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Horses for discourses: the discursive construction of guided human equine interactions

Horses for discourses: the discursive construction of guided human equine interactions
Horses for discourses: the discursive construction of guided human equine interactions
The aim of this research was to account for the meaning practitioners and clients gave to Guided Human Equine Interactions (GHEI). GHEI is a term that covers a range of interactions between human and horse for the purpose of facilitating emotional and social development in the human participants. There is paucity of research to evidence assumptions inherent in practice and little is known about the meaning participants give to GHEI. Despite this, practice is rapidly expanding in Britain following similar growth in America where GHEI originated.

An underlying premise in this thesis is that the discourses employed to account for equine involvement in therapy and learning will construct practice. Therefore, language samples were obtained from interviews with ten GHEI practitioners, two GHEI websites, and from the personal experience of one client through their diary entries. The data were interrogated, analysed and interpreted according to a discursive strategy based on work by Ballinger and Cheek (2006).

Five dominant discourses (metaphysical, sensory, social, mental distress and symbolic) were surfaced across three studies. These discourses served differing functions and woven together, formed a discursive framework that accounted for the meaning practitioners and clients gave to GHEI. This incorporated not only the cognitive, affective and behavioural elements seen in mental health interventions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but also included the added dimensions of spiritual, sensory and symbolic meaning. These added factors provided for a more holistic experience for the client than office based therapy alone.

The insights gained suggest the horse has an impact, not only on the spatial distancing between the client and practitioner, but also on their relational distancing. This distancing enables the client to be positioned as the expert at the centre of the intervention. However, expert client positioning was only apparent as long as the practitioner did not draw on a dominant mental distress discourse, or tried to market GHEI. There was a lack of risk discourse across all studies, which was considered an important added factor in positioning the client as expert. Spatial and relational distancing may assist GHEI practitioners in being alongside individuals who decline to engage in more formal interventions

It was noted that adaptation had taken place in the discursive construction of GHEI from practice developed in America. This had led to culturally relevant practice being accounted for in Britain.

It was concluded that the inclusion of a horse in therapeutic and learning practice is at an intersection between past discourses where the metaphysical, such as spirit and healing, were privileged and contemporary discourses where social care and treatment of mental illness are authoritative. There is a symbiotic relationship between the function of the horse in accounting for the meaning given to GHEI and the function of dominant discourses. This results in a centaur-like enmeshment of human and horse.
equine assisted psychotherapy, equine assisted therapy, equine facilitated learning, mental health and social care
Brown, Kim
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Brown, Kim
4fddc77f-ec09-48b1-a301-8068a4307a5d
Hill, Ellis
0db8db1a-b7fc-42f8-99c5-8e43557785c1
Kersten, P.
b5c4e49b-d73b-46f1-bdc4-266170562b67
Zeeman, L.
213a40f5-b7ce-44b7-99fb-dde56cf032b9
Mcbride, Elizabeth
8f13b829-a141-4b67-b2d7-08f839972646

Brown, Kim (2010) Horses for discourses: the discursive construction of guided human equine interactions. University of Southampton, School of Health Sciences, Doctoral Thesis, 365pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The aim of this research was to account for the meaning practitioners and clients gave to Guided Human Equine Interactions (GHEI). GHEI is a term that covers a range of interactions between human and horse for the purpose of facilitating emotional and social development in the human participants. There is paucity of research to evidence assumptions inherent in practice and little is known about the meaning participants give to GHEI. Despite this, practice is rapidly expanding in Britain following similar growth in America where GHEI originated.

An underlying premise in this thesis is that the discourses employed to account for equine involvement in therapy and learning will construct practice. Therefore, language samples were obtained from interviews with ten GHEI practitioners, two GHEI websites, and from the personal experience of one client through their diary entries. The data were interrogated, analysed and interpreted according to a discursive strategy based on work by Ballinger and Cheek (2006).

Five dominant discourses (metaphysical, sensory, social, mental distress and symbolic) were surfaced across three studies. These discourses served differing functions and woven together, formed a discursive framework that accounted for the meaning practitioners and clients gave to GHEI. This incorporated not only the cognitive, affective and behavioural elements seen in mental health interventions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but also included the added dimensions of spiritual, sensory and symbolic meaning. These added factors provided for a more holistic experience for the client than office based therapy alone.

The insights gained suggest the horse has an impact, not only on the spatial distancing between the client and practitioner, but also on their relational distancing. This distancing enables the client to be positioned as the expert at the centre of the intervention. However, expert client positioning was only apparent as long as the practitioner did not draw on a dominant mental distress discourse, or tried to market GHEI. There was a lack of risk discourse across all studies, which was considered an important added factor in positioning the client as expert. Spatial and relational distancing may assist GHEI practitioners in being alongside individuals who decline to engage in more formal interventions

It was noted that adaptation had taken place in the discursive construction of GHEI from practice developed in America. This had led to culturally relevant practice being accounted for in Britain.

It was concluded that the inclusion of a horse in therapeutic and learning practice is at an intersection between past discourses where the metaphysical, such as spirit and healing, were privileged and contemporary discourses where social care and treatment of mental illness are authoritative. There is a symbiotic relationship between the function of the horse in accounting for the meaning given to GHEI and the function of dominant discourses. This results in a centaur-like enmeshment of human and horse.

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More information

Published date: June 2010
Keywords: equine assisted psychotherapy, equine assisted therapy, equine facilitated learning, mental health and social care
Organisations: University of Southampton

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 171983
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/171983
PURE UUID: 6659a467-66aa-483b-8800-de69d5299ccb

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 24 Jan 2011 15:10
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 12:14

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Contributors

Author: Kim Brown
Thesis advisor: Ellis Hill
Thesis advisor: P. Kersten
Thesis advisor: L. Zeeman
Thesis advisor: Elizabeth Mcbride

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