by Jaclyn S. Manzione, MS, NLC, EGCM®, ESMHL

by Thomas Manzione, PhD, LPC, ACC, ESMHL

TBAH Science Team

Introduction: A sentient being is able to feel things, or sense them. Sentient comes from the Latin sentient-, “feeling,” and it describes things that are alive, able to feel and perceive, and show awareness or responsiveness. This abstract identifies the horse as a sentient being in the   Equine Gestalt Coaching Method® (EGCM®).

Significance: The horse is an integral part of the EGCM® coaching triad and, as such, rightfully deserves to be recognized for their sentient capabilities. 

Purpose: The purpose of this capstone abstract is to elevate the status of equines, especially as it relates to their role in the EGCM®.

Setting and Participants: This is an academic, intellectual pursuit based upon a literature review of information relating to the sentient nature of equines.

Capstone Description/Process: Information, in regards to the concept of sentience as it relates to horses, was gathered from multiple sources. Both anecdotal and science-based information were incorporated in the literature/data review.  

Capstone Results/Impact: In her book, What the Heck Is Gestalt, Pearce identifies the power of this work to be the client’s ability to openly share from the “sacred space of their interior” (Pearce, 2019, p.46). “The client is heard and gains awareness both about themselves and what is discovered during the experiment (Pearce, 2019, p.92).”

In the EGCM®, “contact can also be experienced with horses. As a prey animal, horses are acutely aware of their environment. Due to their heightened sensitivity and because horses live in the present moment –in the right circumstances-genuine contact with human emotion comes naturally to them (Pearce, 2019, p. 91).”

Here’s what the science says about animal sentience: “Animals feel real emotions; Animals can read the emotions of others; Animals can feel love, and they mourn when a loved one dies; Farm animals are sentient beings—not units of property (McLaughlin, 2015).”  And, in a stunning development, researchers from the University of Sussex and the University of Portsmouth discovered that horses can read, remember and react to human expressions (Neuroscience News).

Also, researchers at the Institute of HeartMath measured changes in heart rate variability (HRV), which is governed by the autonomic nervous system, of equines in the presence of humans. They demonstrated that there is a feedback loop of bi-directional healing that occurs when we are near horses. Horse owners know from experience that the presence of a horse can generate feelings of joy, happiness and peace of mind.

In Volume 3 of the TBAH® Equine Coaching Stories, the reader will find the narrative entitled Fyre on the Mountain. This quote from that story says it all: “Grief is pervasive and tears at the very fabric of one’s heart. What mortal can change the course of such suffering and fill that void with hope to go forward? That task requires a spiritual intervention done by a spiritual being (p. 4).” In a tragic moment of profound sadness in that story, a horse named Fyre was that spiritual being.

In his book, Riding Home, Tim Hayes states “We all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper. I believe that this “mysterious tune” is a shared consciousness that is always present in all things: in particular animals and in specific, humans and horses (Hayes, T., 2015).”

In the EGCM®, horses are allowed to be themselves, thereby allowing the Divine to speak through their creation. When the Divine speaks, change and transformation occurs. “Spiritually, the horse signifies overcoming barriers, and how to express yourself in times of adversity (Manzione, J., 2022).” 

Capstone Evaluation: This capstone project was evaluated in light of the industry standard governing a systematic and theoretical analysis of the body of knowledge representing this field of study. It is a survey of scholarly sources on the topic of horses as sentient beings and spiritual entities.

Future Directions: Continuing with efforts to elevate the status of the horse, encouraging the practice of natural horsemanship and promoting the recognition of the sentience of Equus is highly recommended. 

Acknowledgments: The authors recognize Melisa Pearce for her tireless efforts to promote the horse as a sentient, equal partner in the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method®. And, much gratitude to our Creator who gave us the horse as a helper and healer to humankind.    


Hayes, T. (2015). Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal. Saint Martin’s Publishing Group

Manzione, J. (2022). Spirituality of Horses. PATH International Conference, Park City, Utah

McLaughlin, M. (2015). Horses show emotions like humans, say scientists. The Scotsman, Scotland’s National Newspaper

Pearce, M. (2018). TBAH Coaching Stories-Vol.3. Elizabeth, CO, Touched by a Horse, Inc

Pearce, M. (2019). What the Heck is Gestalt? Elizabeth, CO, Touched by a Horse, Inc