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Anxiety in horses

Last week was #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and the theme this year was "Anxiety".

Anxiety levels in people have skyrocketed since the pandemic, understandably, but did you know horses can be anxious too?

Anxiety or playing? It can be both!

Whilst most people find horses calming to be around, horses can be anxious for three reasons:

  1. fear something is going to happen based on previous life experiences

  2. lack of appropriate support, e.g. sufficient food, water, companionship

  3. anxiety within the herd, which includes any other animals present, including humans.

When we work with clients, the first thing we invite clients to do is to find their feet and to the best of their ability - let go of their stresses and worries. "Leave your troubles at the door" is converted to "leave your troubles at the gate".

Most of what we are anxious about is not happening now, so by gently redirecting ourselves to the present moment we naturally feel calmer.

This is greatly appreciated by the herd. It is not their job to deal with our anxiety, it it's ours and ours alone. Whilst their calm presence is influential, the horses have no control over us. Only we have control over ourselves. And if we don't have control over our responses, then therein lies an opportunity to develop some.

Recently, Jim exhibited some pretty obvious anxiety, so his next session needed to be about developing a permanent calmness in him.

We started by emptying our bodies (the humans) of stress. Horses feel emotions and energy ten times the amount even the most awake and aware humans do, so mild anxiety about an exam tomorrow, or how we're going to pay next month's energy bill is a lot bigger deal for them. So we acknowledge any tension we are holding, and let it go.

Once we, the humans, were completely empty we proceeded to help Jim empty his stress. We sat and visualised his body releasing anxiety until we felt it had subsided and he too was free of worry and was completely calm. Sighing, licking and chewing, yawning and body shakes are all indicators of a stress release.

Next we built connection. Jim loves a massage, so neck scratches it was. He's feeling heard, seen, understood and validated - were making great progress.

By the end of the session, very little in terms of activity had been accomplished, but a great deal in wellbeing and connection had.

Clients of mine will know this process well, we do it every session to some greater or lesser degree. It's deeply relaxing, but also highly relevant to the outside world where we can often get distracted from what's going on for us, or caught up in the anxiety of others.

This technique forms part of our Confidence For Kids , Calm For Adults and corporate Leadership and Wellbeing experiences (see the services section of our website). With exam season amongst us, we look forwards to sharing it with students looking to give themselves a break from studying and putting some wellbeing credits into their emotional bank account, as well as adults in need of feeling more centred and calm.

We look forwards to welcoming you!

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