Accepted Paper:

Together is better: a study on inmate-horse relations and how it affects participants' lives.  

Authors:

Barbara Ghiringhelli (IULM University)
Vittorio Maria Rocchelli

Paper short abstract:

The aim of this research was to explore the experiences of humans and horses involved in the project “Horses in Prison" (ASOM). How this program rehabilitates both inmates and horses? The results suggest a positively impact for all parties involved.

Paper long abstract:

This study focuses on inmate-horse relations and how it affects participants' lives. Equine-facilitated prison programs have become more prevalent in the US and in Europe. Deaton (2005) found that working with animals in prisons can be "highly therapeutic and rehabilitative" in addition to providing vocational training for inmates. Strimple (2003) found that inmates working in horse-training programs learned "life-enhancing skills" and that participation led to a reduction in recidivism rates. To-date, no studies have been undertaken on the benefits to animals that are involved in this programs. The purpose of this interdisciplinary research is to explore the experiences of humans and horses involved in the project "Horses in Prison" (ASOM), the first Italian equine-assisted activities for inmates in the house of detention - Milano Bollate. How this program rehabilitates both inmates and horses? The study is carried out as collaborations between anthropologists and veterinarians through a mixed research methodology: participant observation, in-depth interviews, visual ethnography, vet check. Growing numbers of ethnographers and ethologists have recognized that many of their techniques and approaches have strong parallels, and that the two disciplines can enrich one another.

Fifteen inmates and twenty-two horses are involved in the study. In this research the horses were seen as individuals having their own agency (Mcfarland and Hediger 2009). Preliminary results show that "Horses in Prison" can change the atmosphere of prison, provide meaningful work and training for inmates, and be an appropriate project for the rescue of horses seized, abused, neglected or at the end of career.

Panel P122
Living well together: considering connections of health, wellbeing and work in the lives of humans and other living beings [Humans and Other Living Beings]