Collective effervescence

By Sue Palmer

Do you know why it can feel so good being part of a crowd?  Where our ‘need’ to belong to a community, to share experiences with like minded people, comes from? French sociologist Emile Durkheim coined the phrase ‘collective effervescence’ in his 1912 works ‘Elementary Forms of Religious Life’ to describe the joyful intoxication we feel during a shared experience (


You would think that the shared interest of horses would automatically give us this ‘collective effervescence’, but as I’m sure you know, it doesn’t work that way.  Passion runs high, and people have different opinions.  Whilst some of us do our best to be non-judgemental, supportive and encouraging, this is not the case across the board, and most of us have experienced some form of bullying from our fellow horsemen and women, or felt the heartache from hurtful words.


I wonder if horses have this trouble?  My instinctive thought is no, because they don’t have that troublesome (and brilliant) prefrontal lobe that gives us the ability to form such complex thought processes.  Certainly they have likes and dislikes, and they form closer bonds with some horses than with others.  They even appear to remember bonds formed years earlier, in many cases.  But deliberately causing hurt just for the sake of it?  Probably not.


My passion is for the horses, and my goal is for the horse to be heard more clearly and more accurately.  Of course it’s difficult to know what’s ‘accurate’… but that’s another discussion entirely!  My mission is to spread the word that horses can only communicate pain or discomfort through their behaviour or performance, and that as owners we can learn to differentiate between pain and behaviour and through this learning we can offer our horses the help they need.  We have established the Ethical Horsemanship Association as a safe place where people can experience that ‘collective effervescence’ through being part of an online membership organisation of like minded people – people who want the best for their horse, and who accept that no one has all the answers but everyone has something to offer.


I’ve recently experienced a situation myself where I felt extremely hurt by unkind, untrue words spoken in anger, and I know many of you will recognise this feeling.  This is unnecessary in a world where everyone is struggling to do what they can.  I’ve found the EHA to be supportive, a place I can go where people understand how I feel, and where I don’t feel judged or criticised.  The info and stories that are being shared on the forum are fascinating, and I’m looking forward to the Association growing and developing.  If you’d like to be a part of that development, visit to find out more.  I hope to see you there!

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