Sometimes we have to look at the crappy stuff square in the face, to find the joy in it and this is one of those times that has some enormous joy in it. So grab a cuppa and sit down for a couple of minutes for some plain talk.
I’ve come to understand that we help our horses live an active, healthy long life or we hurt them.
I’ve spent the last 26 years as a alternative health specialist for horses, gaining more and more understanding of the wide reaching impact of stress on the horse’s body. I’ve come to understand that our horse’s relationship with humans is the single biggest factor that effects their health.
It’s bigger than the barefoot or shoes argument.
It’s bigger than bits or no bits.
It’s bigger than being able to buy the latest best saddle.
And it’s certainly bigger in the effect on their body than the benefits of being able to afford the best muscle and bone and veterinary care that money can buy.
In fact, all of those things are a waste of time, effort and money unless we’re helping our horse to experience mental and emotional well-being and the physical well being that flows from that.
Let me explain by talking about our own bodies so that you can relate more easily to what I mean.
When you’re stressed you can probably feel it across the top of your shoulders – the muscles get tight. You’ve felt that, right? If it goes on for too long, that tension starts to spread to other parts of your body, with increasing adverse effects on the whole muscular skeletal system. You’ll find yourself walking / running / riding, even sitting differently. Movement will have a greater and greater impact on your joints, wearing them out long before they otherwise would.
If you’re stressed for too long, that muscle tension becomes chronic and just like your horses, that less than optimum movement of your body becomes normal to you. Sometimes it happens so subtly that you don’t even notice it until something goes wrong. Eventually you start to have joint problems and maybe those tense, shortened muscles might even make one of your tendons or ligaments vulnerable.
In some of our programs I go into more detailed explanations of how the chronic tensions in the muscles eventually affects the rest of the body, but that’s too long and complicated for this article. The feel good hormones will do as an example here – you probably notice the lack of them when you’re stressed. Chronic stress and the tension that follows it, adversely affects other hormones too and the brain chemicals that control important things like heart and lungs (COPD), pancreas (Cushings and metabolic disorders), kidneys (sacro-iliac problems), liver and digestion generally (includes colic symptoms), just to name a few. If the stress and tension keeps building up, eventually one or more organs begins to suffer and might even start to break down. Stress isn’t the only thing that causes health problems, but it certainly plays a big part and it can seriously get in the way of your body healing the way it was designed to self heal.
Here’s the big deal
It’s similar for a horse, but here’s the big difference for them. We people have choices about how we live our lives – we can remove ourselves from a stressful situation in all kinds of ways even if we don’t always see that at the time. Whereas our horses usually have little to no choice at all and depend pretty much completely on us to understand what stresses them and do something about it. If we don’t do something about it – their muscular tension starts building up, they reflect that stress in the workings of their body and it adversely effects their ability to heal themselves in the same way that happens to us.
That’s SUCH a big deal, you might like to pause and reflect on all the ways in which we (unknowingly) stop our horses making choices to reduce their stress. When you’re ready to move on, I’ve come up with just a few ideas here.
Do you want to drive them forwards at all costs OR do you want to allow them to find their feet, their balance and their confidence? Do you want to get on them before they’re ready with all the spinal problems that eventually come from that OR do you want them to have a lovely elevated back that can carry you with strength and ease? (There’s a very simple formula for that.) Do you want to push them to do something through their fear and resistance OR do you want to be a real leader and support them to be curious and strong and sensibly brave? Do you want to cause them fear by your own actions or the circumstances that you put them in OR do you want to systematically expand their experience and Comfort Zone with sensitivity and consideration for where they’re at, so that they’ll look to you for confidence when something new worries them?
I want to be the person that solves the problems, not causes them and I don’t know too many other people who would want anything different either. But the vast vast majority of us weren’t taught this stuff, so we just don’t know – and THAT’s why I’m writing this article.
There’s lots and lots of good news in this
Even the crappy stuff I’ve just written about has some very good news in it and I know that because I’ve been the person who’s caused my horse stress and tension. So thank god I’ve learned how to do it differently and in the process found something so beautiful it’s changed my whole life, not just in horses..
