A clients experience of 3 1-1 sessions at Intuitive Horse and how the sessions helped them work through their anxiety. The client has asked to remain anonymous.
I returned to Intuitive Horse (I.H) following on from attending a 3 day retreat earlier in the year, which I had found an insightful and very interesting experience. Even though this wasn't my first time at I.H I was hungry to learn more, I still had no idea what a one-to-one session would be like.
I picked Harvey for my first session. I had seen him working with someone else during my past retreat at I.H, he seemed to have such a wise and guiding presence about him. I was keen to find out what wisdom and insight Harvey would bestow on me! I led him into the arena and removed the head collar ready for the session to start.
Prior to the start of the session I had a brief discussion with Emma. Working with horses is quite literally my sacred space and I had observed during the retreat how hyper aware I became of having other people in that space. I had done a lot of work with horses, but it was always alone. It felt intrusive to have other humans observing me whilst I worked with the horse, and I became self-conscious. I asked Emma if I could take the horses in and out of the arena at the start and end of the sessions. This would help put me at ease, as I was going through the same motions as I do at home. Luckily Emma was very accommodating.
My first session with Harvey started with him trotting around the arena and neighing loudly. I sensed his disapproval at being removed from the other horses. He didn't want to be here. I relayed this back to Emma and she encouraged me to see it more metaphorically.
I became aware of how I had become completely focused on Harvey, I had totally lost connection to myself. Once I brought myself back into balance Harvey seemed to become less restless. I walked over to him but as I did so I noticed fear rising in my body. I was surprised, I had worked with rescue horses that were hard to handle and unpredictable. I was not afraid of horses, was I? It felt like there was something there, something not yet in the field of my awareness. A blind spot. I walked back to Emma and told her about the chest pain I was experiencing but which wasn’t new. I explained how neither me or my doctors knew what was causing it. I thought that, maybe, the pain could be anxiety related. As I was saying this Harvey walked over and started licking my outstretched hand. It felt immensely comforting, and like he was telling me that it was okay to talk about it. For years I had spent so much energy hiding it, functioning normally to all external appearances despite being in a considerable amount of pain constantly. I felt I had to 'armour up' to keep myself safe, and not be judged harshly by others. My chest was progressively getting worse during the session, but with Emma's guidance I tried to relax into it and release the tension I was holding there. It was not easy and was quite painful, but I gritted my teeth and persevered. Much to my astonishment I managed to make the pain disappear, if only briefly.
The next day I returned to I.H. for my second session. I had finished my last session elated but I was sceptical to say the least that my chest pain could be 'fixed.' After all I'd thrown everything at it, it had baffled my doctors and alternative health practitioners, it had even landed me in the emergency room at A&E. I decided to work with my big wise boy again, I was keen to go deeper. Harvey was calmer this time and I was too. Then the familiar tightening pain in my chest hit me, I knew this was the start of a flare-up, I put the learning from the last session into practice and brought my awareness to the pain and held it there. I walked out to the middle of the arena and took up the Lotus position on the sandy floor of the arena. What happened internally during those minutes, was so intense, yet utterly incredible. I became aware of the twisting knotting feeling of anxiety in my chest. I had anxiety, and it was this that was causing the pain. Just as these thoughts were running through my head, Harvey walked straight up to me and nuzzled me. Yet again, Harvey was there, comforting and supporting me through my lightbulb moments of realisation. He then walked over to the gate and waited patiently as I followed, guiding me through his movements to open the gate and go sit with Emma. He was like; Right, now go tell Emma about it! And I did...
The session came to an end, or so I thought…. Emma and I had stopped talking and went to walk Harvey back but he had other ideas and started trotting around the arena as we approached him. This was interesting because he has been happily snoozing near us until we closed the session and started to put his head collar on.After a short while of this happening Emma asked me if I had internally put my 'armour' back on. I took a moment to become aware of my body and how I was feeling, I realised I had started to do this. The feeling of putting my 'armour' back on is so natural for me I didn't even realise I was doing it. As soon as I relaxed into myself and chest area Harvey stopped and let us walk him back. This was a nice reminder of just how mindful I need to be when working with this particular behaviour.
