by Andrea Elizabeth
The answer I can most confidently give, but is not probably the first, is therapy. Such as when normal human relations aren’t working out so well. There are a couple of equine therapy centers around me that I’ve heard give injured people a sense of control, whether it’s ptsd, physical handicap, or other emotional issue. This is not necessarily to say all animal involved training is done by injured people. Well, in a sense everyone’s injured. Animals used to be employed for physical work, perhaps this is their new job. As physical human and animal work decreases, perhaps emotional stress increases without the outlet. We are created to move.
Regarding control. Used to be, we didn’t attribute much of an emotional life to animals. I’ve heard Black Beauty was a break-through in attributing emotional pain to animals in response to abuse and separation. While animals may not be as anthropomorphic as they are in Disney movies, studies have shown that animals are very much affected by their treatment and have long memories. So with the previous understanding, control was a one-way street from higher life form to lower life form. This traditional view also translated in family and social human hierarchies such as husbands over wives, women over children, etc. though I’m sure that is not the only way things were. It’s just the rule that was passed down, not necessarily always the actual way it worked out.
Nowadays cooperation is more in vogue where you have comprehensive discussions, and ,while the alpha may ratify a solution or course of action, the effects and happiness of the lowers is compassionately considered. Watch Buck, the original horse whisperer, or Cesar Milan’s dog training shows for what is now considered the proper, persuasive approach. The human alphas are still the ones in control, however.
One show on military ptsd equine therapy I saw talked about what it meant for the soldier that the horse wanted to listen to him and do what he asked. I’m not sure why that’s such a breakthrough if the issue is control. If the horse had to be intimidated to obey it wasn’t as therapeutic, even if he had the same outcome. Animals are capable of love, and this is what many people positively respond to. I wonder if soldiers who believe in their mission and feel well-directed from their superiors suffer as much from ptsd. Maybe they suffer because they are put in dangerous situations where it is up to them to survive: the ones who charge ahead of the safe zone. There’s probably different types. I think many just don’t feel supported, and to have a horse willingly support you is very nice.
For some, human relations for some reason do not make a person feel supported. Having an animal cooperate and show affection feels more safe than humans who for some reason don’t seem to know how to deal with damaged(?) people to the same effect. Maybe it’s because society is so deluded and damaged, and the sensitive ones who need things to be more natural are the only healthy ones.