For thousands of years horses have captivated the human psyche, leaving a universal symbol that is interwoven in our dreams, our fantasies, and myths. The symbol of the horse represents an expression of images and emotions that embody the defining experience of human life.
This was a vision for me being played out right in front of my eyes. My sister, daughter and I recently traveled to Chicago to watch these magnificent creatures along with their human counter parts perform, under the world’s largest picturesque big top, staked along the shoreline of beautiful Lake Michigan. Sitting in the audience of “Odysseo by Cavalia“, I was taken away into a different world.
What a beautiful equine-themed musical show it was…
As the show progressed, what I noticed as being different about the touring group and the horse handlers, is how the horses are gently guided. They are not poked, prodded or pulled with a harsh tool making them do something that is not natural. Their heads are not locked into position by a breast collar, being forced to wear a long shank bit in their mouth, or their hoofed souls attached to toe weighted shoes. They were always physically free in a very big space.
During one of the many beautiful performances, one of the horses left the group and meandered around the dirt filled stage, as if say to the human performer “I’m on break”, as evidenced by the horse’s body language and what he was doing. It was fun to watch. The interplay between the human and the horse looked like a cameo dance, with the human trying to gently redirect the horse back into his acting space, but the horse was challenging the human with walking in some different directions. Eventually the human released the pressure and just let the horse be, to connect with his natural instincts. And then the magic happened, the horse moved back into position.
While Equine Assisted Coaches don’t work on a theatrical stage, under a big white peaked tent, they do help their clients enter into a different world of their own. And the best way to prepare for this is through allowing the horse to center with its own natural way of being. The horse is not restricted, coerced or controlled, which creates the stage for the healing, learning, or growing to take place.
When a client engages with a horse at liberty, of their own free will, the client’s persona is performing, and the roles they present to the world are available to explore. Is the client impersonating someone else, are they trying to control the situation, or being their true-self? This is what the horse wants to know!
Horses and Human Emotions
How do horses help clients learn about themselves is a common question? One of the ways they do this is horses can read human emotions. They are highly attuned and sensitive to human body language, and its subtle signals. As evidenced through some new studies.
The University of Sussex did some research and the paper was published in February of 2016. Their findings say horses can “distinguish between positive and negative facial expressions” with human beings.
Their study says, when horses sense human negativity, their body reacts and their heart rate increases, which could account for a biological signal to possibly flee or fight, to stay safe.
And if the client says they are fine, everything is ok, but hides their true inner feelings, this is what the horse sees and senses. The horse then responds with should I stay or should I go? I’m getting mixed signals, what is the truth?
Their research also says the “Possibility to single out the negative facial expressions could be because of horses adapting to a “pre-existing (ancestral) ability to respond appropriately to the negative emotional expressions of conspecifics and, throughout their co-evolution with humans, transferred this ability onto a morphologically different species”.
Some interesting information to digest, right?
Here is the link to their full article: Functionally relevant responses to human facial expressions of emotion in the domestic horse.
So whether we partner with horses as performers or Equine Assisted Coaches, we know one thing for sure, horses hold a special place in our hearts. There just is something about them that captures our attention, our client’s attention, and takes us into a different world.
I’d love to hear how horses take you into a different world.
I invite you to share in the comments below,
Love and many horse hugs,