When we listen to them, when we feel them, when we “hear” them, when we take action on what we see / hear / feel, then we can support them to let go of even OLD stresses and tensions. Even trauma and the physical consequences of trauma from years long gone, can be released – sometimes so thoroughly that it’s hard to remember it was even there. When confidence replaces old stress, the muscular tension releases (you can even see that happening in front of your eyes) and then the healing processes that were always there, can start working properly again.
It used to be that only the great horse men and women had the kind of Feel that made that kind of profound change and healing possible. But that’s not the case any more. I started seeing those incredible physical changes in my and other peoples horses 17 years ago when I first started listening and teaching other people to listen to their horses and I’ve got better and better at it over the years. (Got better at both the listening and the teaching. 🙂 )
Just like we can’t eliminate stress from our own lives, we can’t eliminate stress from our horses lives either – it’s part of life. But we can help them have the confidence and resilience to deal with what comes up and we can help them to release excessive and unnecessary stress and we can experience the pleasure of watching bodies changing, sometimes right in front of our eyes.
And you get to do it a whole lot more easily and quickly than I did.
Thanks to some brilliant horses and people, we’ve got teaching the kind of Feel that is a catalyst for profound healing, down to a fine art these days. Everyone who wants it can have it.
That’s what we do here – we teach people the Feel for their horse that causes all that gorgeous stuff to happen. Every problem solved actually increases the bond between horse and person.
We particularly enjoy mentoring people to step into their own power and Feel and we take particular pleasure in watching the effect of that on both people and horses.
If you want this too
If you want this too and you’re new to us, start with Journey to Feel. I’ll give you a link in a minute. If money’s tight in these difficult times, you can start that life changing program with as little as $20.
I also have free live on-line events pretty much monthly, called The Dummy Spit Anti-Struggling Revolution, where people benefit from someone having short live sessions with me in a group setting – healing and horsemanship go hand in hand.
OR Fast Track to Brilliant Riding takes you through every part of your horse’s life. It’s basically a re-start for your horse – releasing stress and tension from every aspect of your horse’s life as you go, PLUS it’s a re-start for your own relaxed, confident riding with a great riding seat. There’s a number of different ways of doing those 81 lessons, all supported in a student only forum. That’s $650.
OR if you’re impatient and want it all now (laughing to myself here at my own remembered impatience) then you can have a fully mentored, individually tailored, private clinic by distance, with your own horse at home, you can do a fully mentored program over 6 months, called Ease and Grace, that integrates and pulls from every lesson I’ve ever taught over the years, including the healing work – that’s $1750.
I’m smiling. There’s a saying about manifesting that says “give to others what you’d like to have”. Otherwise known as “what goes around comes around”. 🙂 You’re going to find that helping your horse like this is going to reduce YOUR stress, teach YOU how to systematically relieve your own stress and thus your own tension and you’ll find yourself healing too. I guess you can see now why love this work so much!
Quirky fact: stress has some parallels to arsenic. A little bit can make you look good, but the more you have, the more it builds up, making you feel crappy and changing your personality. Too much for too long and it makes you sick. Have enough small amounts for long enough and eventually it will kill you. (Did you know that they used to use arsenic for “miracle ” results in beauty creams right up until the 1920’s?)
Today’s photo is of my beautiful Rapunzel having her feet trimmed by my fabulous feet trimmer Kathryn Christieson. All my horses are so relaxed about feet trimming now that they’ll stand at liberty, but it sure didn’t used to be like that! Rapunzel used to be a fidgeter, frequently snatching her leg back. Sunny used to be lethal, slamming her hind foot down so hard that if you had a body part in the road it would have been broken. Oliver had no idea how to stand up properly – his combination of discomfort in his shoulders and a lack of desire or knowhow to be good for trimming made him a complete pain in butt and very difficult at trimming time. I can’t tell you how often I had to get the trimmer to walk away from his dangerous 18 hands ripping his legs away and slamming them down, while I spent yet more time sorting the problem myself. Tiny Dom used to rear up and carry on like a pork chop. Little Blondie used to quiver in fear.
Every single horse in my herd experiences this routine task with no stress these days, to the extent that they can ALL stand there with nothing at all on their heads, happily co-operating with the trimming. Why is this important? Because these kind of stresses don’t suddenly disappear when we put our foot in the stirrup to get on – they’re just waiting to bite us on the butt when something goes wrong. And the co-operation? THAT too doesn’t go away when we put our foot in the stirrup to get on – that co-operation too becomes part of the foundation of our riding together.