On my third and last session I picked Bobby the Shetland pony. My time with Bobby was in stillness and calmness. Bobby allowed me to spend the time stroking him whilst I gathered and processed my thoughts. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was relieved to finally know what was causing my chronic pain. My last visit to I.H was three months ago now, and my chest pain has all but vanished! I still get small flare ups when life gets particularly stressful, but I'm no longer in chronic pain and I can now wake up in the mornings without pain being the first thing I feel, or being exhausted from the pain keeping me up all night. I'm incredibly grateful to Emma and the horses and only wish someone had pointed me in their direction two years ago when the pain first started. And I'm sure I'll be returning to I.H in the not so distant future...
This clients experience highlights the importance of having awareness of feelings in our bodies. If we ignore uncomfortable feelings and suppress them for long enough, they can build up creating even bigger feelings and possible discomfort/pain. By acknowledging our feelings, it allows the feeling to move on.
Working with Harvey through this was particularly powerful as his behaviour towards the client helped us identify what was going on pretty quickly. The client had a reference for when she was working with the anxiety feeling versus resisting it (putting the armour back on) by the way Harvey was behaving. The client also found comfort from the way Harvey was with her when connecting with the pain, helping to make her feel calmer and more at ease whilst she explored the feeling.
Working with Bobby provided the space for the client to fully ground how to work with the feeling on a physiological level as well as cognitively processing it all.
Below is an account from one of our clients experiences on a 3 day retreat, I hope you enjoy.
On November 1st 2013, I arrived to do a 3 day retreat with Intuitive Horse not knowing what to expect.
I was trained as an actress, so wasn’t sure entirely who the real me was! I had ridden since I was about six years old and owned my own horse in my 40’s, a wonderful fella called Marcus, with whom I had had many adventures until his end at the age of 28!
I tend to back out of things if I can, but as horses were involved I found myself at Intuitive Horse with Emma and three other compatriots.
The first meeting with my horse whom I chose, was not good. I entered the arena, with completely the wrong attitude- like a showman, acting for my audience, Emma and the others. There I was trying to make the horse come over to me, trying to prove this was easy- I had owned my own horse- I knew what I was doing- boy was I wrong. Disastrous. Ruedi paid me no heed and kept walking off then towards the end I tried to touch him and he tried to nip me.
After Emma telling me gently why Ruedi had kept walking away and then became louder in his behaviour towards me, it started to dawn on me how my actions had created that interaction. I went home feeling very despondent.
I nearly didn’t come back the next day but decided I would. After a morning of discovery through some exercises Emma introduced to us I decided to choose to work with Ruedi again so I could make things right between us. I was last to go in the group and the weather was getting bad so we were working in an inside arena, which I later christened the Cathedral because of the peacefulness I felt in there during my session….
Emma brought Ruedi into the arena and let him go. This time I blanked out my audience and it was just me and Ruedi in the moment. He clocked me from the other side of the arena and we began.
Ruedi walked around for a short while whilst I just stood and watched. He then got down and rolled on the floor in front of me (a great sign of trust), once he had stood back up he started yawning, I found myself yawning with him. Then he walked over to the window and looked out, I found myself walking over to the window to look out with him then sat down and watched him move around the space. I didn’t get to close at this stage, we were still checking each other out after our mishap the day before.
He then moved to another area in the arena to look out and I joined him by his side, he looked at me and I at him in a moment of communication and gentleness. We both looked out towards the view, this big beautiful horse then allowed me to touch him and he seemed to enjoy my company as my touch turned into a neck scratch for him. A feeling of warmth and understanding came from him and I thought of my horse dying and started to cry, tears coming down from my face. I don’t cry easily infront of people, he seemed to understand, we were now a team, a bond had formed and I felt elated at the end of the session. All sense of time had stopped and I felt like I could have stayed there forever!
On the last day of the retreat we went out into the fields to spend time with the herd.
My eyes sought out where Ruedi was and although I wasn’t following him he seemed to keep his eye on me. Emma showed us how to be with the herd in their environment and gradually the herd accepted us.
