Domesticated horses are subject to stresses that are not part of life for a wild horse, and they have adapted admirably. Wherever he finds himself, a horse survives because he is aware of his environment . Whether wild or tame, an unaware animal rarely lives long. The instinct is to remain alert, ready to protect or move at all times. A hurting horse may not be able to escape or fight off a predator or captor or be able to assist herd members. For survival, a horse hides its pain beyond what humans might imagine possible. Such awareness can translate directly into how we support and care for horses living among humans.
With proper training and core strength building exercises, horses cared for and ridden by humans can remain mentally relaxed, aligned physiologically and can be supported and trained to release tension. Massage , kind voices, and gentle, soft, slow movements around a horse will help him relax.
Horses love to run and to be free. They know how to care for their bodies naturally. Core strength, originating from its hind end, hip and pelvic area—its power center—is essential for a strong, balanced, healthy horse. Some horses in captivity barely feel their core. While providing therapy to one of her patients, Dr. Rachel Bellini, DMV, says she could “drive a stake” into a particular area on the horse’s back and the horse would barely feel it—prior to being worked on therapeutically. Observing one horse after another respond to Dr. Bellini’s comprehensive treatments—she often spends at least an hour with a horse using a variety of healing modalities, such as standard vet care, whole body chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture , acupressure and energy healing —I viewed first-hand pain relieving effects, collaborative willingness and expressions of gratitude coming from the horses.
Happily, with a long history of respect for this wise, helpful and gentle species, we are expanding our capability to support horses experiencing stress and pain. We are learning to assist their minds to relax, and to observe and feel them as conscious, energetic beings. Horse folk observe that horse skin is so sensitive that landing flies are felt. When grooming, we are becoming even more sensitive to their sensitivity. Whether moving or standing still in a field, a round pen or hillside or in a stall, a horse feels everything. Deeply. Even in its feet. In fact, a horse’s hooves are its life. A painful, cracked or rotting hoof means an uncomfortable or horribly suffering horse that may not live long.
Horses hold much, including strain and pain, within their enormous heads—an extremely sensitive area often bound by humans. Dr. Bellini shared with me that many horses have chronic headaches, which we often mistake for being head shy. They don’t want to be approached or touched because they hurt. Horses feel energy before physical contact is made. Imagine having a permanent headache. Thankfully, tack is becoming more humane and appropriately fitted.
Significantly, we do well to remember that horses are prey animals. They serve as food for other species. To remain alive they feel and respond to their world as individuals and as a collective, as a tuned instrument, which helps everyone thrive and escape danger. An attuned animal senses a living presence far before its rudimentary physical senses hone in on a particular life form because they are aware of energy, of subtle vibration.
Experiment: When your horse is at liberty, travel a distance away, perhaps 100 yards. Hang out for a bit, doing your own thing, then—slowly—move toward the horse as a gentle, relaxed, respectful presence. Keep your hips soft, bent slightly inward so your torso is slightly in front of your hips. Perhaps turn your body to the side so you appear less predator-like in eternal pounce position, and approach at an angle. If you are at ease working with your own energy field, mentally and with a felt sense of gratitude, invite the horse to connect with your energy and to join with you if they would like. Give the horse the choice to join or not to join. They will feel this choice energetically, and may be less inclined toward taking flight.
As you softly approach a horse, notice how he grows more interested in you. An ear, and much more of him, may move away or in your direction. Gently take a step back. Move out of “the zone” of his field and notice what happens. An action of this nature denotes respect for his presence, “Let’s get to know each other first.” Notice his ears moving independently, like radar. Equine ears tune into multiple sounds and in more than one direction. A raised, alert head and a tail held high signal adrenalin coursing through the body, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it intends to flee or fight for its life. This means readiness. Likewise, a lowered head allows relaxing endorphins to flood his brain. When a horse’s head is low, he is in relative peace. A horse wants to know if you are a safe place and will give clear indications of what he senses. He knows how we are feeling by how we are moving. Horses are remarkably kind toward those who are honest feelers, especially children. Horses are sensitive beyond imagining.
Because horses are so effective and genetically pre-disposed to disguising physical discomfort and serving their human herd, there is much we can do to help them feel at ease. As we gain their trust, they begin to tell us their stories through how they respond and move (or don’t move). Horse eyes and facial expressions are astonishingly clear indicators of their present comfort level and state of mind. Due to the work of powerfully aware, enlightened humans, we are quickly moving beyond unfeeling methods into the language of knowledge: Slow, peaceful observation is taking us to astounding places within ourselves and with horses.
Laura Bedford is the author of The Mix Up (2011). She is also a vibrational awareness intuitive, a holistic energy practitioner and an inner peace presenter for all ages. Visit her websites horseshidetheirpain.com , www.radiantkids.com and www.trustingourinnerlight.org