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Research

I'm passionate about philosophy, horses and books. Besides being a horsey philosopher, I am also a professional philosopher. This breed does not spend their time gazing at the sky under blooming trees (sadly), but we do spend a ton of time reading, writing and editing. We do research. 

Here you can find out more about my research in equine ethics and equine philosophy.

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Published

WHAT ARE GOOD MULTISPECIES RELATIONS?

This is a chapter in the volume Feminist Animal Studies. It analyses four kinds of equine–human relations: asymmetrical relations, relations of utility, work relations, and friendship. It argues that only asymmetrical, work and friendship relations can provide good care.

You can access the Pdf of the chapter here.

You can purchase the volume here.

In progress

Ethics and Equines

With Friederike Zenker, we are working on a book manuscript on equine ethics. This book first aims to situate "equine questions" within contemporary debates in animal ethics. It then proceeds to argue for a specifically equine ethics by discussing angles of care, education, institutions and work. It ends with a chapter attending to ethical questions specific to wild horses.

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In progress

Equine euthanasia decision making

Description coming soon.

In progress

Attention to horses

I am interested in understanding the way that attention dynamics and quality shapes our relations with horses.  

 

The supposition is that good care for horses is tied to a form of attention. Research in neuroscience and philosophy explains that our attention dynamics are responsible for the ways in which we relate to the world. As neuroscientist Iain McGilchrist put it: "attention...dictates what it is that we come to have a relationship with." A form of focused, piecemeal attention helps us to make use of the world - it is goal directed. A form of open, broad attention enables us to connect and relate with the world. This last form of attention is relational, and not driven by one’s executive system. 

Lives with horses are often (if not always) goal directed (generally in the form of training or competing goals, but also in more subtle forms, like that one excepts one’s horse to cooperate or comply with orders).

This raises the worry that we rarely have moments of open attention towards horses.

 

Theory into practice

To investigate these theoretical ideas, I have been practicing forms of mediation sessions with the horses that share my life. When I meditate with horses, it is not yet another training exercise that I do. These moments are without a goal, without expectations. During these moments I am not trying to analyse what the horses are doing, I am not trying to direct their actions nor mine. As the American philosopher New Noddings put it: "We are in the world of the relation, we have left the instrumental world [goals are suspended]. We are not trying to transform the world, but we let it transform us."  We are being together. 

From 2021 to 2023, with my friend and colleague Rahel Grunder from Unterwegs-sein-mit-Pferden, we systematized this exploration into workshops and introductory courses on themes of attention and presence to horses.  One lesson from our work together is that mediating with horses nurtures our relation. The horses tune into this space of presence. They sense the tone switch when we sit with them with an attentive attitude. There is something most welcoming, but also very simple. Doing nothing together is so simple, that humans forget that it is the source of life. Moments of presence and silence open novel perspectives to meet and understand horses. I find that it is as rich an experience for those who live with horses as much as for newcomers.  

I might even go a step further, and say that sitting with horses, present, silent, welcoming, as a listener -- is a fundamental building block of any right relation with them. That is to say that to build ethical relations with horses, those moments of open attention are necessary. First to meet them (la rencontre), but then also to maintain our relationship. Training books and riding manuals emphasize more and more today the need to, first and foremost, be attentive to the horse: attentive to what she communicates through subtle bodily movements (nostril flare, composure of the lips, swish of the tail), attentive to her individuality, general responses, progress during learning, etc. The appeal, I take it, is to move away from a technique-centered focus (which risks concealing the horse as an individual, to present her as a 'training-project' (about that, see my blog about how entrenched instrumentalism often prevails in riding narratives)), towards a more holistic living-creature-to-living-creature experience during education and training. Here meditating with horses can act as an underlying ethos to support these activities. 
 
To read more about the experience of meditating with horses, check out the blog post: Just sitting together.

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