"Before, he fought every day with the horse and with me": Reducing Violence in a Guatemalan Community through a Horse-Handling Program

Gibbons, J.L.1, Cunningham, C.A.2, Paiz2, L. Poelker, K.E.1 & Montufar Cardenas, M.A3

1 Saint Louis University
2 La Ronda Equestrian Club
3 Fundacion Equinos Sanos Para El Pueblo

Community and family violence are endemic in Guatemala. We evaluated the effectiveness of a horse-handling program to reduce violent attitudes and aggressive behavior. Eighteen community members who worked with horses in their daily lives (16 men, 2 women, ages 15 to 58) participated in four weekly sessions of embodied experiences with horses. The program taught Monty Roberts' Join-Up®, a method of non-violent handling, as well as desensitization of horses to feared objects. Compared to the pretest, on a posttest participants were less likely to endorse violent attitudes with respect to wife-beating, corporal punishment of children, and physical punishment of horses. Their horses also were less reactive to the owner's approach. Female relatives reported that following the program participants provided better care for horses and were calmer and less aggressive with other people. These findings imply that an equine-facilitated program shows promise for transforming communities in which violence is prevalent.

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Keywords: attitudes towards violence, embodied experience, Equine-human interactions, Guatemala
Posted in 2015, Volume 3, No. 2