© 2012 Hidden Horses All Rights Reserved Mark Hanson.
From the cover:Some people are born with a passion that drives them to achieve remarkable things in life, for they see the patterns and truths that others miss. For Mark Hanson a passionate interest in animals and a revelation early in life led him to a lifetime of learning and the search for a deeper perspective on both animal and human behavior. Mark Hanson grew up as the son of a veterinarian within the science of a busy London veterinary hospital to be exposed at an early age to countless examples of complex human-animal interactions. He witnessed how these relationships were defined by—and strongly biased in favor of—the humans. This became young Mark’s defining discovery.
“Because your horse is a horse”
After a lifetime of caring for animals, circumstances allowed Mark to become the home parent, raise the children, and learn more about the things that interested him: languages, computers, and of course, anything to do with science and animals. This led to several part-time positions, but one was to prove especially life changing when his daughter’s love for horses influenced his choice to work at a stable.
The stable had over forty horses and was run on very conventional lines with a strong emphasis on classical dressage. This rather conservative environment proved to be a major influence on the direction of Mark’s life as the customs, rules and superstitions that surrounded traditional horse management dramatically conflicted with the scientific/behavioral/zoological approach. These conflicting ideas slowly began to form the foundation of the principles that would later become the Hidden Horses project.
A further influence appeared at this time as Mark became exposed to the early days of natural horsemanship in the UK. Building on his original, youthful revelation about human-animal interactions, Mark watched as others around the world started to look at the horse differently—more as a species in its own right—seeing things from the horse’s point of view. This discovery heralded the next step on his path: Mark needed his own horses and a place to keep them. For that he needed money.
Pursuing his interest in computers, Mark enrolled in a higher education course with Exeter University. After graduating in computer science, he obtained a post as a college lecturer, giving him enough money to fund the next leg of his journey. With a growing herd of horses, he applied himself full-time to the study of the science behind horse behavior, embarking on a 14-module course at the Natural Animal Center (NAC) in Carmarthen in South Wales. What he learned changed his thinking forever to form the basis of many of the ideas that went into this book.
Increasingly devoting his time to equine matters, Mark lives and works in Cornwall in the UK where he keeps a herd of seven horses in accordance with the principles of natural horse keeping. He writes a blog and maintains a site at HiddenHorses.com to support the growing community built around the principles of 21st century horse keeping as he expands and applies these principles to horse training—promoting happier human-horse interactions and healthier relationships no longer biased in favor of the humans.
He took up a career—inevitably based around working with animals—at first in agriculture, where he learned about the many practical uses humans have for animals, then in zoological gardens. This was at a time of great change for zoos because public perception was changing. It was no longer acceptable for animals to be displayed for public amusement in dull, featureless, rectangular cages. People wanted to match the natural animal behavior they saw on their TV screens in wildlife documentaries with what they could see at a zoo, but even more importantly, the previous “unlimited” supplies of wild-caught animals consumed by zoos were rapidly diminishing. Mark realized the keys to getting people to understand the urgency of this situation were education, communication and science, and he was instrumental in communicating this to audiences of zoo visitors. Mark discovered a love and talent for communication and teaching as he presented new and exciting ideas to the public. It was also a time when his two children entered his life.