Indigenous Horse-Based Healing (IHBH)
Developed by Dr. Angela McGinnis, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, IHBH incorporates the Four Blankets of horse-based healing, which prioritizes strengthened relationships with more-than-human beings (four-leggeds, swimmers, crawlers, winged ones).
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Indigenous Horse-Based Healing (IHBH)
Healing with the More-Than-Human World
Indigenous Horse-Based Healing (IHBH) is a culturally-adapted approach to equine-assisted psychotherapy that is grounded in an Indigenous worldview. It is an approach that positions horses as healers, rather than "tools" to be used in the therapeutic process. According to McGinnis and Kincaid (Forthcoming), "healing is further exemplified when Indigenous horses are involved, providing the space for their Indigenous origin stories, histories of colonial violence, and testaments of resilience to be told (Snowshoe & Starblanket, 2016)."
Horses are our more-than-human relatives.
The Four Blankets Model
The "four blankets" of Indigenous Horse-Based Healing (IHBH) was developed by Dr. Angela McGinnis (Snowshoe & Starblanket, 2016; metaphor adapted from Gray Smith, 2012).
Taking a Trauma-Informed Perspective
A trauma-informed perspective in any programming tailored for Indigenous peoples is required to take into account the intergenerational impact of colonisation and its associated negative mental health impacts. Before Indigenous peoples can work towards reclaiming their wellness with horses, they must become informed about what aspects of their culture has been taken from them, including a kincentric relationship with horses.
Using a Strengths-Based Approach
For equine-assisted healing to take place, there must be opportunities for Indigenous peoples to strengthen their relationship to the land and horses in their natural surroundings. Using a strengths-based approach means situating the horse-human relationship from a decolonized history facilitates this (re)connection and a reclaiming of traditional Indigenous ways of being with horses. It also highlights the ways in which Indigenous species have demonstrated resilience.
Meeting Community-Specific Needs
For Indigenous peoples, healing at the community level from the effects of colonialism is essential in order for individual healing to take place. Support at a community level for equine-assisted programming is not only important for logistical reasons (i.e., adequate physical spaces, horse care, and long-term funding), it is critical for a respectful and mutually beneficial reintegration of horses into contemporary Indigenous ways of life.
Being Connected through Spirit
Historically, the horse was understood by many Indigenous peoples to be a gift from the Creator that served as a spiritual companion and an amplifier for powerful healing energy. Traditional Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers who understand the sacredness of the horse-human relationship (and have been given the proper protocols) have the ability to abet such healing energy through ceremonial processes such as horse dance and horse medicine.
Gifts of the Horse
from an Indigenous worldview
Many Indigenous peoples refer to "horse medicine" as the capacity for horses to heal people from various mental and physical illnesses or conditions. Scientific support is emerging for equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) as an appropriate therapy to treat trauma and increase holistic wellness for Indigenous peoples (Bennett & Woodman, 2019). However, Indigenous horse-based healing (IHBH) goes a step further in being culturally responsive by integrating sacred understandings of the spiritual "gifts of the horse" from a traditional Indigenous worldview.
© Dr. Angela McGinnis
Why Indigenous Horses?
Lac La Croix Indigenous (Ojibwe) Ponies
Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies are extremely intelligent thinkers and surprisingly tolerant of human ineptitude, making them particularly suitable for beginning handers and equine-assisted therapy programs.
They are extremely forgiving of human mistakes, willing to give a second (and third) chance without hesitation, and are generally agreeable to anything asked of them. Their desire to please and notable friendliness makes them easy to handle and a pleasure to keep.
Because these ponies lived amongst their original caretakers up until 1977, Lac La Croix Ponies are well-socialized, emotionally intelligent, and desire human interaction, often being the first to greet visitors.
Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies have a long-standing relationship with Indigenous peoples of Canada, particularly the First Nations communities of Treaty 3 territory, as well as their Northern Minnesota neighbouring communities.
The ponies have the spiritual gift of healing physical and mental conditions & restoring holistic wellness.
Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies are listed as Critically Endangered & have cultural and historical importance for Indigenous peoples of Canada.
“[A] baby’s spirit is carried by the horse spirit. They say we come from the Star people… And in English, it’s called the Big Dipper. At that time, the Creator paints them, their spirit paint… And so a child is brought through that Big Dipper… And that spirit is with us as a child; our own spirit and also our horse spirit is with us. So when we connect with the horse, and we are around a horse, our spirit horse and the actual horse are communicating. They can tell on us or it can say certain things about us. And so that is why they say a horse can really look through us. That is why the horse’s eyes are made up of a star: to understand that where we come from is from the Star Nation.”
Indigenous Knowledge Keeper (from McGinnis & Kincaid, Forthcoming)