Awareness Horsemanship: Part 1
Understanding and directing your energy
During lessons, clinics, and seminars, teachers will often talk about bringing up your energy to get the horse to move, but they seldom tell their students how exactly to do that. This is where Awareness Horsemanship comes in. Following are some easy-to-use tools to help you use your innate energy to effectively and lightly communicate with your horse.
Horses are extremely sensitive, subtle, and gentle beings. Yet, most of the time, when we want them to do something for us, we ask in a big and harsh way. We use the same force we use with the humans around us. For the horse, it is like screaming and shouting all the time. Here is another way, which will promote and project calm responses from your horse, improve your relationship, and have your horse happily do what you ask, with seemingly invisible aids.
Our human nature falsely tells us it is much easier and more straightforward to get the horse to perform with force rather than subtleness. “Negative reinforcement” is what people call it, and it means: “if you move just like this, I promise to stop hurting you for a moment or two.” It expects the horse to learn our language. But is that really the best way? When we dare to choose a different approach, horses can teach us great things: to become more self-aware; to become quiet inside; and to become assertive without being threatening. We can do all of this without the use of force and with an energy awareness and respectful partnership that creates a solid base for training and competing.
What is “energy work?” Everything that has to do with consciously using energy to reach a goal. Everybody is using energy all the time. In fact, you have an unlimited amount of energy at your disposal. However, most of us use it without being conscious of it. Energy used consciously can have any shape or form, be used for any purpose, and is only limited by the imagination. Use the following exercise as a starting point for recognizing and directing energy.
Exercise: Feeling the Energy Field
Take a few deep breathes in and out while being conscious of how it feels in your body. Pick up your hands and hold them about four feet apart. Then slowly move them together and become aware of your body's energy as you bring them closer together. You may find it helpful to close your eyes.
As your hands get closer, there might be areas when you feel something: pressure or resistance, heat or cold, a tingle, a texture, or even a taste, smell, or emotion. Most people can feel something at a distance of about three feet, six inches, and 1.5 inches. That is about where the first three aura layers end. Explore how you perceive your field by repeating the exercise a few times.
Tool #1: Intention
So how does one use this energy? It is done with intention. “Intention” is an aim that guides action, and it can be as simple as saying “I want my horse to walk from A to B” or as precise as “after five trot steps stop and back up two step.” Intention is the first step toward reaching a goal. Always have a goal in mind!
Just being present with a goal will improve your relationship with your horse. The goal can be great or small, or even arise spontaneously. Picture the goal as you want the horse to perform it, but stay flexible during execution. Set the stage, then get out of the way, creating space for the horse to do what you have asked. Use intention to get focused and stay focused on your goal.
Tool #2: Energy Shapes
To better use our energy for our advantage, we need to become aware of it. Awareness is to be conscious of something perceived—whether it be a feeling, a thought, an inspiration, or something else. The majority of sensory input—what comes in from your various senses—is perceived by the brain as unimportant and is filtered out, thus we are unaware of it. Only the tiniest part of information, what the brain deems immediately important for your situation, is made conscious and put into context, so it makes sense for you. All the other millions of bits of information are discarded.
The previous exercise helps us recognize the energy we all have around us, but how can it be shaped? There are three different shapes we can use regularly around our horses: the energy arrow, the soft energy field, and the hard energy sphere.
The Energy Arrow
The Energy Arrow is strongly focused to one point. It is demanding attention and immediate action.
The Energy Arrow is strongly focused to one point. It is demanding attention and immediate action. The focal point can be right in front of your nose, or out a mile, wherever needed. You can use it to ask your horse for movement in the arena or round pen. It works for both groundwork and riding. Stand or sit straight, and with only your intention, bring your energy up to your chest and project it outward and forward onto the focal point. The more movement you want, the higher and stronger the energy arrow needs to be. All you need to form your arrow is your intention.
The Soft Energy Field
The Soft Energy Field is unfocused and non-directional. Imagine it as a soft, friendly cloud of energy around you.
The Soft Energy Field is unfocused and non-directional. Imagine it as a soft, friendly cloud of energy around you. Use it to approach your horse in the pasture, or when you want it to come to you during liberty work. Let your solar plexus soften, release any bodily tension through your hands and feet, your gaze is down, about 5–10 feet in front of you and soft. To make it even friendlier (i.e. to approach a very skittish horse), point your chest away from the horse and, with intention, lower your energy into the ground. You can imagine putting any unhelpful thoughts or emotions in a ball and dropping it down into the ground.
The Hard Energy Sphere
The Hard Energy Sphere is a protective bubble that is hard on the outside. It is used to reinforce personal space
The Hard Energy Sphere is a protective bubble that is hard on the outside. It is used to reinforce personal space. Imagine a clear, shiny bubble around you, like a glass sphere. It is impenetrable. Stand straight, like you do when creating the energy arrow. Start with a small bubble around your body, then, with your intention, make it as big as you want it to be. You can harden or soften it with your intention as needed. You only have to keep it going if your horse keeps coming into your space. Hopefully he will learn quickly to leave your space, in which case you can soften it up or drop it completely.
Use any of these three shapes with your intention, keeping a clear picture in your mind of what you want, and before you start using your body. Once you have asked your horse to do something with your energy, you will need to follow up with your body if there is no reaction to the energy change. Your horse needs to know that you mean what you say so he can trust you, but it may take time for your horse to correctly read your intention. Be patient.
We will discover Tool #3 in the Awareness Horsemanship Toolbox...Mindfulness.
About the Author:
Karen Wegehenkel, author of the upcoming book Awareness Horsemanship, is a longtime horsewoman and student of “healing hands” Energy Work. After learning traditional German dressage and getting mixed results, Karen became interested in alternative horse practices. She has successfully applied her human energy work to her equine relationships. Karen can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org