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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc.

Emotional Regulation with Horses

Updated: Feb 16

A woman being touched on the head by a horses nose
A Moment of Connection

Looking to our own emotional state when we are with horses is essential to be able to create a space that is safe and positive for all. If horses feel threatened, they will look for ways to escape the thing that makes them feel unsafe, we certainly do not want that thing to be us. If you watch any great horse trainer, you will notice how steady and calm they are, nothing phases them, no matter what happens or what the horse does. Horses become calm and open to listening and learning in their presence. The biggest gift we can give any horse is our own inner calm. If we are not feeling grounded and calm, we really should not approach them. Sometimes this means not riding or training that day, and that is ok. If we go ahead and interact with our horses when we are feeling emotional turmoil, there is rarely a good outcome. These are the days when everything we do feels hard, the horse does not understand us, feels unwilling and often everything just goes backwards. It’s best to accept that it’s not healthy to work with your horse right now and come back later, or on another day. The expression of our own frustration or anger when directed at a horse is not only going to result in a total loss of connection and relationship with our horses but is also morally wrong. Horses are never able to deal with our anger, it raises all their internal fears and sends their stress levels through the roof. It never results in the horse learning what we wanted them to in the first place, it does the opposite. If we are feeling angry and register that, we can then feel our anger as something belonging to us, not something we direct at the horse. And if we are feeling a strong emotion like anger, and are honest with ourselves, we are more likely to have the clarity of thinking to be able to decide if it is healthy to continue working with our horse or not. At the same time as looking toward our level of calmness, we also need to be aware of what we are feeling and embodying that. This is being congruent. Horses know immediately if the person interacting with them is pretending to be one way, while inside, they are feeling different. This sends mixed messages to the horse creating confusion and distrust. If we are feeling sad, that is ok, if we are honest in how we are feeling not only will the horse remain calm, but they may even help us feel better. But if we are feeling sad and go to our horses all chirpy and pretending everything is great, they know, they always know, so it is best for them and for us to be real with how we are feeling. Emotional intelligence is something that all horse people will benefit from working on. It is so easy to spurt our feelings outward onto others, both humans and horses. Going inward and bringing clarity to how we are feeling, empowers us to then decide how we are going to respond to those feelings. Automatic responses to unrecognised inner emotions can result in inflicting pain on others around us, even when we do not intend to.

Horses need us to be their steady rock. Their primary need is to feel safe in the world. Emotional regulation with horses is basically a necessity. If we can provide a feeling of safety for them, they will work happily and willingly with us and be calm and steady in all they do, this is the goal of all horsemanship. Suzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc. Happy Horses Bitless Considerate Horsemanship

Email: Web: Facebook: Happy Horses Bitless Bridles Lismore, NSW, Australia Ph: 0401 249 263

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