Somatic Experiencing® for Horses?

The following is a series of videos that explores the polyvagal theory, Somatic Experiencing®, attachment theory, and developmental neuroscience in the context of working with horses to overcome fear-related issues. To view the videos in higher resolution (720p or 1080p), click on the gear crank icon at the bottom right of the video, then click on Quality and select the resolution. Slower internet connections may require a lower resolution for viewing.

These videos have been reviewed by and released with the permission of Somatic Experiencing® International. They were also produced with the generous support of Julie Lannen of the Australian Clicker Connection.

UPDATE – January 2022: Julie and I have decided to make these resources available again due to the unique perspective that they bring after taking them offline for a few years. We are not affiliated in any other way and our collaboration is limited to this short series. These videos are not an endorsement of one another’s work, but rather offer an interesting lens on equine behaviour and nervous systems that hopefully can provide some insights to inform horsemanship and equine behaviour shaping in various contexts. The part 1 video is a little outdated now, but is still being provided as a reference to make better sense of part 2.

Part 1 of 2: Theory and Frameworks

This presentation features Sarah Schlote providing a brief and general introduction to the contributions of Dr. Stephen Porges (the polyvagal theory) and Dr. Peter Levine (Somatic Experiencing®) in understanding mammalian nervous systems, as a rationale for looking at new developments in the field of neuroscience in understanding equine fear responses.

Part 2 of 2: Video Analysis

This presentation reviews two training videos from Julie Lannen working with her horse, Star, on his fear of objects using a combination of negative reinforcement (Constructional Approach Training for Horses), positive reinforcement (clicker training), and Intrinzen work (empowering body postures and movements). The two sessions are deconstructed from the perspective of Somatic Experiencing® the polyvagal theory, attachment theory, and other concepts drawn from developmental neuroscience and trauma-informed care.

This video does not completely capture the depth of Somatic Experiencing® as an approach, of course, but rather depicts elements and aspects that are part of the process and how they could be applied with a non-human animal. Another part of Somatic Experiencing® includes what has been called trauma release work, with or without the involvement of somatic touch work (that is, supporting the body to complete and deactivate the residual charge left in the body from thwarted self-protective responses – for an introductory video to trauma and mammalian nervous systems from this lens, click here). That said, the video below offers a glimpse into what some of the preliminary work can look like in terms of building capacity in the nervous system and growing the window of tolerance for resilience in the face of activating circumstances.

Video Transcript

The transcript for part 2 was prepared by Jennifer Teis.

EQUUSOMA Beyond Behaviourism Video Analysis Transcript 2019 Final

The information contained in the multimedia content (“Video Content”) posted represents the views and opinions of the original creators of such Video Content and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute, Dr. Peter Levine, Dr. Stephen Porges, Dr. Bruce Perry, Dr. Francine Shapiro, and others whose ideas were referenced.The Video Content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. The Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute, Sarah Schlote, and aforementioned individuals do not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of the Video Content, nor do they warrant the performance, effectiveness or applicability of any sites or other resources listed or lined to in any Video Content.Applying the ideas and concepts described in the Video Content to horses is speculative based on current knowledge and frameworks in the field of mammalian neuroscience and the field of trauma recovery in humans. As of the time of publishing the videos and transcript, the extrapolation of these ideas and concepts into working with horses has not been scientifically researched as an intervention for working with equines beyond anecdotal application. Sarah Schlote is not a horse trainer, equine behaviourist, or Certified Horse Behaviour Consultant.  Readers and viewers are encouraged to pursue further education and consultation in these areas to explore practical implementation of the material covered.The Video Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, treatment, or behavioural intervention. Always seek the advice of a qualified equine professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical or behavioural condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen in this video/transcript or any of Sarah Schlote’s websites.The Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute, Sarah Schlote, and the Schlote Psychotherapy Professional Corporation (operating as EQUUSOMA™) hereby disclaim any and all liability to any party for any direct, indirect, implied, punitive, special, incidental or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of the Video Content, which is provided as is, and without warranties.

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