At one point I was near another horse and Ruedi made a direct bee line to see him off then started grazing next to me. He kept looking at me and we moved around the field very slowly together. Ruedi grazing and every so often lifting his head to look at me or come over closer to where I was. He seemed to want to be close to me all the time. I wasn’t asking anything from him, just being with him in his environment.
We spent hours with the herd and as the day came to an end I felt a bit bereft as I had to leave the herd and beautiful Ruedi.
I felt like I had been on a huge inner journey over the three days, at times a bit uncomfortable but the outcome and feeling was incredible, so much so I wanted to continue working with Ruedi and developing myself so I have been back for a few sessions and my next step now is to have a share with Ruedi which means I will be visiting him once a week to carry on with our journey!
Nina's experience with Ruedi really highlights that when we are in a wanting and demanding space from another being and we aren't really taking the time to ask the other, we get resistance. Nina admits to being more aware of her "audience" than the horse therefore she was not being truly authentic with what she was asking from Ruedi.
He had given the signals to say no by walking away but when those signals wern't heard and he was in a situation where walking away wasn't so easy, he then had to resort to slightly louder behaviour. Once this was recognised and Nina modified her behaviour Ruedi was very happy to share the space with her and he became very inquistive of Nina on day two and day three in the herd.
Seeing many people work with our horses and have their own discoveries it is truly magical to witness the exchange between both human and horse and how on this occasion the horse seeked the human out on day three even when he was in his own environment (in 50 acres) in which he could have moved away and made it clear he didn't want any interaction. Their journey together had made an impact on him in some way and a lovely bond formed and is still there now.
One of my first experiences with horses displaying copying behaviour was quite a few years ago now. I knew youngsters would watch their elders in a herd environment and copy and learn, as we do when we are young but my experience with two of my horses amazed me.
Another demonstration of copying behaviour that I have witnessed was with my horse Harvey, working with a lady on one of our retreats. Whilst in her session with Harvey, which she had gone in to explore building a relationship with she started to wonder what it would be like to see things from a horses perspective and started mimicking some of their behaviours. Harvey watched her roll on the ground and then got down and rolled next to her. Here is the clip when it happened.
Feel free to share your experiences with copying behaviour, comment or ask questions!
Well it has been exactly one year today since we moved to our farm in Hastings, so it feels right to relaunch my blog and fill you in on all the goings on in the last year. I will be updating my blog at least once a month if not more and will be letting you know what we are up to with the horses, as well as giving you examples of our work, so you can understand it better.
This last year has been non-stop and full of excitement! Sitting on 100 acres of land there is a LOT of work we have had to do and still need to do at the farm to make it functional to run Intuitive Horse and for the animals to live in a safe and stimulating environment.
We got to work in December 2012, when we moved here. We found ourselves doing jobs one would normally do in the warmer seasons but we needed to create an area where we could work with clients and horses that created a calming and safe feel for both person and horse before April 2013 when our first retreat was starting. I think we found the perfect spot! (see below for before and after pictures)
We have been paying particular attention to designing the land so it creates an interesting and stimulating environment for the horses. It has involved lots of clearing brambles, pulling ragwort (ragwort is a poisonous plant to horses and has to be pulled up so the whole root is removed) clearing old fencing and putting up new fencing, hanging lots of new gates and putting a land management system into place.
To help maintain the land we have six sheep who have joined us here at the farm. Their job is to be our lawn mowers, not a bad job for a sheep hey? Cross grazing sheep with horses can be very beneficial to the land. They hoover up what the horses don't eat and their little feet actually help move the soil around and level out rutted areas caused by horses feet. Along side our six sheep we also have a sheep farmer who brings between 70- 100 sheep to graze the land as our six need a bit of help! (see pictures below of our sheep!)
As our herd of 13 horses live out all the time it is really important to me that they live in an interesting environment so looking at it from a horses point of view is really important. Horses are naturally inquisitive animals and I have observed in the past that some of mine like to explore and walk through little forest type areas. Wherever possible I have started to create areas for the horses to have access into woodland and hedge rows. This also provides them with natural shelter from the elements.
They love a variety of hedges, trees, herbs, weeds and grass to forage so we didn't want to put fencing up that would stop them from being able to access the hedges and trees. So if we have had to put fencing in it has been as close to the trees as possible. In adjoining fields we don't need fences as they have access to roam from field to field.
