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)

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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.

 

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!

 

Deepening your connection – Part 5

Other ways of supporting your own wellbeing and balance include:

  • taking time-out for yourself
  • meditation / mindfulness
  • physiotherapy / chiropractic / massage sessions
  • a healthy diet
  • getting sufficient sleep
  • complementary therapies (eg homeopathy, aromatherapy Bach Flower remedies, EFT, healing, etc) 

I personally offer a range of support which can be used face-to-face or at a distance:

  • MetaHealth : This sees dis-ease as a process and, by analysing what is going on for the person, it can trace back to find the original trigger behind the symptoms. The practitioner can then suggest ways in which the trigger can be addressed directly, and cleared, allowing the person to make the journey back to good health.
  • Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) : this uses the same meridian lines followed by Traditional Chinese medicine, however without the needles! It helps to clear blocked traumas and so is a very effective therapy.  It can be used with a wide range of issues including chronic pain, anxiety, limiting beliefs, allergies and phobias.
  • Energy Healing / Reiki : This is a wonderfully relaxing therapy which encourages your body to naturally move into the parasympathetic cycle of rest and repair. It can be used to support a wide range of issues including:
    • healing of injuries
    • detoxification (eg after chemotherapy of giving up smoking)
    • pain relief
    • balancing
    • a sense of wellbeing and calm
  • Nutrition : I am currently studying to be a nutritional therapist and I can advise you on ‘clean eating’ to support health and wellbeing

 

The information in this article was taken from my workshops and video series on giving horses a more natural lifestyle and the benefits that this brings, not only to them but to their owners / carers.  To see more, please follow this link:

www.equenergy.com/horse-care-video-series

If you have comments or questions about anything in this article, or if you would like to book a session with me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: 

            email:              robyn@equenergy.com

mobile:           07980 669303

You can also read more about me and my work on my website: www.equenergy.com

 

(Read the full article here)

Deepening your connection – Part 4

Given that horses are such sensitive animals it is also very important for us to take good care of ourselves.  This is true physically, emotionally and mentally as any imbalances could affect the horse and his behaviour in negative ways:

  • If we are physically out of balance then this will affect how we sit on the horse, and our aids will be different on one side compared to the other.

    As soon as a rider gets on a horse it changes the horse’s shape and balance considerably. Horses move differently at liberty compared to having just a saddle on, and very differently again with a rider on board.

  • If we are out of balance emotionally or mentally, even just ‘having a bad day’, the horse will pick up on this and it will affect his mood too.

As humans, we often live in a busy, fast-paced world, and have learnt to turn down our sensitivity.  We must often come across as uncomfortably loud and pushy to our equine friends!

Their way of being is much softer and more subtle, meaning that we might miss their signals because we drown them out with our own noise and busy-ness.

Using our breath and getting present can help to:

  • bring our energies down
  • calm our rushing, busy minds
  • bring ourselves more into focus and alignment
  • open ourselves to the world and communication of the horse.

breath

If we are not used to doing this, it can take a little time to tune in at first – to calm our busy minds and find that inner stillness – but the effort will be worth it!  I recommend taking a look at the work of Jenny Rolfe and James French to help with this.

When we are relaxed and grounded our horses will pick up on this energy and respond to it.  They in turn will feel calmer and happier and consequently will be more able to respond to what we ask for – and our asking will be clearer!

We also benefit in that we become more receptive to them, being quicker to pick up on anything that feels a little ‘off’ and therefore being able to respond in a timely and appropriate way.

This kind of interaction will quickly build a deep rapport and trust between you and your horse and he will really open up to you.  Your relationship will reach a whole new level.

When we begin to listen in this way, our horses will teach us so much!  On one level they mirror what is going on inside us, bringing us face-to-face with our own energy, which we, so often, are not fully conscious of.  (If you would like to explore this further and how it can benefit you and your horse you might like to take a look at Rosie Withey’s work through Horses as Teachers: http://www.horsesasteachers.co.uk/)

The information in this article was taken from my workshops and video series on giving horses a more natural lifestyle and the benefits that this brings, not only to them but to their owners / carers.  To see more, please follow this link:

www.equenergy.com/horse-care-video-series

If you have comments or questions about anything in this article, or if you would like to book a session with me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: 

            email:              robyn@equenergy.com

mobile:           07980 669303

You can also read more about me and my work on my website: www.equenergy.com

 

(Read the full article here)

Deepening your connection – Part 3

If you find that things are not going well in a session with your horse, consider the factors that could be influencing his behaviour, for example:

  • is he in pain? (eg injury or uncomfortable tack)
  • is he bored? (eg has he been doing the same thing for several days in a row / is he a young horse with a short attention span)
  • is he distracted?
  • is he picking up something from you or other people / horses in the yard?

In regards to tack, many people are now beginning to exploring alternatives to the traditional options in order for their horses to be more comfortable, and therefore calmer and less stressed.

For example:

There are a variety of saddles available, for example:

There are different views regarding which is best and much will depend on your horse’s shape and the type of activity he will be doing.  The important thing is to make sure that the saddle fits well and doesn’t restrict movement, pinch or put pressure on the spine or kidneys.

This short video is a good illustration of how to make sure that your horse’s saddle is a good fit: Proper saddle fit

Bits: Veterinarian Robert Cook believes that the bit breaks the horse’s lip seal and destroys what should be a vacuum in its mouth.  He feels that as horses are obligate nasal breathers (they cannot breathe through their mouths) exercise triggers a cascade of soft palate instability, suffocation, exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage (bleeding in the lungs), and even unexplained sudden death in some racehorses.

riding-on-the-power-of-othersSome are even exploring ways to be with horses that don’t involve riding.  For example Ren Hurst of the New World Sanctuary Foundation in Ashland, Oregon who has written a book, Riding on the Power of Others, talking about her journey from horse trainer to barefoot trimmer and then to setting up a sanctuary.

(If you’d like to know more about her work she has a Facebook page: Riding on the Power of Others and a website: New World Sanctuary Foundation)

Horses are very sensitive to the energies of those around them.  It is part of being a prey animal who lives in a herd.  They tune in to the others on a physical and an energetic level.  It is part of their survival strategy.  They also use this ability to maintain peace and harmony within the herd, and with us, if we too tune in and learn how to listen and respond.

Sometimes, however, horses come from an environment where they have not been given any choices.  They might have been kept stabled for much of the time or punished when they got things ‘wrong’.  This can lead to the horse ‘shutting down’ or developing a condition known as ‘learned helplessness’.

As we start to remove these limitations and fears, the horse can start to push boundaries realising that they are now allowed to say No.  This can be challenging for us, particularly if we want to use only positive reinforcement methods and other people are telling us that we are just allowing the horse to see himself as the ‘boss’ and that this will make the situation worse.  In fact it is good to encourage your horse to think for himself as it enables him to engage his brain before he responds to situations rather than just being reactive.

However, if you are struggling with a horse who is showing very dominant behaviour I recommend finding a good equine behaviourist to support you.

Also the book A Tale of Two Horses by Kathie Gregory is a great tale-of-2-horsesread if you are feeling alone on your journey to try to understand your horse and to work with him to give him a happier life.

 

The information in this article was taken from my workshops and video series on giving horses a more natural lifestyle and the benefits that this brings, not only to them but to their owners / carers.  To see more, please follow this link:

www.equenergy.com/horse-care-video-series

If you have comments or questions about anything in this article, or if you would like to book a session with me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: 

            email:              robyn@equenergy.com

mobile:           07980 669303

You can also read more about me and my work on my website: www.equenergy.com

 

(Read the full article here)