Beware the Feelings and Emotions
Having a bad day? Not being in good form? We have all been there.
And while we may be able to fake it towards the majority of people around us, it may not go unnoticed by our horses.
Horses are extremely sensitive and highly perceptive animals when it comes to their environment and everything that happens around them, including our own presence. And besides the very obvious, they are able to recognize and respond to very subtle clues and emotions, such as our body language, facial expressions, our mood and inner attitude towards them.
For example, studies have not only shown that horses were able to differentiate between happy and angry human faces when presented with photographs. They also remembered the previous emotion later and responded accordingly when they met the respective person who then wore a neutral expression. Another study measured the heart rate of horses while being stroked by a person. The people stroking the horses were divided in three groups: one with a positive attitude towards horses, one with a negative attitude and one with people from a horse-riding club. It turned out that the heart rate of the horses significantly increased when they were stroked by a person in the negative attitude group while there was little or no change when they were stroked by a person from the other two groups.
While I would like to assume that anybody reading this has a positive attitude towards horses, it still shows the general sensitivity of horses to our moods and inner states of being. And we need to be conscious of this when things are not going so smoothly.
First, it is always a good idea before entering the yard, stable, field etc. to check in with oneself and maybe take a very deep breath and let go and leave some of the troubling things behind – at least for the moment.
On a particular bad day, if possible, I will also try to take any pressure off. Keep things simple and do not introduce anything new.
This can be a good time to just hang out and be with your horse, go for a walk, let him graze, spend time in the pasture, give him a good groom, do some easy playful groundwork etc. Do not be afraid to be humble and admit to your horse how you are feeling.
Focus on the positive and enjoy the connection and the comfort they are so willingly and successfully able to give to us!
Picture: (c) Fotolia – Pelana