In your opinion, do horses have emotions, and in what manner are they expressed? How can you tell if a horse is happy or sad? Do horses express emotion physically by playing or by movements that one could say seem like dance?
I think happy and sad are human labels for varied energetic states. The emotion of happy might be compared to high energy and sad or feeling depressed to the lack of energy. Horses live in energy, they make their decisions from how they feel (safe, not safe) rather than what they think. Horses love to play and are naturally very social. In the wild, they live in herds or bands (normally comprised of 6-8 horses) which could be likened to the human family or tribe. When horses present too much energy, and are hard to handle, it is often from being overly confined (stalled) and unable to move about as nature intended. There is a surplus of store energy that the horse needs to release. An excited horse can also be mirroring the energy of the human handler or group it is with, or some phenomena in the larger environment (a predator) or when a horse is calm and cooperative, partnering the energy in the space (the human, group, other horses and environment) feels congruent, aligned, and so forth. I believe that horses are highly sensitive, intuitive, masters at reading body language and fully embodied sensate beings. I often hear people say things like, “the horse doesn’t like me,” “the horse is mad at me,” and so forth. This is our human projection, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the horse’s state of being.
How difficult has it been to manage during this time of recession, and do you find people are more open to trying new experiences now than in an economic upswing, or less, or the same?
It’s interesting — my business has doubled in the last two years to the point that I have had to hire staff and train volunteers to help me. People are turning inward to find answers to life’s complexities and I think beginning to understand that outside or external fixes are temporary at best. I’ve noticed a number of people coming into my EGL mentoring/internship programs seeking to incorporate horses into their professional life (i.e; horses and law enforcement, horses and medicine, horses and youth at risk programs, horses and team building and leadership development) This June, I am starting a pilot program for 4th, 5th and 6th graders who are falling behind or failing reading in school. The program called Horse Sense and Readers™ is a blend of Equine Guided Learning, Reading and Expressive Arts.
Horses used to be employed for transportation before the emergence of the automobile and motorcycle so humans on a large scale had relationships with them they don’t have now. Is the increased mechanization of society related to an increase in social isolation, and a reduction in emotional and social awareness?
In doing some research on this topic, I discovered some interesting statistics:
• More than 400 million active users on Facebook worldwide
• Over 238 million people watch television each day
• The US has about 250 million cell phone subscribers
• There are over one billion computers in use worldwide
Our world has become increasingly complicated, crowded, noisy and technologically based, it is easy to become distracted and disconnected from what has true heart and meaning, to become numbed out. We forget that life has both a rhythm and a calling.
Reconnecting to the natural world and with horses offers a unique opportunity to reconnect ourselves to ourselves, our families, and the world around us by slowing down, and being fully present in the moment. When we allow ourselves to be on “horse time” we listen to our inner guidance, honor the wisdom coming through and deepen our appreciation for being fully alive. “Meanings, moods, the whole scale of our inner experience, finds in nature the ‘correspondences’ through which we may know our boundless selves.” — Kathleen Raine
Have you ever played music near the horses, and do they respond to it?
Yes, all the time – they do respond to music and to singing and especially native drumming.
It seemed in your personal story, you experienced a major detour away from working with animals just when you were going that direction. What brought you back to the animal path so many years later?
I see my story not so much as a detour away from animals but rather a move towards developing trust and capacity with people. I was a painfully shy, insecure young girl. I understood even at a young age that if I didn’t interrupt my tendencies to hide behind animals, I would never discover my full potential. I intentionally put myself in challenging and uncomfortable circumstances/situations to strengthen the underdeveloped, fragmented places inside me. Animals have always been a source of spirit and love; especially horses and even more so since I’ve incorporated them into my professional life as an Equine Guided Educator.
Image Credit: Alyssa Aubrey