The land here is a mixture of flat and hilly land. The horses muscle condition has improved greatly since having the hills to go up and down every day and they have a stream they have to cross to get into one of the fields which is a bit different for them.
This Autumn I have been out foraging the hedgerows for different herbs and berries, seeing what we have and what we could grow for future years. There is a lot we can forage and store over winter to use as supplements for the horses. One thing we have an abundance of here is rosehips. Rosehips are a great source of vitamin C and B and if you pick and dry them they are good to offer the horses through the winter months. I also make a macerated oil out of them.This involves infusing them in a base oil such as sunflower oil, I then offer the oil to the horse to self select.
Whilst I was picking some from the bushes Jacy Blu, my 6 year old warmblood, came over to see what I was up to. Convinced he wanted some of what I had just picked in my tub I showed him how to select a rose hip himself. I held a rosehip in my hand gently extending the branch it was on so he didn't put his face in the thorns. He then very delicately took the rosehip between his lips and pulled it off the branch. Thrilled at his new discovery he then continued to select individual rosehips from the bush with my occasional assistance. Ruedi, another herd member, later joined us and I showed him the same thing which he enjoyed doing also. (see pictures below of Ruedi self selecting from the hedge)
This copying behaviour is something which I am very interested in and I have had quite a few different encounters with animals mimicking my behaviour. Another example of this is with my dogs. When up in the fields with the horses I have often found myself picking blackberries to munch on. I looked down to see what my dogs were up to as I was picking berries and they both had their heads in the bush and were delicately picking berries from the bush and eating them. This happened on numerous occasions but they didn't start selecting them until I started.
There is something to be said about copying behaviour in animals. I will share another experience I had with this with two of my horses in my next post which will be in the next couple of weeks! I would love to hear if any of you have had experiences where you have noticed your animal copying your behaviour.
*Please click read more for pictures*
Welcome to my very first blog! It is my intention to share with you in detail some of the amazing interactions which go on here at Intuitive Horse (I.H.) between people and horses as well as some insight into the individual horses progress. Many of the horses here have come to me (Emma) for some form of rehabilitation over the years and have ended up becoming permanent residents.
I like to work as holisticly as I can to help them return to health. I have tried many different therapies for different problems over the years and continue to educate myself in new therapies aswell as the ones I use regulary. I have been particulary impressed with something called zoopharmacognosy which I am currently training in. This is the self selection and medication of plant materials, herbs and essential oils for animals. When given a choice the horse (and other animals) know exactly what they need to help themselves and they self dose. It can help the animal on an emotional/behavioural and physical level. As we have domesticated animals it is important to provide them with what they need.
Another keen interest of mine is in behaviour and I like to find ways of interacting with the horses without using superficial aids. This way it allows the horse to have choice and communicate their responses back to me in our interactions. This can take some time depending on the horse but the journey is incredible and not only do you help the horse but you learn alot about yourself in the process! This approach ties in very well with the equine assisted self development work we do here.
I have a herd of 13 horses, 10 are mine and 3 are on livery with me (they belong to other people but I help care for them).
I allow my herd to run as one big herd and to be just horses! I had all their shoes taken off 3 years ago and now have an equine podiatrist tend to their feet, the improvement in their physical healing has been incredible to watch, I will post some individual stories about this soon.
Since allowing the horses to run as a big herd I have also witnessed big changes in their personalities and confidence in a very positive way.
Due to the nature of my work with Intuitive Horse I like to allow the horses to be as ferral as possible by providing them with a stimulating environment which allows them to roam and be inquisitive in, horses are incredibly inquisitive!!. I feel this allows a very authentic relationship to arise between the horses and my clients both when working in the ring with a loose horse and when we work with the whole herd.
This winter is the first winter all the horses here have gone without wearing rugs. I have been so impressed at how well the horses have coped even when the temperature reached -9 a few days ago. There are a few horses here who wouldn't have been able to cope with that a couple of years ago due to being stressed but they are doing just fine with it now. They are all getting lots of extra hay to eat which helps keep them warm and they are all incredibly fluffy!!