Research continues to shed light on the impact of children’s interactions with horses in equine-assisted, learning, and therapeutic contexts. However, we know relatively less about the impact of children’s recreational activities with horses and a diversity of farm animals. What is needed is research that explores how recreational programs involving activities with horses and farm animals are perceived by the child participants themselves. This pilot study sought to explore the insights of children who participated in a nine-week recreational program involving activities with horses and farm animals, with a focus on children’s social emotional experiences and belief in animal mind, which involves attributing to animals the ability to think, feel, and experience emotions. Prior to beginning the nine-week program and upon its conclusion, we interviewed eight children (5 girls; 3 boys; aged 9 to 11 years) who were referred to the pro-gram because they were living in socioeconomically disadvantaged homes. Children responded to open-ended questions about their belief in animal mind and social emotional experiences. Salient themes in children’s responses prior to and following their participation in the program were identified using qualitative content analysis. Overall, children’s responses revealed new insights into animal minds and positive social emotional experiences following their participa-tion in the program. Children’s responses also revealed the following themes as key aspects of their experience in the program: (1) new opportunities and interest in the program, (2) feeling more confident with horses and farm animals, (3) new social opportunities and support, and (4) sadness that the program was ending. These findings hold significance for human–animal interaction practitioners and educators interested in supporting children’s positive social and emotional experiences and stimulating children’s belief in animal mind and knowledge of and respect for the needs of diverse animals.
Tardif-Williams, Christine Yvette and Roma, Renata P. S.
"Exploring Children’s Insights about Participating in Recreational Activities with Horses and Farm Animals: Social Emotional Experiences and Belief in Animal Mind,"
People and Animals: The International Journal of Research and Practice: Vol. 5
Available at: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/paij/vol5/iss1/14