“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
Humans have been drawn to horses for centuries. The raw power they possess and the potential that comes with harnessing it has been front and center throughout many formative historical moments. Horses represent one of the more powerful and grandiose forms of prey in the natural world. Their survival is dependent upon their sensitive observational skills and compelling intuitive responses to their environment which has lead to a growing awareness and understanding of how horses mirror and respond to energy. While many a great leader has tapped into these survival skills and ridden to victory, these same inherent survival skills can be utilized too in our modern lives to both enhance and enrich our understanding, health and experiences.
Due to our society evolving to the point where human beings no longer actively prioritize or worry about a prey-predator dichotomy, we have focused more on our cognitive and intellectual capacities rather than on our energetic and feeling capacities which are inherent in basic survival instincts. In contrast, this awareness and prey response is still first and foremost in the horse. Thus, a human relationship with a horse demands that trust be gained in the process so that humans are not viewed as a threat.
The process of gaining this trust is one that requires the following, and once gained, the empowerment and refined repertoire that has developed along the way is invaluable:
The sheer size of a horse represents a commanding presence. Working with horses gives individuals a concrete, external way to master aspects of themselves that frighten them the most. By confronting these human fears, people gain more courage to brave life and to see problems in a new way. Performance accomplishment is the single most efficient method to increase self confidence.
Connecting with horses teaches people how to connect with the intelligence of their hearts and emotions, leading to intuition, insights and social sensitivity. By accessing this intuitive and emotional wisdom they can understand how to empower themselves.
Horses have an amazing ability to mirror exactly what the human body and emotions are telling them. They provide insight while making contact with the true nature of participants. As a prey animal, horses can sense any indecision or insecurity that humans experience. The immediate response of the horse guides people to change their behaviour in response.
Horses have much to teach about the various forms of communication. They don’t use words but can convey so much through body language, movement, and posture. People are always communicating. Everything they think, feel, do and say sends out a message. Horses help people become aware of how they communicate on every level – verbally, mentally, physically and emotionally. Congruent expression (when what we feel on the inside is the same as what we express on the outside) helps individuals deal with relationship and emotional issues.
Horses teach us how to earn and when to give trust. The ability to open oneself up to trust is challenging. The nature of horses invites trust as they are entirely open with their perceptions, feelings, and have nothing to hide. Honesty and self awareness is enough to open the doors for mutual trust and loving communication.
Trauma cannot be resolved simply by talking about it. It has to be discharged out of the nervous system, which means tracking feelings and sensations in the body. Horses know how to discharge trauma naturally, so people can resonate with the horses’ body and heart and then feel the same resonance in their own body.
Why Horses (n.d.). In Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy. Retrieved from http://www.horsespiritconnections.com/efp/why.html
Adding the new skills listed above to their repertoire can aid individuals as they begin to find the strength and confidence to take on a more fulfilling role in our society. Ultimately, it can feel much safer to explore our relationship with a horse than another human being as they offer unconditional support and love to people without judgment which in turn starts the process of trusting self and others. Further, this can facilitate emotional learning as people identify their feelings with greater ease and clarity, which opens the door to new choices for relationship, emotional and self growth.