If this next bit of the story raises any concerns at all for you, please see the important note at the foot of the article.
The subject reminds me of my own healing journey. I had what most people would define as a fairly minor sexual abuse in my childhood. When it came up in a healing session, I cried and cried as I recognized the enormous impact and where this experience had been responsible for all kinds of negative behaviors and reactions throughout my life. (If you’re impacted by my words here, you can afford to be brave – there’s a solution for you too. ) I remember being puzzled about the depth of the impact on me because it was “just” a seriously yucky experience. I had sooo much less reason than other people I knew who had so much more cause to complain.
Gosh, that word “just” – “just a yucky experience” trivialises the enormous impact on my life.
The impact of trauma on your horse can have similar repercussions. What we think of as not such a big deal can have an enormous impact on the way that they react when they’re under any kind of pressure. Something that we think of as “not a big deal” can even cause traumatic reactions and PTSD type symptoms.
Yeah yeah I know what some people will say ” Be careful not to anthropormorphize Jenny.” See… the trouble is we NEED to anthropormorphize in this instance to have some empathy for the horses. I’ll explain more.
PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in people causes uncontrollable reactions, flashbacks where someone can be triggered into re-living the experience over and over again, panic attacks. Many, many horses exhibit symptoms that could easily be classified as PTSD.
Oliver’s PTSD type story
Oliver is an interesting example. Do you know, you can look at PTSD as some kind of victim thing or you can look at it like it was with Oliver – an opportunity for him to become the profoundly empathetic and sentient and loving horse that he is today – that he probably wouldn’t be without beating that experience in his background.
Here’s his story. He used to flip out so suddenly and so hard, that one time that I remember vividly, he went from completely connected to me in a humming together kind of place, to a panic attack that took him smashing right over the top of me, flattening me to the ground in the tiniest fraction of a split second. At first I was enraged, firstly because I got badly hurt, but mainly because there was no obvious reason for such a tiny thing to cause such an enormous reaction and we’d done such lovely work together for quite a while by then.
This hadn’t been the only time he ran right over the top of someone. He’d run over the top of Michelle twice and then later Steve too, in similar unexplained ways. Clearly there WAS a reason and it was one of the reasons such a valuable horse was given to me as dangerous.
It took clearing up many layers of smaller fears before he was ready to open up the vulnerable, scared part of him and show me the depths behind what was going on. He may not have even KNOWN how to tell me this back at the beginning – I certainly haven’t known what was behind a lot of my own reactions until after I’ve had the understanding and released them.
From our earlier work around the stresses and tensions he had about simple things like being haltered, he at last gained enough confidence in me to show me what had happened to him to cause these incredibly dangerous “run over the top of you” reactions. I’m telling you that – like my “minor” sexual abuse – most people wouldn’t have thought this was a big enough deal to cause an enormous trauma type reaction like that.
But that’s the point isn’t it? it’s not what someone else thinks was traumatic – it’s what WE experienced as traumatic – it’s what OLIVER experienced as traumatic.
He showed me visions and impressions of his supported birth – he was an enormous foal that had to be pulled out. The ligaments in his fetlocks collapsed and he went over “on his bumpers” and had to be stabled. He showed me that, as someone picked him up and carried him to the stable, he was struggling and panicking and I got the impression that they were panicking too, with this enormous foal struggling in their arms about to be dropped. He was IMPRINTED with his own panic AND with the human’s panic at a very important ” imprint vulnerable” time of his life. – so he was actually IMPRINTED with that panic.
Hmmm… how to help him release that? With Steve and Sue next door’s help, we came up with our modified version of T Team bandaging, to help Oliver to release the trauma. We were privileged to be able to film some of it and the lesson is part of our Fast Track to Brilliant Riding program.
And Oliver instantly turned into a giant teddy bear. In two simple and profound sessions (plus all the earlier work around other fears) all the PTSD type reactions were all gone, never to be seen again. In fact, it’s been years now and in the frights he’s had since then, I could FEEL him feeling for where I was, making sure that he didn’t run over me, bless his little cotton socks. I’m so freaking proud for him! 🙂
It was about Oliver’s active and willing participation in his own healing
Usually I’d put a lesson up to show you, but I’m not prepared to in this instance, because it’s less about the TECHNIQUE that we used and more about the FEEL and TIMING, with our incredibly close connection to Oliver at the foundation of all of it. It was about listening and responding to his needs and above all, it was about his active and willing participation in his own healing that came from his utter confidence in us that had developed over time.
The key is FEEL. Without FEEL you just can’t support your horse to achieve this kind of depth of release. But thankfully, everyone has the capacity to have world class feel for their horse.
I’ve never met anyone yet who wanted it that couldn’t find that kind of world class Feel.
The sad thing is that the tiniest fraction of ONE per cent of horse riders and handlers in the world use their Feel or use it with any kind of reliability to help their horse on a routine basis.
We ordinary people here on Fast Track to Brilliant Riding are in that tiny fraction of 1 per cent – and it’s spreading rapidly! 🙂
If it’s your own trauma being raised again by talking about our horses, then hold on to Oliver’s experience. “You can look at PTSD as some kind of victim thing or you can look at it like it was with Oliver – an opportunity for him to become the profoundly empathetic and sentient and loving horse that he is today – that he probably wouldn’t be without beating that experience in his background.” And feel free to talk to me by email to see how we can support that shift in your experience. We have a variety of ways to support you, some of which are free.