Heart-to-Heart-Connections with Horses are not all that sentimental
First, thank you to Jenna who brought my attention to this fascinating research again which I like to share with you and which caused me to write the following lines.
We are still living in a world where we are not always comfortable to openly speak about matters of the heart and soul; including energies as well as relationships and subtle forms of communication not only existing between humans but between species and in fact all of life. Even though we can find a high awareness and appreciation of these aspects in certain groups and circles, large parts of society, including major parts of the horse world, do not seem to consider or have room for those ideas in their daily lives and activities, or only to a certain extent.
While you can find many accounts and stories about the strong bond between humans and horses and the special relationship that exists between us which many of us have experienced ourselves, they often seem to be passed into the realm of anecdotes. We rarely ask what forms the basis of these types of relationships; whether there may be a way to more reliably reproduce them; what we may do or where we have to change to contribute to an overall improvement of our connections; etc.
Due to our broad emphasis on materially measurable values, results and outer successes as well as techniques, methods and systems to be applied on almost everything, we often forget or overlook the subtler ways and signs in our interactions. Ways that are based on being rather than doing and which ask for empathy, intuition and sensitivity rather than our intellectual capacities so that we allow things to unfold naturally rather than us controlling and directing the outcome.
Therefore, it is always great to see things the more sensitive, empathic and intuitive souls always knew to be true just by their very nature, becoming the subject of research and studies and being confirmed by science. This includes the deep and rich relationships we have with our horses. More and more scientific studies come to conclusions and confirm facts that people being attuned to this species already felt, sensed, knew, experienced, etc.
The energetic heart
Researchers at the HeartMath Institute have been researching the intelligence of the heart for some time now. Beyond the heart’s vital function as the organ that pumps life-giving oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood throughout our bodies, evidence shows the heart also plays a greater role in our mental, emotional and physical processes: The heart is a sensory organ and acts as a sophisticated information encoding and processing centre that enables it to learn, remember, and make independent functional decisions.
The Institute’s research has shown that the heart generates the largest electromagnetic field in the body. And even more impressive, the heart’s electrical field is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity generated by the brain. Using sensitive magnetometers, this powerful electromagnetic field can be detected and measured several feet away from a person’s body and between two individuals in close proximity.
The coherent heart
They also talk a great deal about “coherence” and “the coherent heart”. Coherence, in any system, from the human body to social affairs, refers to a logical, orderly and harmonious connectedness between parts of a system or between people. Heart-rhythm coherence refers to a specific assessment of the heart’s rhythms that appears as smooth, ordered and sine-wavelike patterns. This is related to our emotions which are reflected in these heart rhythm patterns. In a coherent state, virtually no energy is wasted because our systems are performing optimally and there is synchronization between heart rhythms, the respiratory system, blood-pressure rhythms, etc. As simple as it may sound: one way to personal heart coherence is through the intentional self-generation of positive feelings such as compassion, care, love and other renewing types of emotions.
Energetic communication between people as well as between people and animals
Research conducted at HMI also suggests the heart’s field to be an important carrier of information. In several studies, it was shown that the magnetic signals generated by the heart have the capacity to affect individuals around us: It was found that there is a direct relationship between the heart-rhythm patterns and the spectral information encoded in the frequency spectra of the magnetic field radiated by the heart. This means information about a person’s emotional state is encoded in the heart’s magnetic field and is communicated throughout the body and into the external environment.
This information then forms an integral part of energetic communication which is believed to be an innate ability that heightens awareness and mediates important aspects of true empathy and sensitivity to others. It appears that sensitivity to this form of energetic communication between individuals is related to the ability to be emotionally and physiologically coherent. The data indicate that when individuals are in the coherent state, they are more sensitive to receiving information contained in the magnetic fields generated by others. In addition, during physiological coherence, internal systems are more stable, function more efficiently and radiate electromagnetic fields containing a more coherent structure.
