I used to be snake phobic – so bad that I couldn’t watch them on TV without having nightmares. I had gotten rid of the outright phobia with my healing work, but was still pretty afraid of them when someone suggested that “knowledge is power, perhaps I ought to find out more about snakes.”
Coincidentally, (yeah right!) a couple of days later I saw an advertisement in the local paper that a snake expert was giving a talk locally. So I went along and met Syd Cook, the local and mad as a meat axe snake catcher. (“Mad as a meat axe” is an Aussie expression about being really nuts! And just kidding Syd!)
And he was nuts! because he handled venomous snakes with a very casual lack of concern. At one point during his talk he tipped a live tiger snake – one of the most dangerous snakes in the world – out on the floor and casually reached down and picked it up. As I said… nuts!
But a nice bloke anyway as it turned out. Syd generously allowed me to make an appointment to come and see his reptile collection and work on my fear of snakes the same way as I work on horses’ fears. (My offer to make him some homeopathic snake anti-venine for all his poisonous snakes may have also piqued his interest!)
I’ve written extensively about how to work our horse’s comfort zone and expand it rapidly in bothBobby’s Diaries – Straight from the Horse’s Mouth to You and the book and audio lesson set Zen Connection with Horses
But this time, with the snake, I was on the receiving end of what could be, if not handled right, a deeply terrifying experience for someone who had been phobic (me!)
Young Bree, my granddaughter threw a ball for Syd’s dog and I felt the flash of fear from the snake. In that moment I realised that the underlying fear that I had been experiencing all these years was ALSO the snake.
I asked Bree to take the ball and the dog further away and I felt the snake relax. (“Felt” as in emotional feelings because at this point the snake was still with Syd and I was sitting a very safe 2 metres away!)
So when I took steps to change that for the snake – just like it is with the horses, my own fear was reduced dramatically. That was the first very liberating discovery.
OMG, has my fear of snakes been the snake’s fear all along?
When the snake felt safe, I was able to start working on expanding my own comfort zone, never being too far out of my comfort zone and only coming out of my comfort zone for a short period at a time and giving myself time to dissolve old fears that were no longer useful to me, just like the work we do with the horses in Zen Connection with Horses.
Approaching and retreating and waiting for The Chew – just kidding I didn’t actually chew- but I did wait until I had released whatever was going on at that stage of the approach and retreat, just like we do with a horse when we wait for The Chew.
It was an amazing experience with the snake as a thinking being, which was not at all what I was expecting. I have got to tell you that I am now in awe of snakes and the generosity of this particular little snake in particular. I got so comfortable with THAT snake that I could have taken him home. (Only to a house vacated permanently by the husband though!)
It took about an hour for me to get to the point that you see in the photo – relaxed and smiling, having a comfort zone with this beautiful little snake being active in my hands and up my arms. (Just not inside my jacket, which he would have liked to do!)
But the big insight that I wanted to share with you, that I got from this snake encounter, was how do you reckon I would have coped if someone had just forced me to put up with that snake in my arms when I was terrified of it? Or even if I had still been nervous of it? What do you reckon that would feel like?
What do you think my reactions would be from that day onwards if I was forced to hold the snake? How do you think I would feel and react if every day I had to hold that snake? Even if I stood still and held that snake without complaining, do you think that the fear would really be gone when I know that I HAVE to hold it, that if I don’t hold it, I will just be forced to hold it again?
From the practical experience of my snake encounter I realised how lucky (maybe blessed is a better word?) our horses and ourselves are when we know and understand how to develop a deep place of comfort, a deep peacefulness, a place where we and our horse can even bubble with joy.
There are a whole bunch of free and not free, wonderful resources on this website. You can make a serious start on understanding your horse’s fear and the way you are personally affected by that, with the freebie The 9 Keys to Happiness with Your Horse. You can grab them here on our Training page.