Resources for social interaction in equine-assisted therapy

A research project studying social interaction in equine-assisted therapy

1. marked by or capable of movement
2. producing motion or action
3. stirring deeply in a way that evokes a strong emotional response


Therapy in mobility 30.11.2018

The project “Moving with horses: Resources for social interaction in equine-assisted therapy” is organising the first workshop realised with the NOS-HS Workshop Funding. The workshop takes place in Helsinki 28.–30.11.2018. The theme of the workshop is “Therapy in mobility”. The workshop consists of group work within our project team. However, the workshop also includes a …

Workshop funding granted!

We just received a notification that our project has been granted the NOS-HS Workshop Grant for the years 2018–2019. The funding will enable us to organize a series of three workshops with leading researchers of interaction as well as different stakeholders in the field of equine-assisted therapy. You can find information on the funding on …


Equine-assisted therapies (EAT), or horse-assisted therapies encompass different approaches to treating humans with horses.

On one hand, there is a scale in terms of the symptoms that are being treated, from the rehabilitation of clients with physical disabilities (e.g., clients diagnosed with cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis), to neurological symptoms (e.g., clients diagnosed in the autism spectrum) and to more social or psychological problems (e.g., alcoholism, depression). On the other hand, there also is a scale in terms of how much the therapy focuses on the actual horse-riding and how much other horse-related activities (such as grooming and feeding the horses or other manual labor at the stable) are included in the therapy.

Why horses?

Various explanations are given with respect to why horses are effective in treating physiological and psycho-emotional symptoms. The three-dimensional natural movements of the horse provide rich stimuli to the rider and the body warmth of the horse is conducive to relaxation. Touching the horse provides with a variety of sensations and the horse stable as a whole also provides with a rich sensory environment.

The horse reacts strongly to the emotional states of the client and this, coupled with the sheer size and power of the horse, offers a conducive setting for learning emotional self-regulation. And while the human-horse bond is central to horse-assisted therapies, their setting also relies heavily on the client-horse-therapist triad, which is unique in all treatment settings.

For more information on equine-assisted therapy

Equine-assisted therapy on Wikipedia

The Finnish Association of Equine Facilitated Therapies
The Finnish Association of Social Pedagogical Horse Activity (in Finnish)
Equine College of Ypäjä


The research project aims at explicating the specific resources for social interaction used in equine-assisted therapy (EAT). It is precisely because the horse is a participant in the interaction (e.g., the horse reacts to human action, the horse’s actions are interpreted by the other participants) she can be used in the therapy process.

We are using video-recorded interactions from authentic therapy sessions as data. The data are then analyzed using the methods of video analysis, conversation analysis and multimodal analysis.

We are currently collecting pilot data in Finnish and in French. The next step is applying funding for the project.

Kimmo Svinhufvud
Centre of Excellence in Intersubjectivity in Interaction
University of Helsinki

Chloé Mondémé
Triangle Lab / CNRS

Charlotte Lundgren
Department of Culture and Communication,
Linköping University

For more information on our approach, see the following literature:

Video analysis
Heath, C., Hindmarsh, J., & Luff, P. (2010). Video in qualitative research. London: Sage.
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Conversation analysis
Sidnell, J., & Stivers, T. (eds.). (2013). The handbook of conversation analysis. Chichester: Wiley.
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Antaki, C. (ed.). (2011). Applied conversation analysis. Intervention and change in institutional talk. London: Palgrave.
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Multimodal analysis
Mondada, L. (2014). The local constitution of multimodal resources for social interaction. Journal of Pragmatics 65, 137–156.
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Mondada, L. (2016). Challenges of multimodality. Language and the body in social interaction. Journal of Sociolinguistics 20, 336-366.
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