How many times have you heard these types of words spoken around the barn?
“This mare is out to get me.”
“That gelding is so stubborn!”
“That horse doesn’t like anybody.”
OK. I think we can all agree with my initial premise: Words Matter. Eloquence is praiseworthy, slander is punishable, and words have the power to create lasting impressions. So, then, why does it seem that so many horse people do not harness the Power of Words? Even more important: since words begin as thoughts, how many of us really examine and take responsibility for our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions when around our horses? The implications are absolutely critical for professionals and owners alike.
As prey animals, to keep their location undetected, horses are primarily non-verbal communicators. Masters of the non-verbal, horses use body language, energy, and telepathy to receive and distribute information within and outside of the herd. In domestication, this includes whoever is in the horse’s zone of awareness or influence. Many people utilize equine psychology and body language in their horsemanship, which is great. But if we stop there, at best we are leaving multiple powerful channels of communication untapped. At worst, we introduce incongruence - outwardly or intellectually understanding and using the horse’s body language, but energetically, spiritually, and emotionally not tuning in to the holistic reality of the horse. Incongruence is crippling to horsemanship and indeed to well-being in general.
In tangible terms, those who wish to be truly connected, fulfilled, and successful in their horsemanship must bring mindfulness to the thoughts we think and the words we speak, especially around horses. We must practice diligence in recognizing thoughts and beliefs as they occur to us, releasing those that do not serve our highest potential, and that of our horses. After all, a belief is simply a thought you keep thinking, usually reinforced by words you keep saying. If you arrive at the barn in a cloud of frenzied, stressful thoughts, you unwittingly introduce that unstable dynamic. Couple this with gossiping, complaining, or criticizing people or horses around you, and you reinforce the negative shock wave again and again. It’s amazing to me that horses can tolerate being in the presence of such chaos at all. Yet they’re always mirroring us, ready to immediately reflect our positive shifts and move forward.
Here are two examples. I observed an entire barn turn against one gelding due to negative chatter about him from a handful of boarders. The paradigm resulted in his regular ear-pinning that reinforced people’s beliefs. Daily revisiting of negative chatter truly created the reality of which they spoke. Free of those limiting beliefs, my observations and work with him resulted in a different impression, one far more positive than the rumors.
Names are also incredibly powerful. Last year I had the opportunity to gentle some BLM mustangs in Wyoming. One gelding in our group had been previously adopted by well-meaning owners who attempted to work with him in a round pen as they would have done with a domestic horse. He reacted defensively, was labeled “aggressive”, and was subsequently named “Savage”. During the gentling program, the first thing we did was give him a new name that would serve him better: we called him “Savvy”. In the days that followed, he changed before our eyes from a “Savage” to a “Savvy,”
The beauty of working with or just being around horses is in their ability to help us to become better humans. Remember the power of your words and thoughts next time you head to the barn, and use them for good. If you realize you have ingrained patterns of thought or ways of speaking that are sabotaging your horsemanship, enlist help from an equine professional who can help you realign and move forward.
Sarah Lockwood, P.G. is a Holistic Equine Management Specialist based in Sonoma County. Sarah provides Holistic Horse Training and Professional Geologic Consulting for Horse Properties. Visit www.EarthAndEquine.com to learn more. Email: EarthAndEquine@gmail.com. Phone: 707-239-2280.