The Potential of Human–Horse Attachment in Creating Favorable Settings for Professional Care: A Study of Adolescents’ Visit to a Farm
Törmälehto, Erna; Korkiamäki, Riikka (2020)
Julkaisun pysyvä osoite on
Previous research has shown features of an attachment bond to be fulfilled in, for instance, human–dog dyads; however, there is a considerable lack of research on the potential attachment in human–horse relationships. Employing Bowlby’s criteria of an attachment bond and Pierce’s model of therapeutically powerful activity, this article studies whether short-term exposure to horses brings about elements of emerging attachment for adolescents and if this interaction holds potential in creating a favorable early-stage setting for professional care. It draws from group discussions carried out with nine 16–17-year-old adolescents who participated in an EASEL (Equine-Assisted Social and Emotional Learning) session when visiting a farm with a youth worker. A qualitative content analysis of the discussions revealed that some characteristics of the four principal criteria of an attachment bond—proximity maintenance, safe haven, secure base, and separation distress—were identifiable in the adolescents’ expressed experiences of observing and interacting with horses. Moreover, the three main sources of therapeutic power—appeal, accuracy, and intactness—intersected with the emerging development of the adolescents’ attachment to horses. Additionally, space for self-reflection was enhanced by the presence of the horses. The study offers insights into the potential of human–horse attachment in dealing with adolescents with and without special needs for various therapy and care purposes.
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