The researchers also have found that a type of heart-rhythm synchronization can occur in interactions between people and animals. Particular examples involved a boy and his dog as well as a woman sitting in a corral with her horse without physical contact. The woman consciously shifted into a coherent state and when she shifted into a coherent state, the horse’s heart rhythm pattern also shifted to a more ordered pattern.
Heart-to-heart-connection with horses
The initial pilot study with horses indicated that a horse’s HRV (heart rate variability) pattern reflects its inner state and that horses are sensitive to changes in human emotions, reflected as a change in the horse’s HRV patterns. It is likely that this emotional connection is mediated by an energetic form of communication.
The research with horses was extended and the collected data suggested that, unlike humans, the horses almost always stay in a state of coherence and that when horses move out of coherence, they are quick to move back into it.
They continued with experiments where horses were paired with people, both familiar and unfamiliar to the horse. When the humans moved toward more coherence, the data revealed measurable “energy field responses” in the horses. Each time the person in the arena with a loose horse began sending thoughts and feelings of appreciation to the horse, the horse looked directly at that person. This happened even when the horse was 20 or more feet away. According to HeartMath, the feeling of appreciation in humans is actually associated with a state of coherence. Interestingly, the familiarity with the person did not seem to be relevant. The rhythm of the person’s heart rate variability was more important than the existing relationship.
Further analysis showed that in almost all cases, the horse was imposing their very low frequency rhythms on the human. From the research data, it was likely concluded that the horses’ coherent state is influencing the humans, more than the other way around. It appears they help resonate/tune us back to more coherence.
At the same time, we may see the same horse respond differently to each person they interact with. It was suspected that horses perceive, interpret and respond to very subtle energy fields that they come into contact with. Therefore, it would make sense that if the collective feeling they perceive is calm, they will respond calmly. If the collective feeling is fear, they may sense fear and start to respond to that.
Importance for our interactions with horses
We do not necessarily need any research to know that horses respond to our emotions and to consider this in our interactions with them. However, it is nice to see our experiences backed by research and to receive further reassurance and insight in the underlying forces that may be at work. Even though some of the results are not finally confirmed and require further exploration but rather give indications and suggestions, they provide a good clue why so many of us perceive interactions with horses as beneficial and healing and overall supportive for our well-being.
However, what do we bring to the horse? As far as I am aware, the above research was well received and noticed in the fields of equine facilitated and assisted learning, therapeutic riding, etc. but did not receive as much attention in other areas of the horse world.
We could make huge progress if these aspects were considered and applied in all our interactions with horses in all settings and in all disciplines; not only as anecdotes and something to share ‘nice and sweet’ stories about around the campfire so to speak. If we made full use of this knowledge we could learn to consciously create an energetic environment that supports the improvement of our work with horses; that helps to facilitate calm and harmonious interactions with horses; and may further assist the stress-free learning and understanding.
I would like to see:
- us being more aware of our coherence (or non-coherence) when working with horses and how our state of mind affects the horse at all times;
- us taking responsibility for our emotions and what we put out there and taking corrective measures if needed;
- us consciously aiming to reach a state of coherence when interacting with horses;
- it being normal that we work from an inner place of care and appreciation towards the horse which supports the creation of an environment where the horse feels safe to express his curiosity and to be and become a confident partner.
And let us not forget: all of the above may be applied to any and all interactions with our environment, and not only with horses.
- McCraty, The Energetic Heart: Bioelectromagnetic Interactions Within and Between People, 2003
- Walters / Baldwin; Horses, Humans and the Frequencies of Connection, 2011
- McCraty / Atkinson / Tomasino / Tiller, The Electricity of Touch: Detection and Measurement of Cardiac Energy Exchange Between People, 1998
- Science of the Heart Exploring the Role of the Heart in Human Performance, Vol. 2 1993 – 2016
- New meaning to “Horse Sense”, Newsletter HeartMath Institute, Spring 2006
- Gehrke / Baldwin / Schiltz, Heart Rate Variability in Horses Engaged in Equine-Assisted Activities, Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 31, 2001