Welcome to Ravenheart

Equine-Assisted Learning, Well-being Centre & Retreat
we are located near the town of Kamsack, Saskatchewan, Canada.

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BEAUTIFUL ONES

From the article: "When we add ecopsychology’s goals into the mix, the experience offered always seeks to restore a healthy relationship and interaction between an individual and the world around them: plants, animals, minerals. There can be specification to explore a community, family, or individual relationship interaction from there, but all interactions — human and non-human — are part of the ecological view of human experience. How a tree or horse is experienced is in no way less relevant than how another human is experienced."BEYOND PRESCRIBING PETS

Much like the studies on the effects of animal-assisted therapies, there are multitudes of studies that reveal the measurable human benefit of experiences that involve what we call “nature."

- Going for a hike increases mood (“Mind Report: Ecotherapy,” 2007) and decreases cortisol levels, sympathetic nervous system activity, blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety symptoms (Williams, 2012).

- Hospital patients heal more effectively with a view of nature (Alter, 2013).

- Children diagnosed with ADHD who played indoors with a view of natural space were calmer and more focused than children who were outside, but in man-made space without grass or trees (Taylor, Kuo & Sullivan, 2001).

- While pesticides and stress inhibit immune system function, the oils released by pine trees increase it – even more effectively than pharmaceuticals (Williams, 2012).

A popular textbook on Animal-Assisted Therapies names what is happening quite well: “prescribing pets.” In the cases above, prescribing nature.

Hikes to help stressed out city dwellers, views of nature for hospital patients and children, pine tree oil for immune system function… “dogs and cats in nursing homes, dolphins with autistic children [sic], horseback riding for the physically challenged, and therapeutic interventions involving species from llamas to hedgehogs” (Arkow, 2004).

In centering this sort of extraction, we negate the very core of these experiences and do a disservice to our place within the complexity of ecosystems and the non-human.

Instead of prescriptions, we need to look at these instances as complicated interactions taking place.

If the smell of the trees increases immune function or the presence of a dolphin causes a change in behavior, then the trees or dolphin are contributing to an interaction (“reciprocal action or influence), or perhaps we might even say a relationship (“the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected”). The trees' particles are entering the human’s system through smell and breath, and changing it. Hospital patients’ recovery is more speedy when they have a view of “nature" — the light from the sun is reflecting off every portion of their view, reaching their brain through their eyes, and changing the mechanisms of their body.

So we aren’t just prescribing trees, we are having an encounter with the trees. Or the natural world we gaze upon out the hospital window, or from an indoor play space. Dogs and cats lower stress in nursing home residents? Dolphins help children on the autism spectrum? Horseback riding facilitates physical therapies? Ilamas? Hedgehogs? These are not prescriptions, they are transactional encounters, and relationships: models and schemas of relation, whose mere existence is measured for human benefit.

When we look beyond the extraction, what do we find in this encounter and how does it pertain to the goals of these nature-based and animal-assisted therapies?

What do we humans bring to that encounter? Perhaps it is a stretch to consider our contribution to a tree, but then what about the horse, who bring us joy? Are we contributing to their enrichment, as well, or mostly using them for our needs?

When we look at the studies on animal-assisted activities, why are so many researchers looking into the effects of horses on clients, and not the effect of clients on horses? Does it matter, ethically?

Even if we imagine it doesn't, how does the reality of the human's effect within this encounter with the non-human world impact outcomes and the client's experience?

When we add ecopsychology’s goals into the mix, the experience offered always seeks to restore a healthy relationship and interaction between an individual and the world around them: plants, animals, minerals. There can be specification to explore a community, family, or individual relationship interaction from there, but all interactions — human and non-human — are part of the ecological view of human experience. How a tree or horse is experienced is in no way less relevant than how another human is experienced.

When a practitioner puts an animal in the client's world, they have a responsibility to ensure the formation of a healthy relationship and interaction model as a key element of that experience, in BOTH directions, or the intervention is flawed and fragmented. This is a critical responsibility we take on when we ask horses to join us in our work.

We must go past deluding ourselves about prescribing pets, like they show up as a pill to swallow or a magical treatment. Past where nature and animals are reduced to “aesthetics and amenities” (Shephard, 1995).

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Written by Katherine Causbie

Art by Tracie Grimwood
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From the article: When we add ecopsychology’s goals into the mix, the experience offered always seeks to restore a healthy relationship and interaction between an individual and the world around them: plants, animals, minerals. There can be specification to explore a community, family, or individual relationship interaction from there, but all interactions — human and non-human — are part of the ecological view of human experience. How a tree or horse is experienced is in no way less relevant than how another human is experienced.

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animals/pets - the best medicine!

Big thanks to the Norquay Tail Twisters 4-H Club for coming to Ravenheart for an introduction to Equine-Assisted Learning. A really lovely group, horse-wise, engaging, and kind. Sugar was a willing participant and shell appreciate the big bags of oats they kindly donated! Thank you! The other horses will enjoy them too of course, as they did today after the session, in gratitude for their participation. ♥

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BEAUTIFUL ONES

Dear Sugar. 💕 I’m sure the 4Hers loved it!!

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Since 2007 we have been offering a range of Equine-Assisted programs & retreats for children, adults, groups and communities.

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All programs are based on non-riding activities with horses, building connection, understanding, awareness, and trust.

“Closeness, friendship, affection: keeping your own horse means all these things.”

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