psychological benefits to horses, the hoof health will likely simultaneously improve. In domesticated settings, even those where there is an enriched, species appropriate environment, best practice includes regular hoof care from a qualified practitioner such as an equine podiatrist or farrier to support lifelong barefoot health.
Complementary Medicine Working Alongside Veterinary Science
Unnecessary toxicity in feeds, synthetic medicines, horse care products and accessories are deemed to be harmful to horses, the earth and ultimately to us. We use vibrational medicines such as homeopathy and subtle energy body release treatments to work alongside allopathic veterinary practices. We recommend that horses are free to self select a range of safe herbs which is an efficient, effective and non invasive form of treatment.