Have you ever stood in a field, with a herd of horses circling you, and slowly taken in the color of the beautiful blue sky and puffy white clouds on a warm spring day? It’s so beautiful to witness the snow crunch under the horse’s hooves, to see it melting in the warm sun, and the green grass begin to grow again.
Can you invite your mind and body to imagine what that felt like to experience? As you imagine, can you slow down your inner experience and notice any sensations emerge in your heart space, your face, your belly, or any images in your mind’s eye?
Absorbing this type of experience with horses exponentially increases a person’s ability to stay emotionally present, especially when emotions become heightened.
After spending the morning engaging and connecting with my herd, I was looking forward to going with my son to visit one of the local horse rescues together. I love connecting with horses. As I came into the house, I heard my son (who can experience sensory overwhelm) express with intensity, “It hurts! It hurts! Get off of me!”
As my belly clenched, and face tightened, I quickly moved to his side to offer my support only to be met with, “Don’t touch me!” as he began to desperately pull off his shoes and socks.
Immediately, my chest caved, and my face flushed. (An automatic nervous system withdrawal reaction to not being welcomed in relationship.) I heard the familiar inner dialogue begin, “It’s never going to change – this will always happen – you should know better by now.”
Intentionally, I placed my hand on my chest, closed my eyes, and looked up over my inner horizon to connect with the Light. Silently I called to my herd for their energy to draw close about me. As I breathed into my heart space gently, I felt my Essential Self draw close.
“Are you so worried that time will be stuck in a loop of never-ending lack?” my Essential Self empathized. “Do you really like it when you sink into the inner experience of receiving abundant, endless support about you, like a warm billowy cushion of Love energy all around? Especially in moments of intensity with the one who is your son?”
Time felt as if it stood still as I breathed in Love and breathed out Love, allowing my body to calm and relax. It took only a moment, yet that precious moment of self-connection with something greater than myself fueled my capacity to extend that same gentle, loving acceptance out in relationship with my son.
I asked him softly, “Do your feet need more freedom today?”
I saw his body shift, and soften in response, as he named, “I need a hug.”
In terms of building neural structure, what matters is not the event or circumstance itself, what matters is taking the time to slow down to notice and resonate with the embodied experience (without making it wrong) then consciously choosing to sink into allowing, welcoming, and uncovering, the energy of Love.
Today I remembered to look up (with my eyes closed) to take in the wide expanse of blue sky and focused on remembering the “felt-sense” of my healing herd drawing close about me. I activated the sensations of warmth, lightness, and accompaniment in my body, which empowered me to take the time to notice, enrich, and absorb, just how beautiful life is in the moment. I recognized an opportunity for heart-connection.
So, can a horse intrinsically instill competencies that build emotional intelligence abilities in humans? The resent results of a research study, at the University of Kentucky, indicates that experiencing an Equine-Assisted Learning workshop may be an effective means of developing emotional intelligence competencies, specifically self-awareness and social-awareness, regardless of age, gender, or level of previous experience of the participant.
When people are empowered to recognize and manage their emotions, they are able to experience the emotion without becoming overwhelmed. They stay relational. As they co-modulate emotions, they can empathize, understanding emotions deeply in others to promote personal and social aspirations.