Thoughts From the Symposium The etymological roots of ‘symposium’ derives from the Greek meaning ‘convivial gathering of the educated’ and in a horse context, as a description of The Universal Language of the Horse gathering, it’s not too far off!
For me, a former full-time academic, the initial fear of symposiums as dry academic delivery of abstract facts is always a worry as I pack my bag and head off, but this symposium was incredibly different. Convivial is definitely true of the contributors from across the globe who so generously came together to discuss and present their vital work or experiences on and of equine assisted services. Yes, there were some fascinating facts and figures relayed such as the break down of the IFCE’s (the French Government’s dedicated equine body) €1.2 million budget for equine research and development, the outstanding work being done by One Equine in a post-conflict Northern Ireland, the positive research outcomes by Racing To Relate’s PhD team - proving the suitability of former racehorses for work in equine therapy. But more than that, there was a feeling of oneness. That feeling overwhelmed me at one stage and I’m not afraid to say I shed a tear as I listened to the
BraveHearts’ veterans share what horses had done for them, and as I watched Jock Hutchison and former racehorse, (renamed Jacques by Jock) demonstrate the possibilities of the horse-human relationship after only meeting 30 minutes before the symposium: clear signals encouraging trust embodied in Jacques comfort and physical dialogue with Jock.
More than the professional demonstrations and the presentations, what stirred the emotion in me most was realizing how much these horses and the humans studying them, building therapy programs around them, scientifically testing them, are doing for people who need it. Just like they always have; we ask, they give.
I watched some of the UK veterans listening to the case studies from America, faces softened in recognition of their own story in amongst it all. I watched the professional practitioners let the unity flow through them…we’re not alone, there are lots of us trying to help humans with horses and trying to blaze the trail to give horses the best possible experience within an equine assisted career. Like much of modern life; money, bureaucracy and opinion often encroach on good work and that can be the grind in the everyday, but what I saw at the symposium was a palpable reflection of a force for good. The tears came because there is so much good being done by so many people from so many different backgrounds, all with an understanding of the sentience and selflessness of the horse at the heart of healing, expression and progression.
My heartfelt thanks go out to Pebbles Turbeville and Tara Mahoney of the Horses and Humans Research Foundation for making The Universal Language of the Horse symposium happen, it takes courageous, creative people such as these to make magic happen for us all.
“The HHRF presentation brought on the one hand, fascinating insights and new knowledge, and on the other hand, vital reassurance that the link between horses and humans - that is clearly obvious though its undeniable positive effects on those of us who are blessed to be involved and work in the equine space - is being documented and given intellectual credibility for those who need to start believing and engaging in equine assisted therapy." ~ Gerard Wood MC - Member of the HorseBackUK herd and proud attendee rider in the 2023 Bravehearts - Trail to Zero ride - Normandy, France
"The symposium was an incredibly valuable and informative day. It was a great opportunity to connect with other peers from around the world who all share the same vision, helping to change the lives of people and horses. It was so refreshing to spend a day hearing about all of the good work going across the globe in our industry, and I was left feeling inspired and fired up for the future! Thank you for a great day!" ~ Kimberly Dunn, Founder of Idyllwild Horsemanship, and Southern Team Member of Horseback UK.
"Overall, the Horse and Human Research Foundation Symposium was a resounding success, propelling progress in EAS while safeguarding the welfare of therapy horses. It served as a testament to the dedication and passion of individuals involved in EAS, reinforcing the importance of safe, effective, and evidence-based treatments." ~ Vera Lantelme-Faisan, HETI Executive Committee
"It was a pleasure to present at the recent conference. To see a translator relaying information in French was an overwhelming experience. We were able to have 6 veterans present on the benefits of horses being breathing, visualization, congruency of physical, emotional and mental well-being, developing your inner voice, finding purpose, and recovery. It was such an honor to get some of our concepts shared with people we likely would never have had the opportunity to reach. A HUGE thank you to HHRF for setting this event." ~ Meggan Hill-McQueeney, President/COO BraveHearts