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Open AccessArticle

Bodies of Knowledge, Kinetic Melodies, Rhythms of Relating and Affect Attunement in Vital Spaces for Multi-Species Well-Being: Finding Common Ground in Intimate Human-Canine and Human-Equine Encounters

Department of Social Work, Education and Community Well-Being, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE7 7AX, UK
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Animals 2019, 9(11), 934; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110934
Received: 29 September 2019 / Revised: 24 October 2019 / Accepted: 4 November 2019 / Published: 7 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Assisted Therapies and Interventions 2019)
Children’s beneficial relationships with animals are well known. Companion animals, particularly dogs, have become an integral part of family life and children’s material culture. Aside from the proven physiological benefits, there is little research about what children say about their relationships with animals and how they describe them. In this paper, we bring together both horse-human and dog-human interactions, finding common ground for understanding the complexity of human development, well-being and flourishing. Dogs in schools are fast becoming a trend in helping to support and enhance children’s learning as well as their social and emotional well-being. Studies have shown that the very presence of a dog can increase children’s concentration, executive function and behaviour. In addition, equine therapy is gaining momentum and empirical studies are showing noteworthy benefits to children and young people. However, the lack of children’s voices means that the mechanisms for these benefits are comparatively unknown and unclear. In seeking to explore this, the authors utilized a visual, sensory ethnographic approach to illuminate, illustrate, experiment and reenact how the children and adolescents related, shared spaces and multiple subjectivities with their companion horse, Henry, and classroom canine, Ted. The former, Henry, champions a programme in which young people discover what can be learned from horses about communication as they learn to ride and care for them.
In this paper, we bring together two separate studies and offer a double similitude as it were, in finding “common ground” and “common worlds” between dog–human and horse–human interactions. Appreciation of the process and mechanism of affect (and affect theory) can enable a greater understanding of child–animal interactions in how they benefit and co-constitute one another in enhancing well-being and flourishing. Studies have thus far fallen short of tapping into this significant aspect of human–animal relationships and the features of human flourishing. There has been a tendency to focus more on related biological and cognitive enhancement (lowering of blood pressure, increase in the “feel good” hormone oxytocin) such as a dog’s mere “presence” in the classroom improving tests of executive function and performance. Study A details an affective methodology to explore the finer nuances of child–dog encounters. By undertaking a sensory and walking ethnography in a North East England Primary School with Year 6 (aged 10 and 11 years) and Year 4 (aged 7 and 8 years) children (60 in total), participant observation enabled rich data to emerge. Study B involves two separate groups of young people aged between 16 and 19 years who were excluded from mainstream education and identified as “vulnerable” due to perceived behavioural, social or emotional difficulties. It used mixed methods to gather and examine data from focus groups, interviews and statistics using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. Photo elicitation was an additional source of information. This equine intervention facilitated vital spaces for social and emotional well-being. The important significance of touch to children’s and young people’s well-being suggests a need for “spaces” in classrooms, and wider society, which open up this possibility further and challenge a “hands-off” pedagogy and professional practice. View Full-Text
Keywords: affect; embodied ways of knowing; inter-corporality; interspecies intimacy; sensory ethnography; movement; rhythm; canine and equine interactions affect; embodied ways of knowing; inter-corporality; interspecies intimacy; sensory ethnography; movement; rhythm; canine and equine interactions
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MDPI and ACS Style

Carlyle, D.; Graham, P. Bodies of Knowledge, Kinetic Melodies, Rhythms of Relating and Affect Attunement in Vital Spaces for Multi-Species Well-Being: Finding Common Ground in Intimate Human-Canine and Human-Equine Encounters. Animals 2019, 9, 934.

AMA Style

Carlyle D, Graham P. Bodies of Knowledge, Kinetic Melodies, Rhythms of Relating and Affect Attunement in Vital Spaces for Multi-Species Well-Being: Finding Common Ground in Intimate Human-Canine and Human-Equine Encounters. Animals. 2019; 9(11):934.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Carlyle, Donna; Graham, Pamela. 2019. "Bodies of Knowledge, Kinetic Melodies, Rhythms of Relating and Affect Attunement in Vital Spaces for Multi-Species Well-Being: Finding Common Ground in Intimate Human-Canine and Human-Equine Encounters" Animals 9, no. 11: 934.

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