Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Nick Coady

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The purpose of this research was to explore the nature of equine-human bonding and its therapeutic value in recovery from trauma. The study sample consisted of six participants who identified that their pre-existing relationships with horses were therapeutic in recovering from various types of trauma (i.e. car accidents, horse-related accidents, work accidents and health trauma). Using a phenomenological perspective and an emotionalist lens, though the use of semi-structured interviews and video-tapes of horse-rider interaction, the study sought to describe the nature of the equine human bond and how it is useful in trauma recovery. The research results show that equine-human bonds, like other kinds of human-animal relationships, appear to mirror some of the fundamental elements significant to therapeutic alliances between professionals client. Four themes that constitute aspects of the equine-human relationship emerged from the data analysis: the intimacy or nurturing bond, the identity bond, the partnership bond and the utility bond. Themes pertinent to the therapeutic value of the equine-human bond included feelings, behaviours and touch/physical closeness relevant to healing. Themes related to understanding the trauma experience and other factors related to recovery also emerged. The results underline the significance of riders’ bonds with their horses to trauma recovery. A discussion of the implications for both social work and veterinary medicine is presented along with recommendations for future research.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season