THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE HORSE – part 2 of 5

Last week I looked at some of the similarities and differences between us and our equine friends.  One of the ways we can see this is in our use of body language.  For example, when two horses meet, they introduce each other by approaching slowly, often at an angle rather than directly.  They are very respectful of each others’ space and will read each others’ body language to know if it is acceptable to come closer.  If they are both comfortable they will come close enough to touch noses.

As humans we often walk directly up to horses, even those we don’t know very well, which is contrary to their code of behaviour.  Instead we could learn from their example and approach slowly and gently, watching for signs of how the horse feels as we enter his space.  Stopping a few feet from the horse and extending a hand, allowing him to choose whether or not to come close and make the first contact, respects the horse’s need to assess new situations, making sure that they are safe and that there is no threat.

When two horses know each other well and have built up a mutual trust, they will often groom each other.  Humans tend to pat their horses  but perhaps a better way would be to mirror the horses’ own behaviour and scratch instead.  Find the place that the horse enjoys being scratched — his body language will let you know when you’ve hit the right spot!  It will often be in the places that he cannot reach himself such as the neck, withers or rump.

If you’d like to learn more about equine body language and facial expression you might like to read my other blog series, part 1 of which can be found here.  I also have a video on this topic which forms part of a series.  Follow this link to see more.

As horses are herd animals their natural instinct is to be with others of their kind.  Living in a herd means protection: many eyes looking out for each other.  Also horses prefer to be in open spaces where they can see in all directions, knowing that they can spot a predator in time to run away.  Living in a stable therefore is not natural to a horse, both because they are on their own in the stall, and because they cannot see far and they are unable to run.  On top of that, life in a stable can be very boring with only four walls to look at for hours on end.

This can be very stressful for a horse and can lead to behaviours which have been labelled stable ‘vices’, a rather unfortunate term since the definition of vice is:

“a practice, behaviour, or habit generally considered immoralsinful, depraved, or degrading in the associated society. In more minor usage, vice can refer to a fault, a negative character trait, a defect, an infirmity, or a bad or unhealthy habit (such as an addiction to smoking).

Synonyms for vice include fault, sin, depravity, iniquity, wickedness, and corruption.”   (Wikipedia)

This seems to place the fault with the horse instead of looking at the underlying reason for the behaviour.  All we need to do to understand this stress is to put ourselves ‘in the horses shoes’ and imagine how we would feel if we were left totally alone in a box with no-one to talk to and nothing to do.

In next week’s post I’ll look at what you can do to support greater wellbeing for your horse.

 

(You can read this article in full here)

Advertisements

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE HORSE – part 1 of 5

Horse Psychology can be defined as:

”the scientific study of the horse’s mind and its functions.  Encompassing the mental characteristics or attitude of the species”

http://www.training-horses-naturally.com/horse-psychology.html

(link no longer available)

This field of study is growing so hopefully, as we come to understand horses better, our care of them, and thus our relationships with them, will improve.

To understand how a horse’s mind works you need to study horses in their natural environment, ie in the wild, not in the stable.  This gives you an insight into the nature of the species.  The Horse Stall website Horse Stall website says that domesticated horses are protected by their guardians and provided with food and care, therefore they seldom have to think about much “other than play or having their own way”.  They say that for these horses their “reasoning comes from boredom, the desire to get out of work, and a search for forbidden food”.

To me this view comes from a rather negative mindset.  Sadly horses are sometimes labelled as being ‘stupid’, ‘stubborn’ or ‘lazy’ but I believe that generally it is more a case of us not understanding the world from their point of view.

Horses are herd animals and a prey species therefore their first instinct in times of potential danger is to run away.  If they are not able to run for some reason, then they will fight.  One trigger for this flight or fight behaviour is rapid movement.  Horses also have a structure within the herd and, when this is stable, each horse knows his place within the society, and knows how to behave.

Humans, on the other hand, are predator animals and we tend to make sudden movements.  Also we often don’t understand the signals that horses are sending out.  Our challenge therefore is to not act like a predator and to learn how to interact with our animals in a way that does not trigger their fear.  It would also be helpful to learn and respect the herd structure and to work with that, rather than against it.

Our two species actually have quite a bit in common, since both horses and humans are very sociable creatures and we each operate according to our social rules, the difference being that the rules for horses are first and foremost based on their instinct for survival.  To a horse, the way he behaves, certainly in the wild, could mean the difference between life and death.

We also share many emotional states with these animals.  They too feel love, fear, sadness, loneliness, loss, anxiety, and happiness.  In addition we both respond to others who make us feel confidence, trust and respect, and we both like to feel safe.

