Did you know a horse's brain is about the size of a walnut!?
Because their brain is so small, they adapted to have extremely sensitive mirror neurons and pick up on feelings incredibly easily. This allows them to sense nearby predators so they can get to safety.
Mirror neurons allow you to sense what is happening in another being. Humans have them. We often shut them down or override them. Most of us have the feeling of when our best friend or partner is sharing a story that is extremely painful, and we feel the same pain. Often with people we are really sensitive to we will mirror our body language with the other person. This happens naturally, not on purpose. (Believe me, I've tried to force it with someone on a date. It still ends with us parting ways at the end of the night!)
Scientists are still researching exactly how this works, but if you want to see it in action just get in front of a horse.
Last night a new foal came to the farm. She was anxious and loud when she arrived, and didn't follow her guide like the other horses do. I remember listening to all her noise and hearing how anxious she sounded.
This morning, I needed to clean her pen. I needed to move her from one pen to another. I decided I would lay some ground work. Every time I passed her as I delivered food to all the horses I would take a moment to connect. I talked in baby talk and soothing tones. She came to me and let me pet her nose and neck.
I thought this meant we were good. The problem with that sentence was that I "thought."
The time came to move. I got the neck strap and she let me put it on. It felt like she even helped me get it in the right place. I continued to pet her and talk. The time came to move, and I could feel my heart beat quicken. The crazy thing is that it wasn't my heart beat, I picked up her nervousness.
How did I know? I've been doing some practice for the last six months noticing how I feel. I've noticed that I quite easily pick up other people's energies, and I have to make sure I stay clean with my own energy. Sometimes I realize I am feeling bad, but it wasn't because something bad happened to me. I picked up someone else's feelings and took it on myself. I had to tell myself that wasn't mine, and I had to release it. I cut cords, and will post resources about that, and let it go.
So when I noticed Rd was racing I knew that wasn't mine. But I panicked a little. I wasn't sure what to do. I went back to the soothing baby talk, telling her that it's all ok. My energy probably felt really icky. It felt like I was trying to skip over the feelings and make it better fast because I needed her to do something. The foal backed away from me.
I tried again. I pursued to make contact. She backed up again. I noticed she didn't have much farther to go until she got to the corner and I definitely did not want a horse to feel cornered, because who knows what kind of defensive action she would take. I decided to leave the pen, finish my chores and ask for help.
My host admitted she was also a little scared, and asked her husband it help. He is a ferrier (he puts horseshoes on horses), and is used to calming horses.
Here's what he taught me:
Establish contact with your hands. The warmth and touch from your hands is important. It should be firm and kind, working your way down the neck towards the leg. Do not rush this. Keep doing this until you feel connected.
Be the leader. Be strong, be confident, establish trust. If you send nonverbal messages that you are trustworthy then the horse will trust you.
Picture what you want and focus on it. If you want the horse to go to the pen, think about going to that pen. (I confused the horse because I was thinking "Why isn't she following me? Why is she backing away, why is she staying?")
What takeaways did you get from my mistakes with the foal?