This is Dainty, one of our teaching horses. She's sweet and she's very kind, and she also has long history with anxiety.
Take Dainty away from the other horses for a walk and she'll spook at every bramble, branch and bit of bracken that's out of place.
It's not that she doesn't want to go out and explore the world, it's just that doing so alone terrifies her.
Due to previous traumatic experiences, Dainty now looks for and imagines danger when none is present. She'll stop dead and leap side ways at the slightest hint of danger. She has no control over this response, this is her survival instincts in overdrive, and we can't change it.
So what do we do to help her?
First of all, we minimise Dainty's exposure to stressful situations. Animals in a state of high alert don't do well, and that's not good for anyone, Dainty or us. Bringing Jim into the herd was a conscious decision to provide Dainty with additional support. We also make sure that the horses have the choice to be almost always in sight of each other, so for days on end they aren't seperated.
We've looked into gut health and her diet to support the gut brain connection. We're currently awaiting results for a genetic condition that could explain some of her issues. We continue to feed as an appropriate diet as possible, with plenty of diversity and health giving plants to support her mood and mental wellbeing.
Dainty also receives regular energy healing and body work to release trauma and improve her window of tolerance.
Finally, from time to time when it is necessary to seperate her from the others, we make sure we are closely attentive to her needs.
With the right support, comfort zones can be stretched and vivid imaginations can be overcome.
What Dainty needs most in these situations is courage.
Courage is steeped in presence and the grounding energy of trust.
To be courageous, the first person we must trust is ourselves. To trust ourselves, we must be connected to ourselves as connection is where our power is derived from.
As Dainty's support human (a bit like humans can have a support dog!) my role is to role model courage in times of adversity. In doing so, I tell Dainty the world is safe and I lend a little bit of courage to Dainty to kick start her own.
Horses are avid followers of good leaders, so Dainty will follow my lead if I say that the situation is safe. I have to do this with conviction though, or her own fears will govern.
And here's the thing: it's not just Dainty that responds to the grounded presence of courage and trust. People do as well.
I could just as well described supporting a fearful child or a traumatised adult.
We, as people, are capable of providing immense support to others through the way we behave. Consciously choosing to ground and centre ourselves in times of crisis has a ripple effect outwards.
People naturally gravitate towards those that are calm and resourceful. It is one of our greatest leadership traits. Perfect for getting the job done first time or on time and on budget, being consciously courageous for ourselves and others has plenty of benefits.
So next time you come across someone that shares they have anxiety, take a slow steady deep breath and think about how you'd support Dainty. You will find that you slow down and listen more. I am sure they would appreciate it!