On the other hand, horses do not have an ego.  They do not tend to hold on to baggage in the same way that we do.  They generally do not carry guilt, judgements, prejudices, shame or the need for approval.  When interacting with horses, therefore, it is important to understand how they see the world and not to view their behaviour through a human lens, applying labels from this judgement.  We can observe how they behave towards each other and work to find a middle ground where horse and human can meet and develop a mutual understanding and a shared communication.

Next week I’ll look at some of the ways horses use body language in their interactions.

 

(You can read this article in full here)

Holistic Fundraser Event in February

On Saturday 10 February this year I will be taking part in this fundraiser event in the Guildhall, Bath.

For further information please go to the event website:

Holistic Horse Welfare Fundraiser

 

To visit the HorseWorld website and learn more about the amazing work they do with rescued and retired horses, click here.

 

Even therapists need to look after their Mental Heath and Wellbeing – part 2 of 2

Last week I shared the start of my journey from feeling overwhelmed and powerless to creating greater balance and wellbeing.  Having explored the inner wisdom behind what I was feeling I started to work on the underlying emotions and beliefs using EFT.

I also picked out some power cards to see what insight and support they might offer.  For me, this was another way of ‘getting out of my head’, in that I wasn’t rationalising or over-analysing things, which I can tend to do.  Instead the cards, and any wisdom they might bring, would draw on my intuition, something that I wanted to reconnect with.  These are the cards that I drew:

The colour cards were:

  • Bronze – strengthening
  • Purple – for developing mental clarity
  • Pink – encouraging me to let love in
  • Ruby – rejuvenation for the body

The White Lion cards were:

  • creativity
  • trust
  • renew

I found the overlap between the 2 sets very interesting.  It seems that my intuition is telling me to relax, trust and allow love in to renew and strengthen me.  This will then support my mental clarity, allowing my creativity to guide me.

Through these exercises I also became more aware of my need to take the time to rest and reconnect so I used some Reiki, energy exercises and visualisation (using the images from the cards above).  Another important thing for me was to spend time outdoors in Nature, enjoying the energy of the sun and the trees and other plants around me.

these were actually taken on the same day, as part of a mindfulness walk during this process

As a result of working through this process, I felt as if a huge dark cloud was lifting and I had more clarity and determination going forward.  Yet again I was amazed that such ‘simple’ steps could help to start turning things around.  I recognise that the steps aren’t always easy though, and for some of my issues I will need to work with another therapist, rather than trying to deal with them on my own.

Also, I need to remember that, while I feel so much better, this is not an overnight fix!  It took time to get to that low point – a series of small, and not-so-small, things building up to a critical point – so it will also take time to work through them; but I’ve made a start, and I know that this journey will be a learning adventure.

I’m also a believer that things happen when we’re ready, and in the right frame of mind, for them.  Having made this small initial shift, I got a supportive phonecall out of the blue and connected with some wonderful new people.  A couple of days previously I was questioning my ability to carry on with some of the threads of my life and now I’m feeling recharged, excited and grateful again.  I know that I am so blessed to do what I do and I’m looking forward to how things will develop from here.  We really never know what’s just around the corner, or what help or support might suddenly appear, ‘as if by magic’.  As long as we can hold on to Hope then there are still endless possibilities.

If your life is not currently making you happy, you can create a path that works for you.  It’s about finding your balance and not pushing too hard.  Allow your feelings and intuition to guide you while also keeping a clear head to best discern the next step.  And if you feel like you could do with some help at any point, then reach out.  It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.

As so many wise teachers have said, it is up to us as individuals to consider What we want and Why we want it and to put our energy into these things in order to create the future that we desire, but the How is not for us to worry about.

If you too have been struggling recently, please remember that you are not alone.  There is a lot going on at the moment, and at a fast pace, which is affecting the energy around us.  Please remember to look after your self.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, look at what needs are not being met and then explore what you can do to support yourself.  This is not being self-centred and selfish in a negative way, it’s self-care which then allows you to be there for others too.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Connecting with others can in itself be very healing.  And if anything here resonates for you, or you have questions about anything that I’ve shared, then please feel free to get in touch:

            email:              robyn@equenergy.com

           mobile:           07980 669303

           website:           www.equenergy.com

 

(You can read the full text of this article here)

Even therapists need to look after their Mental Heath and Wellbeing – part 1 of 2

This topic has been big in the news this year, with Prince Harry working to help change attitudes towards mental health issues:

Prince Harry helping to reduce stigma around mental illness

Prince Harry to help tackle mental health in the armed forces

 

I decided I would share a personal experience as, yet again, I’ve been reminded how fragile our mental health can be and how we need to make a point of looking after our own wellbeing.  On the down side, it can take seemingly ‘small’ things to set ourselves plummeting to the depths, but the reverse can also be true, as often it can be relatively simple things that result in great positive shifts.  Highly Sensitive individuals, those whose Stress Bucket is already heavily loaded, or those who are feeling fragile due to earlier trauma, can be particularly prone to experiencing a rollercoaster of emotion.

Over the last few months I’ve noticed that people around me, both locally and online, have been experiencing considerable challenges, resulting in increased stresses and strains.

I too have had a few testing times, both personally and professionally, and I succumbed to the negative spiral of too much work and not enough ‘play’, leading me to feeling in a very low, dark place.  I lost sight of the fact that life is about enjoying the journey rather than worrying too much about the destination.

Sometimes though, this can be a necessary part of the healing process.  For me ‘hitting the bottom’ acted as a springboard from which I could push off again.  It forced me to take a look at what was really going on, identify the limiting beliefs I was buying into, to realise that these were not Truth, and that they weren’t serving me, or those around me.

This brought me to a new level of self-awareness.  It wasn’t pretty, and I had to remind myself to exercise self-compassion, but it did give me a framework for addressing the issues.  I no longer felt powerless and instead gave me a good grounding from which to create a plan of positive, supportive action.

Thankfully, as a therapist, I have a range of skills that I can use to work on my wellbeing.  I started by looking at what was going on in my body and realised that there was a range of niggling issues that I’ve been largely ignoring, or avoiding, for some time.  Starting to listen and to explore these was a first step, as they connected me to my inner wisdom.  They were my body’s way of communicating that something wasn’t working – that a need was not being met – and they also brought clues about how to address, and hopefully resolve, the issues.

Journaling, particularly somatic journaling (tuning in to, and writing from, the perspective of the body / body part) is a great tool for this, as are grounding and mindfulness exercises, which help to get you out of your head and into your body, and so to move away from that awful feeling of ‘analysis paralysis’ and overwhelm.

Using the information that this gave me, I started working with EFT (emotional freedom techniques, or ‘tapping’) to further explore my underlying emotions and beliefs.

In next week’s instalment, I’ll share some other steps that I took as part of this process.

 

(You can read the full text of this article here)

Best wishes for the festive season

We’ve just celebrated the Winter Solstice here in the northern hemisphere and I’m excited at the thought that the days are getting longer again and soon it will be the New Year with all the potential of starting a fresh new slate and planning my next steps!

In the meantime I’ll be having some time off to celebrate with family and friends and to rest and reflect over the next week or so.

I’ll still be around and checking in from time to time so if you’d like to get in touch with any questions or to book a session with me, you’re very welcome to drop me a line.

For now I’d just like to send you warm wishes for a wonderful festive season and a very happy and healthy New Year!

 

THE FUTURE OF OUR BEES – Part 5 of 5

Supporting bees and other pollinators

There are now schemes where you can own a part-share in a bee colony.  One example is Adopt-a-Hive Ltd based in Oswestry in Shropshire.  They aim to support bees and raise public awareness.  Their membership pack includes: a bee identification guide; lists of ‘good bee plants’; a packet of wildflower seeds and lots of useful information.  They also welcome members to visit the hives to learn more about the bees.

Also, I’ve recently met with Paula Carnell of ‘Creating a Buzz about Health’.  You can find her on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/PaulaCarnellcreatingabuzz/about/?ref=page_internal

or on her website:

https://www.paulacarnell.com/about/

Paula runs events where you can learn more about bee-keeping, such as ‘Getting Started with Keeping Bees’: https://www.facebook.com/events/532856653724561/

In recent years there have been campaigns by prominent gardeners, such as Alan Titchmarsh and Sarah Raven, encouraging people to plant wildflower meadows and nectar rich plants in order to support a wide variety of pollinating insects (“Bees, Butterflies and Blooms”, BBC2 2012).  It is also important to grow a variety of different flowers that bloom at different times of the year, thus providing food across the seasons.  In addition a new labelling system has been developed for use in garden centres so that buyers can easily identify plants which are ‘bee friendly’.

Other supportive organisations include:

  • the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA)
    set up in 1874 to support beekeepers and to promote public awareness
  • the National Bee Unit (NBU)
    which supports governmental Bee Health Programs
  • the International Bee Research Association
    which aims to promote the value of bees
  • the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust

This Trust has 4 main aims:

  • The prevention of the extinction of any of the UK’s bumblebees
  • A long-term future for all our bumblebees and other pollinators
  • The protection, creation and restoration of flower-rich habitats
  • An increase in the understanding and appreciation of bumblebees

Hopefully, with all these people and organisations working to support bees and other pollinators, these amazing insects will have a more secure future.

 

(This is an extract from my article which you can read in full here)

 

 

References: