My animal is showing anxious and defensive behaviours – what can I do?

How to recognise the escalation steps and know the appropriate response at each level

In another role, I recently attended a 1-day refresher course in MAPA® (Management of Actual and Perceived Aggression) run by CPI (the Crisis Prevention Institute).  This course looks at what happens when an individual’s tension starts to rise, and how we can respond – rather than react – in order to hopefully diffuse the tension before it escalates further and possibly turns into aggression.

MAPA® teaches that there are 4 stages in this process:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Defensiveness
  3. Risky behaviour
  4. Tension reduction

When we can respond appropriately at each stage, it allows us to address the level of tension in the ‘least restrictive’ manner.

The suggested responses are:

  1. Be supportive
  2. Be directive
  3. Use (minimal and proportionate) physical intervention
  4. Engage in therapeutic rapport

Listening to the trainer, I began to realise that this makes a lot of sense for our interactions with our animal friends too! 

I like simplicity (as you might have seen in my recent post) and so MAPA®’s 4-step process resonated with me and I thought I would share, in case it might prove helpful for others too.

The first step we need to take is to observe, and become familiar with, our animal’s baseline behaviours:

  • How do they appear in a variety of situations and settings?
  • What does their ‘happy’ look like?
  • What does their ‘slightly uneasy’ look like?
  • What does their ‘worried’ or ‘anxious’ look like?
  • If they have a disagreement with another horse, what behaviours do they show and how do they behave afterwards? (ie during the tension reduction phase)
  • What do they enjoy? What are they good at?

When we know the answers to these questions, then we can start to gauge where our animal is on their scale of tension, and how we might begin to support them at each level.

Sometimes however, we don’t notice / recognise the subtle signals an animal displays to say that they’re beginning to feel anxious.  These might be a tension around the eyes, mouth and ears, or behavioural clues such as yawning or looking away.

Most – if not all – animals would prefer to keep their tension levels as low as possible, therefore their early signals are an invitation to us to offer support in some way.  If we aren’t able to at least attempt to offer this – and animals are generally very forgiving, tolerant and accepting of our sometimes stumbling and clumsy attempts – then their anxiety will probably move up to defensive behaviour.

At this level we could see things like threats to kick or bite in horses, or bared teeth and growling in dogs.  Unfortunately, particularly with animals who have been punished for giving these signals, we might perceive that they ‘suddenly jump’ into the risky behaviour of charging or biting.  However, if we are able to spot defensive signals, then the MAPA® suggested response is to be directive.  With animals, since we don’t have a shared verbal language, this will need to be in the form of body language or movement on our part.

You could, of course, use a verbal command such as ‘No!’, but I believe that if this was successful it could have the same outcome as punishment, in that it might restrict the animal’s choices in communicating their feelings.  Over time they might stop showing the lower level signals all together, meaning that we no longer have the opportunity to step in and respond to help them release / channel their tension.

Our animals can’t learn to speak, however with a bit of effort and practice we can learn to read their body language and facial expression (see more about this in my blog series) and work together to create a set of signals that have meaning for both participants.

At this level we can use ‘re-direction’, that is shifting the focus to something else.  The ‘something’ would depend on the individual, but you could use things like movement, play, touch or breath.  Obviously, this should be something that you know the animal likes, or already knows how to do, and so can feel the reassurance of doing something that is ‘easy’ for them and at which they can be ‘successful’.

When the animal has reached defensive behaviour, they are beginning to lose the ability to think rationally which is why the response is to make the decisions and direct the activity at this point.

However, if we miss this opportunity for the animal to release their tension, the next step is risky behaviour.  This is when their behaviour becomes much more dangerous, that is, the animal attacks in some way.  At this point they have completely lost the power of rational thought and their entire focus is self-preservation. They have lost the ability to be conscious of our vulnerability!  The training from CPI – which I highly recommend – covers a range of disengagements from various holds, but with animals, unless you’re trained and have the necessary protective gear, the best response at this point is to get out!  Move away and get to a place of safety.

No animal, including ourselves, can hold this level of tension for a sustained period.  It takes a lot of energy and is exhausting.  When they run out of steam, they need to be allowed a period of tension reduction.  For some this will mean being allowed to have some quiet time by themselves, whereas others might want contact and reassurance. This allows the individual to recover their sense of balance and can give us a chance to re-establish bonds of friendship and trust that might be feeling a little frayed.

We too might need support after being the target of an animal’s risky behaviour, to help us recover and not lose our confidence

It’s important to point out here that these steps don’t necessarily progress only in a linear fashion. An individual who has started to ‘de-escalate’ in tension, could be re-triggered back up the scale at any point, if they haven’t yet reached full tension reduction, so be aware of possible triggers and of any signs that their arousal level is increasing again.

I hope this simple set of steps helps to provide a useful way of approaching tension in your animals, but please remember that your safety must come first at all times.  If you feel that you need support, I recommend calling on the services of a good behaviourist to help you build a deeper – and safer – connection.

(Images courtesy of Google Images and Canva)

So, you’re a horse whisperer then?

Clarifying some misconceptions about the work that I do

Often, when people hear what I do, I get asked this question, but for me it’s not so much about whispering, it’s about listening.

Another misconception is that I offer Equine Facilitated Therapy.  This isn’t strictly true either, at least not in the traditional sense.

So, I thought that it might be a good idea to explain a little more about my work, or at least a part of it.  In this post, I’m going to look at one of my favourite aspects – where the horses and people come together.

My aim is that this should be a mutually beneficial experience, that is, that both the horses and the people should be supported by their time together. 

I often see animals used in therapy or assistance roles and I wonder what, if anything, they get from this.  Sometimes they have a particular role to play, a ‘job’ if you will, for example a guide dog, and they provide a much-valued service, but when do they get something back?  Guide dogs, I know, are well looked after and they’re given regular health checks, but their role can be stressful at times. 

Things are shifting and there are many programmes out there now that are seeking to come from a more heart-centred and animal-led perspective.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all assistance and therapy animals were given more support in their roles?  This could be offered in the form of massages, Reiki and self-selection sessions, for example, just like we might take a ‘spa-day’ if we’ve had a tough few weeks at work.

I used to volunteer with a group who gave horse riding lessons for people with disabilities.  This offered many benefits to the riders, but the horses were often stressed, which came out in ‘unwanted’ behaviours.  Some of these horses had to be retired as they were no longer suitable for the role.  I struggled with this and wanted to find a different approach, one where both parties felt better after their sessions.

So here at Equenergy I’m exploring a different way.

If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know that we have 2 horses living here.  Both have had challenging experiences in the past.  Dakota (Dax) was taken from his mother at 1 month of age and left to starve.  When he was rescued, he was riddled with worms and had to have extensive veterinary support.  Thankfully he is now a very healthy 8-year-old, however his tough start in life has left him with some emotional issues.

‘Rika was a brood mare for many years.  She was used for breeding and all of her foals were taken from her to be sold on.  When she didn’t conceive after being put with a stallion, they decided that she was no longer of any use and put her out for the meat wagon.  She is the most beautiful, gentle soul you could ever hope to meet, but she was considered ‘worthless’ if she couldn’t produce any more foals.

‘Rika (left) and Dakota (Dax)

These 2 beautiful animals support me in my work, and I want this to be something that benefits them too and supports them in becoming happier and healthier individuals.

I believe that for anyone to offer a therapeutic space for another, they should have the space and opportunity to have that support for themselves.  As a therapist and coach myself, I need to have worked – and be continuing to work – on my own issues in order to be able to hold a healing space for others.  I think this is also true for animals who are involved in this field. 

All of us are still ‘works in progress’ and there is much to be gained by travelling the healing path together. Take, for example, the programmes in America where offenders are paired with rescued dogs or horses and together they learn how to create a healthier, more balanced life for themselves. 

I’d love to see more opportunities for mutual learning, creation and growth of this kind.  We might not have the perfect answers yet, but with time and an open, curious mindset, hopefully we will find a way to walk alongside our animals in ways where they benefit from the partnership as much as we do.

I recently wrote about ‘rewilding’, and I believe strongly that our animals have much to teach us on this subject, too.  But in order for them to be able to do so more fully and authentically, they must be allowed to be as ‘wild’ as possible themselves.  I know that this is a real challenge, on even a small scale, with the resources that most of us have available, but I think that the more we can give healthy freedom to the animals in our care, even when it challenges us, the more we can learn and grow.

So how do I bring people and horses together?

A session with the horses here at Equenergy means that you get to stand just outside the field and start by getting grounded and tuning in to the energy of the place and all the living things around you.  Horses are naturally curious animals so often they soon come over to meet with us and may spend some time in this shared space.

I encourage people to be ‘mindful’, that is, to be fully aware of their surroundings: the sun, breeze or even rain on their skin, the sounds, sights and smells around them.  This helps us to get present, and when we’re fully present it helps us to release anxieties and tensions as these generally relate to memories from the past or worries about the future. 

When we can be in this ‘present’ state and hold that energy / vibration, it encourages those around us to enter this same state.  It’s rather like a tuning fork that causes other things to resonate with the same frequency.  Calming our breathing and our heart rate, through getting present, supports others to do the same.  It’s a phenomenon known as ‘entrainment’  and you can read more about it in the work of the HeartMath Institute and Dr Ellen Kaye Gehrke.  Horses are particularly sensitive to this, so when we can enter this state in their presence, it supports their wellbeing as well as our own.  Not only that, but their electromagnetic field is much larger and stronger than ours, so when they enter into this state it strengthens the energy for us – this creates a wonderful healing circle with the energy flowing in and around and bringing benefit to all within the space.

Another aspect of this for the person / people in the session is that I ask them to observe and take note of any feelings and thoughts that are coming up for them.  I might also ask them to see what they can feel from the horses: can they get a sense of their energy? Do they pick up anything when they tune in to either / both of them?  These are things that we can then explore if they would like to work further with me, using a tailored wellbeing package, looking at any issues they wish to address, or objectives that they would like to achieve.

If this is something that would interest you, or you’d like to have a taster session with the horses to see if it resonates with you, I’m happy to have a no-obligation chat.  Just give me a call or drop me a line:

robyn@equenergy.com

07980669303

https://equenergy.com/contact-location/

It’s Healing Awareness Week!

Apologies that my blog is a little late this week.  It was a very busy week with appointments and also preparing for a bespoke 1:1 workshop yesterday on Energy Healing for animals.  It was perfect timing to be offering this as today marks the start of Healing Awareness Week!

Energy Healing is a topic that is very close to my heart as it has been a huge part of my journey, particularly over the last 10 years or so.

I had reached a stage in my life where I was feeling miserable, lost and alone.  At first, I didn’t even realise this because I had cut myself off from my feelings as a kind of coping strategy.  I suppose this worked for a while, but I soon realised that if things didn’t change, I was going to make myself ill.

I started reading and looking around for ways to make things better.  Initially I was looking for external ‘fixes’, but I quickly discovered that these weren’t really addressing the deep need within me.  I continued exploring, as if following a trail of breadcrumbs, just going from one step to the next, seeing where it would lead me.

The first course I found was Reiki Level I.  Suddenly I felt that I had found a path that resonated for me!  It gave me a renewed sense of hope and direction and also of purpose – that I could develop the tools I needed for myself, but also that I might be able to offer this to others too.

I went on to complete Level II, and from there to studying with the Healing Trust.  This training covered a wide range of wellbeing related topics, including anatomy and physiology, the energy of colour and techniques for releasing old hurts and traumas.  I completed my case studies and sat the exam and after 2 years of learning and practice I became a qualified Healer Member of the Trust.

Alongside this I was working on my personal development and exploring how I would like to use these newly developed skills.  My journey was reconnecting me with my love of Nature and animals and so I went on to study healing of animals – initially small animals and later a specialism in equine healing – with Liz Whiter of the Healing Animals Organisation.

This has been a wonder-full journey full of deep challenges, incredible experiences and amazing people and animals.  I have learnt so much and met such inspiring individuals!

I have gone on to add further tools to my kit, but working with Energy still underpins all that I do.

I would define healing as:

“regaining balance of mind, body and / or emotions.  It complements conventional medicine by treating the whole being.”

It is:

  • A completely natural form of therapy
  • Deeply relaxing
  • Non-invasive
  • Complementary to conventional treatment
  • Holistic

It stimulates the body’s own healing processes by supporting:

  • the immune system
  • cell repair
  • detoxification
  • enzyme function
  • oxygen uptake
  • absorption of nutrients
  • wound repair
  • pain relief
  • balancing
  • release of endorphins
  • a sense of wellbeing and calm

Have you ever had a session of Energy Healing?  If not, I can recommend it as a great way to relax and recharge, and to enable your body to enter its ‘Rest and Repair’ mode.

If you have any questions about Healing, or you’d just like to know a bit more, then please get in touch:

Sunday – my day of rest

This week’s blog is a day late as yesterday was the Open Day to relaunch Equenergy here in our new site in South Wales! Thankfully we were blessed with good weather and, as it’s been dry here for a couple of weeks, the mud has mostly gone which made showing people round this magical place much easier and more pleasant.

I was very excited at the prospect of meeting the visitors and seeing their reaction to this space. It has completely captivated me and I hoped that others would feel the same way too. I wasn’t disappointed! Everyone loved it and commented on how still it is, and how lovely it was to hear all the birdsong, with no background drone of traffic.

Several people had contacted me to say that they would love to come along, but unfortunately already had other plans for the day, so I will be having more of these events in the future. Watch this space, and/or my Facebook page and website for updates.

Today, I’m looking forward to enjoying some ‘down time’. The sun is shining from a brilliant blue sky so I think a walk and some time with the horses is in order!

What are your plans for the day?

What is your favourite way to unwind, and can you make some space for that, either today or at some point during the week?

Whatever you’re up to, I hope you too can enjoy a wonderful, relaxing Sunday.

Guest blog – Is your horse Spring ready (part 2)

By Catherine Howes of UniquEquine Equine Therapy

The therapies I use are:

  • McTimoney-Corley Skeletal Manipulation
  • CranioSacral Therapy
  • Massage
  • Reiki

I also have training in Saddle Fitting and Rider Biomechanics.

McTimoney-Corley Skeletal Manipulation is a gentle form of adjusting/ realigning the bones of the body. Freeing and opening the joints allows better range of motion and function.

The adjustments are delivered with speed rather than force, and stimulate the body to respond by releasing the bones, opening the joint and easing surrounding muscle spasm/ tension.

In correct skeletal alignment the body is stronger and more functional in many ways. The soft tissues are under less strain and torque so can work efficiently.

The nerves have a clearer, less interrupted path to follow so are less likely to suffer impingements or overstretch…which can lead to issues in any of the bodily systems.

The joints are under less force and twisting, which can lead to short and long term injury and issues.

CranioSacral Therapy works on the horse right at their core. Using the lightest of palpation, I feel for the CranioSacral pulse… this is the rhythm of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid being excreted in the brain and pushed down the spinal canal.

This flow can be compared to, though is not in direct association with, respiration. The CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) carries nutrients through the brain and to the spinal cord, bathing and protecting the nerves, and carrying away any waste… toxins, cell debris etc as it is goes.

When feeling this pulse, I am observing any disturbances, irregularities, restrictions etc. I will then work to release these.

This ‘breathing’, whilst contained in the brain and spinal canal, can be felt and influenced throughout the body.

I work to release cranial compression and trauma directly on the head, ‘unlocking’ the sutures between the cranial bones providing the space for the skull to expand with the production and filling of CSF in the brain, allowing it to move freely.

It is of utmost importance that the cranial bones are addressed. Being the casing and protection for the brain is a responsible job! If these bones are compromised… which can happen so easily… trauma, infection, dentistry, tack, stress etc, their whole system suffers.

Benefits of CranioSacral Therapy can be –

  • Improved function of the nervous system, not only helping physical symptoms, but aids the body to deal with stress
  • Alleviates pain and dysfunction
  • Improves mobility by releasing tension and restriction
  • Improves digestive heath
  • Improves the immune system
  • Unwinds stress and injury patterns
  • Helps the flow of energy
  • Releases emotional stress and trauma
  • Gives a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation
  • Helps reconnect the body, mind and spirit.

Massage is a great way of palpating and treating muscle tension, spasms etc.

Whilst palpating the horse I will be feeling for these as well as any changes in heat… hot or cold, reaction to my touch, change in tone, twitching etc.

These findings will be worked on with local massage but also the above therapies.

Reiki is the transfer of universal energy from one being to another. The energy flows through the healer, who is used as a conduit, to aid physical, mental and emotional healing. The body will take the energy where it is needed.

Areas covered:

I am based in Mid-Somerset and currently cover Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset, Bath and North East Somerset and Bristol.

I am happy to travel to new areas.

Contact details:

Please contact me for a chat and more information:

  • or on 07734874673.

Alternatively, you can find me on:

  • Facebook at ‘Uniquequine

Thank you for reading! I hope you have found the article helpful.

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to get in touch.

Wishing you and your horses happiness and good health –

With love, Catherine x

Guest Blog – Is your horse Spring ready? (part 1)

This month I’m exited to share this great piece by Catherine Howes of UniquEquine Equine Therapy. It’s a wonderfully comprehensive article on the points to consider when supporting your horse in getting ready for Spring. Part 2 follows next week and includes a great offer, so you won’t want to miss it!

For the majority of horses, the winter routine and lifestyle is quite different to that of the summer months.

With the shorter days and colder weather there are many environmental and management factors that come into play that affect our horses… and in more ways than we may first think.

These include:

  • Reduced activity – turnout/ exercise
  • Less interaction with others – socialising/ grooming etc
  • More time wearing rugs
  • Change in diet
  • Less time in a grazing posture
  • Ground conditions
  • Less sunlight

Each of these will have a small to significant impact on your horse, depending on the individual and their circumstances. However, there are things we can do as horse owners to counterbalance and minimise these issues, and keep our horses happy and healthy into spring.

Reduced activity means the body is used less. The muscles, ligaments, tendons all become shortened and less elastic. The joints open and close less and go through less range of motion.

This all leads to stiffness, reduced mobility and the potential for injury is increased.

Alongside this other systems slow down… metabolism – leading to potential weight gain. The circulatory system is less active, so the feed of nutrients and oxygen in the blood is slowed. This can affect healing and detoxing in the body.

Less interaction with others has varying results for our horses.

The stimulation provided by the social interaction is so important to horses. Socialising/ grooming/ playing/ observing …even the ability to ‘be’ in their place in the pecking order.

Depending on their management, they may have contact with others, and take the opportunity to mutual groom. This isn’t always simply about ‘itching that scratch’ but can be a way for them to help each other out with a sore or tight spot.

Although it can look as though horses do very little other than graze, being flight animals they are constantly aware of and reacting to their environment.

So, not only does their physical activity become lessened, but also their mental stimulation.

I am sure many of you are already thinking ‘No wonder horses have stable vices…’

So, the more that can be done to keep the horse’s brain as well as it’s body active, the better for both physical and psychological reasons.

A few ways of doing this are –

  • As much turn out as possible, or as your horse is happy with – not all like being out in the dark and cold!
  • Regular exercise – ridden/ in hand/ lunging/ long reining/ loose schooled/ led from another etc.
  • Grooming – a fantastic activity, and quite underrated for physical and mental health.
    • It improves blood flow, relieves tension and increases relaxation.
    • Brushing your horse mimics the mutual grooming  interaction between horses.  
    • It gives an opportunity to get to know and monitor changes to your horse’s body.  
    • Grooming is a lovely bonding and connecting experience.
  • Hand grazing – if there is no opportunity for turnout, lead your horse to a tasty patch of grass and let it graze, especially if there are hedgerows and other greenery for him to forage, and he can pick out what he wants and needs.
  • If you horse is stabled, try to ensure that a constant (or regularly replenished) source of forage is available. This is better for their digestion rather than to have long gaps with nothing to eat – an empty stomach is more susceptible to ulcers. It also helps to relieve boredom.

Horses are very sociable animals, and are herd animals. Even if they seem ‘ok’ on their own, many of them will internally stress if kept in solitude. Having another equine, or even a goat/ sheep/ alpaca (!) will have a huge influence on your horse’s well being. As mentioned earlier, they are flight animals and so constantly are in a degree of fear, even though they’ve never seen a predator in their field, they rely on other members of their herd to alert them of any danger. If they are alone, they never have the down time and relaxation they do in a group when someone else is on watch.

Throughout our colder, wetter months we often choose, or need, to rug our horses. Whether it is for warmth and protection against the elements, maintaining condition or simply cleanliness, most horses wear rugs.

I wholly appreciate these needs and think that, on the whole, with the environment horses are in, rugs are helpful and have many benefits.

However, there are a few downsides to wearing them, especially for prolonged periods:

  • Pressure – usually on the withers. It is essential that this area is checked regularly for sores, heat, irritation, hair loss etc. Frequently removing the rug, and, if necessary, interchanging them as the weight and cut of the rug will put pressure on different areas.
  • The shoulders are another area that is prone to rubbing.
  • Restricted movement – even with the best fitting rug, the horse’s movement will be slightly reduced or altered. With poorly fitting, tight, heavy or multiple rugs, this is significantly worsened.

Also inevitable over these months, is the change in diet.

The nutritional value in the grass will decrease in winter. Apart from potential weight loss and the loss of some nutrients, horses don’t tend to display too many ill-effects from this reduction. However, with the warmer weather, sunshine and longer daylight hours, comes rich grass… delicious, sugary ‘goodness’! And the horses love it!

This brings it’s own cluster of potential problems –

  • Laminitis
  • Colic
  • Azoturia
  • Weight gain
  • Behavioural issues.

With the reduced hours of turn out, horses adopt the grazing posture far less. They are anatomically and physiologically designed to spend hours a day with their neck and back open, head down with their jaw in a vertical position.

In their natural environment horses will cover 30 – 40 miles per day. Much of this will be at the walk, foraging and grazing, meandering along. This is done in the aforementioned posture. This posture keeps the horse’s body in great shape

topline naturally open, allowing more range of movement in the axial and appendicular skeleton and also the jaw is in correct alignment. In this position, the horse will be less susceptible to unnatural, uneven and problematic tooth wear.

With the head down and the jaw vertical to the ground the upper and lower jaw line up at their optimal position. Biting and chewing is easier, the correct alignment also means that the TMJ (temperomandibular joint) is working as it is designed, so there is less compression/tension, and the masseter (large muscle covering the lower jaw) is less worked.

The masseter is the strongest muscle in the horse’s body (per square inch) and is a huge pattern setter. Therefore, if this is affected negatively, it will have significant knock on/ secondary effects throughout the body.

Stabled horses are frequently fed from nets, or above the ground which takes away their natural posture and function. If we can recreate as much of this natural positioning for our horses, we can eliminate many issues.

Hay / feed given on the floor, while messy, is so much better for their body. If they waste some in their bed, try feeding less initially until they get the idea!

Also the positioning of their food is relevant.

Ground conditions can be testing … this last 8 months or so we have seen the driest, hottest summer in years. With this glorious weather, came the hard ground….and it was relentless!

While in many ways it was absolute bliss for horses and their owners, the going did take its toll. As a therapist I saw many horses still showing signs of being jarred up right into the winter months. I also found horses struggling with more muscle / body fatigue related issues as the hard ground was a constant source of concussion. Added to this, horses were lying down for less time outdoors, as it just isn’t comfortable lying on ground that hard!

Following that, the inevitable happened and the rain came… bringing with it slippery, greasy conditions; and the increased risk of overstrain, tears, etc to muscles and other soft tissues.

Both the jarring up, and the decreased range of motion from less activity can heighten the chance of injury. Therefore, it is important for us to reduce these risks as much as we can.

Therapy for your horse – to identify and alleviate any issues they are having – includes:

  • Stretching
  • Exercise
  • Grooming
  • Regular turnout
  • Prevention of getting too cold
  • Good diet

Like us, less exposure to the sun can cause the horse to feel subdued, depressed and lethargic.

The sun has physical and psychological benefits…  Vitamin D absorption, warmth on stiff / aching muscles and that feel good factor as well.

When there is a sunny day, take off the rug for a while, or even just the neck cover.. allow your horse to feel the sun’s rays on their skin.

Therapy for your horse can provide many benefits…

  • Improved relaxation
  • Improved comfort
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved immunity
  • Improved digestive heath and metabolism
  • Improved nerve function
  • Improved muscle tone/ evenness/ mass
  • Improved range of motion
  • Improved flow of energy around the body
  • Improved connection with body, mind and soul

Therapy can also

  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce chance of injury
  • Aid recovery and rehabilitation
  • Release emotional trauma

It is also a great way to have your horse monitored if treated routinely; issues can be detected and dealt with quickly and more easily.

Invitation!

This week’s blog is a little bit different, as it is an invitation to an event that I’ll be hosting next month.

Having moved to Wales at the end of last year, I’m very excited to be relaunching Equenergy with an Open Day to showcase our new site
on the Blorenge, near Abergavenny!

Equenergy has been offering Health and Wellbeing therapies and coaching to people and animals for several years now and as soon as I saw this new site, I fell in love with the space, and knew that it was perfect for expanding my practice.

I’m passionate about supporting individuals in their journey towards creating a life of greater wellbeing and joy. I do this by:

  • holding a space where they can reconnect with Nature
  • focusing on getting back in touch with their inner wisdom and balance in order to live in a way that feels authentic and true.

This is what gives us that sense of peace, integrity and congruence that allows us to feel comfortable in our own skin.

What will you get from the Open Day?

It’s a chance to come and experience a little of what I offer.  There will be the opportunity to

  • have a Reiki taster,
  • go on a tour of the site (my work is all about nature and feel, so there will be a walk around the woods and fields, and also the chance to see the room I use for sessions and workshops)
  • see the horses (one of the sessions I offer is to experience mindfulness in the presence of these amazing animals.  I also offer wellbeing sessions for animals, primarily horses, and equine massage)

Who is this Open Day for?

I work primarily, but not exclusively, with women, focusing on those who are experiencing stress, overwhelm and / or chronic health conditions.  I also support those who are feeling lost; those who, on the surface, have a good life, but who have a sense that something is missing and they don’t know how to ‘make it better’.  Together we explore ways to reconnect with our inner wisdom, our emotions and the information and direction that they offer, in order to create a life of more fulfilment and joy.

I also work with animals – of any shape and size, though my main passion is horses and so this open day is also aimed at anyone who cares for an animal and would like to explore ways to support their health and wellbeing, and ways to develop an even deeper relationship and connection.

What will you come away with?

This Open Day is to give you a greater understanding of what I offer and how this support people and animals to feel more in tune with who they really are, to live congruently and with authenticity in order to feel comfortable in their own skin and to experience a greater sense of inner peace and ease.

It’s also the chance to have some time-out for yourself, to experience the peace and healing stillness of this place, and to have a taster of Reiki with me.

Date:
Saturday 23 March

Time:
10.00am – 3.00pm

Venue:
Equenergy, Rose Cottage, Oak Lane, Llanellen NP7 9LD

*Entry is free and there is some space for parking available on site.

NB: Please be aware that there are steep slopes and stony / muddy areas at the venue and so it might not be suitable for those with limited mobility. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact me (details below).

If you would like to take the tour of the new site, it is advisable to bring strong, waterproof footwear, and clothes suitable for the weather on the day.

I will be publishing a full programme shortly.

You can book tickets through Eventbrite.

If you have any questions, please contact me at:

  • robyn@equenergy.com
  • 07980669303
  • or through my website

I hope you can come along. It would be great to see you!

Some thoughts on my highs and lows of winter horse care!

The last couple of weeks have felt pretty tough here at Equenergy. This is my first year of being a horse carer, having welcomed Dax back in May last year, and Rika in October when we moved to Wales and got our own land. It has been a steep learning curve!

About a week ago, on Friday, we had the first snow of the season and, obviously, the first since our move. Suddenly I was having to feed the horses much more hay, as they were unable to access any grass. We were already running a little low, and had arranged an order for the Sunday anyway, but it quickly became clear that there probably wouldn’t be enough to get us through the remaining day, night and morning before we picked up more supplies.

I went through uncomfortable feelings of guilt at not being better prepared and getting into a situation where the horses might suffer because of my lack of foresight…

This came on top of me already feeling rather low, mostly due to exhaustion, which was the result of a combination of factors:

  • the short days which never seem to have enough daylight to get everything done
  • the relentless-seeming round of daily poo picking; often in wind, rain, mud and semi-darkness at this time of year
  • juggling appointments, working on the house, business stuff (such as updating my website, networking, etc) and caring for the animals
  • still not having any proper internet, phone or TV connection
  • the time it takes to get things done because of the above challenges.

As you might have spotted, reading the above list, another drain on my energy has been the high level of expectation that I place on myself!

At times I’ve felt rather alone and vulnerable, and it was at one of these moments that I received some comments on a post that I’d made on Facebook. From the perspective of this low point they hit a nerve and felt like criticism. I was tempted to hide away and feel sorry for myself, but instead I decided it would be more productive to take a step back and look at the situation with a more objective view.

Doing this I quickly realised that the comments were far from being critical. They were actually just someone who cared deeply about an issue, expressing their thoughts. However their message threw a spotlight on a need in me that I hadn’t been addressing (old insecurities about how people see me and being ‘good enough’), which was bringing up old hurts and leaving me experiencing emotional discomfort. I could see that this provided a great opportunity for me to work on this inner pain in order to release it, taking a further step in setting myself free from the things that hold and restrict me. I explored the sensations I was experiencing and used them to identify where I needed to change my thoughts to be more supportive.

There are a variety of ways that we can do this kind of exploration:

  • journaling
  • mindfulness
  • meditation
  • talking with a friend or a professional coach / therapist
  • I personally used EFT (emotional freedom techniques, or ‘tapping’) as this helps to reduce painful emotions, meaning that I could look at things with greater clarity

I’ve had to remind myself, too, that change is often painful, as it pushes us out of our comfort zone. This is true, even when we were the ones who decided to make the change. Even when we know in our heads what to expect, the raw reality, and the unknown duration of the discomfort, can make it hard to keep going, and to keep trusting that we’ve made the right choices. This is especially true when we’re feeling tired, alone or unsupported.

Often when we’re feeling low, our inner critic goes into overdrive. I had to remind myself that this part of me is just trying to keep me safe, but in actual fact it’s made up of thoughts and beliefs that are untrue, or at least greatly exaggerated, and viewed from a negative bias. But I am able to choose my thoughts and beliefs, which in turn impacts on my perceptions, emotions, behaviours and the outcomes I experience. If I choose to focus on more positive, uplifting, optimistic thoughts, then I will experience more supportive, hopeful feelings, leading to behaviours which are more likely to produce the outcomes that I desire.

Sometimes we can get stuck in a negative cycle, particularly when we’re feeling run down, which is why it’s so important to take care of ourselves, doing our best to get quality rest, eat healthily, spend time outdoors in the fresh air and engage in exercise that we enjoy. It’s also important to reach out for help when we need it. Things can feel too big to face alone, but with another pair of hands / eyes, suddenly they seem much more manageable. Also, we are social creatures. We need to feel connected. When this is missing from our lives, the world can feel like a very big, scary and lonely place. Even if you feel that no-one can help, it’s still worth reaching out, as even doing something as simple as meeting a friend for a cup of coffee can bring a bit of brightness to your day and make things seem much less bleak.

Taking action in this way has also helped me to remember the many ‘highs’ of our new life here in Wales, and having horses with us. It’s so lovely to be able to spend time with them, either connecting through activities, or just being in their presence and feeling their calming, grounding energy. I’ve been seeing some subtle changes in Dax, where he seems to be processing things and being less reactive. He can tend to show some fear aggression, reverting to inappropriate behaviours – such as biting and pushing – when he feels anxious, but having started some clicker play with him, I’ve seen how he’s using his brain to find other ways to approach situations. Doing this in a safe environment seems to be giving him confidence in other areas of his life as well. Occasionally he seems to take a backwards step, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it can take time to change habits that have been held for long periods of time so I just need to remain patient and keep remembering all the good things in him so that he can see these too and step into them more fully.

Another ‘high’ is that Rika is opening up more and more each day. When she first arrived here, everything was so new for her. She’d been taken away from her people, her herd and the environment that was familiar to her. It has taken her a while to find her feet but she now regularly approaches us to say Hello, or for a cuddle or a scratch. She’s such a gentle and graceful creature that it’s a joy to spend this time with her!

I’m also deeply grateful for this amazing space all around us. The landscape is so beautiful and the light changes almost in every moment! We are surrounded by birdsong from early morning to well into the evening and it’s magical to watch the onward march of the seasons.

If you are experiencing painful emotions that feel like they’re taking over your life, and you’d like to explore some constructive ways to address the underlying issues so that you can reconnect with your balance, joy and wellbeing, then please get in touch for a no obligation chat.

PS For those of you wondering about the horses and their hay: I rang our lovely hay man, Gwyn, on the Friday and he happily gave us a couple of bales the next day which easily got us through to Sunday when we collected our order. This reminded me again that worry is unproductive and that when I reach out, help is there, supporting me through the ‘dramas’ of my life and showing me that, in fact, all is well in the end 🙂

A challenging week!

In my last post, I was excited as we’d finally been connected to the internet via a Minihub and I was at last able to catch up on some work that had been on hold since we moved here, 3 months ago.  But things went downhill from there!  My computer had been in for repairs and I thought that when I got it back I would be able to get stuck in with many of the things that I’d been planning to do, such as updating my website and planning the Equenergy Open Day, however when I turned it on it made a kind of ‘pfft’ noise, there was a smell of burning and it immediately went off again.  Not good!  I wasn’t too worried though, as I now have a laptop to fall back on, but when I switched it on it was obviously not well either!  It went into a diagnostic loop and then crashed.  Consequently, both are now back in the shop and I’m typing this on my husband’s laptop.  As someone who likes to feel independent and unrestricted, this is frustrating for me…

You might not be aware that in addition to my health and wellbeing business, I also work as a British Sign Language / English interpreter.  This week I’ve been supporting communication for a case at family court.  I was booked by the solicitor representing the mother which has meant that I am interpreting instruction from the client to her solicitor and barrister.  These conference meetings are normally fairly brief and less formal than the court proceedings, and so I have been working on my own, unlike the court interpreters who work in pairs.  The case has proved quite challenging with heated and emotional issues coming up, resulting in long and serious discussions outside of the court room.  I realised that I was going home at the end of each day exhausted and still carrying these emotions.  As you can imagine, the case is highly confidential and so I am unable to offload to anyone.  I am self employed and don’t have a supervisor or line manager to confide in so at times it can be a lonely and isolating experience.  It didn’t help that this was happening at a time when my plate already felt quite full due to my technological challenges back at Equenergy.

Thankfully, as is the nature of court work, although I was booked from 9-5 each day, the times when I was needed were subject to change, meaning that I finished earlier some days, and on a couple of occasions I wasn’t needed until later in the day.  This allowed me to have some time with the horses, doing the regular duties of feeding and poo picking.  (The rest of the time my wonderful husband had taken this on for me.  Without his fabulous support I wouldn’t be able to work these hours.)  These regular duties might not sound very exciting, but they were a great way for me to relax, re-ground and recover my balance and perspective.  Spending time in court listening to evidence of abuse and seeing witnesses caught in perjury can make the world appear to be a very negative and threatening place, but being back in Nature, around these gentle beings, helped to restore my faith in the goodness of Life.

It helped me to remember to focus on the positive and not to get too caught up in the things that seemed to be going against me.  It can be so easy to think of all the ‘problems’ that we’re facing, all the things that are going ‘wrong’ in our day, and to forget about all the little wonderful things that make our lives better.  These can be simple things like the sun shining, a smile from a friend, or enjoying a nice warm cup of tea.  The more we can notice, and be grateful for, these little things, the more things we will see to be grateful for – and the more of these things we will attract into our life.  For me, it was:

  • noticing again the beautiful, restorative stillness of this place
  • the opportunity to spend quiet time with our cat and the horses, whose gentle energy is so calming, smoothing out the wrinkles of my day
  • coming down from the fields to a nice warm house with our little woodburning stove glowing nicely
  • enjoying our outdoor, more physical lifestyle, and being grateful for my health and strength which allow me to do this
  • the beautiful sights and sounds of being in this rural setting
  • being able to cook tasty and nutritious meals to support my wellbeing, particularly when I’ve had a busy, demanding week and need to look after myself

These things are very individual, so what is important to you could be quite different from my list, but these things are particularly precious to me as there have been times in my life when I haven’t had them, and so I’ve come to understand the impact they have on my wellbeing.

What things in your life support your health and balance?  Are there ways that you can bring more of them into your day to day experience?

So when your day is feeling really tough and you’re struggling with lots of challenges, look around for those little moments of brightness.  Take note of them and hold them in your heart.  Perhaps even keep a gratitude diary.  You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference this can make, and how much fun it can be looking out for things that you can be thankful for, or that make you smile.

If you feel that you would value some support in this, or everything just feels too big and you don’t know where – or how – to start, please reach out to someone you trust and ask for their support.

This is one of the areas where I can help, and if you would like to have a (no obligation) chat, then you can contact me at:

 

Happy New Year! Equenergy is open for business

Hello!  I’d like to start by wishing you all a very happy and healthy New Year!  I hope it brings you many wonderful adventures.

I hope you had a magical festive season and enjoyed some rest and relaxation alongside all the business that tends to be common over the holiday.

I’ve been very fortunate to spend time with family and friends, and also with the horses and out in the woods.  It’s been mostly mild here, with a couple of very beautiful sharp frosty mornings.  We made the most of the dry weather to put up a field shelter for the horses and my husband put a floor into the ‘tack room’ on the end, making it a wonderful hay store.  This means that I don’t have to push the hay up to the field twice a day!

The dry spell has also allowed me to paint the sign for our cottage, making it easier to locate us:

And, of course, the Equenergy sign is there as well:

We also received the most beautiful wooden plaque for a Christmas present, but we haven’t yet decided where to put it:

We’ve sanded and varnished the floor of the healing room, and had the place painted, so it’s looking much fresher.  I’ve now moved the furniture back in and it’s ready for clients:

 

The peaceful, healing energy of this place takes my breath away, every day, and I’m so looking forward to sharing that with others!

Amazingly, the longer daylight hours and the recent mild weather have already brought on some signs of the promise of spring to come.  It feels like a wonderful new energy in this place, heralding in the New Year, and a new adventure for Equenergy, here on the Blorenge in South Wales.

If you would like to experience some of this amazing energy for yourself, please contact me: