Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thoughts on Energy

She's still my Girl!

Day #3 of training I decided to mix-it-up and do something different. Since our problems mostly started yesterday leaving the herd, I thought it would be the exact place we should do our training today. I don't want her to think, arena bad, herd good; I want her to think it's all seamless.

I went to get her, she stood for me and let me pet and halter her. I led her toward the barn at her withers (she's not leading behind at this point). She balked twice at the beginning, but a simple flip of the lead behind me got her going again and we were able to go back and forth to the barn and all around the pasture.

I "cinched" her with the rope all the way along her belly, roped her legs, picked up her feet with the rope, had her disengage her hind and front, and did the low-energy neck bends while putting pressure on her back as if mounting. Then we stood for a while and I unhaltered her. Instead of rejoining the herd, she followed me back to the barn.

She's my girl again.

Thoughts on Energy:

The last few days working with BG, I've really been thinking about energy and how it affects horses...humans, too. Horses are very sensitive to environmental energy, human energy and the energy of the herd.

When Beautiful was first released with the herd, her energy was out-of-sync with theirs and she was chastised a lot. She was hyper-sensitive to environmental energy, wind, thunder, rain, hail, to the point of ignoring the overall energy the herd leaders were trying to maintain. We'd look outside some nights and see her running all over the turnout while some of the others grazed happily on the round bale. Then, of course, we'd see Cowgirl, the alpha mare, chasing her around with her ears pinned back trying to get her to calm down.

The herd won and finally trained Beautiful to respect the energy and mimic it, even if she felt like being reactive. Now we'll look out on a stormy day and see Beautiful grazing, seemingly peacefully, with the others. In fact, if you look close, you will see her muscles still reacting, which gives you the impression that for her it hasn't entirely been achieved yet, but she does stand her ground and mimic them, and that is good enough to keep the peace. She's brought this quality, emotional regulation, to our training sessions.

This is homeostasis at work. Our bodies do it. Their bodies do it. Human beings appreciate an emotional living environment that is "stable and constant" and horses appreciate it even more.

Humans can't really teach this quality to horses, and that's why putting them in the herd is so important. Most horses come out better from being with other horses after they get past the initial stages of introduction. It's hard for us humans to watch, but it almost always, eventually, has positive results that we just couldn't get ourselves since we're not out there with them all day and all night every day.

When we go to work with them we have to guard our own inner energy so that it does not cause them to fight and flight but encourages them to pick up the tempo and work. As I found out yesterday, we have to watch what we think. Our actions and our energy will follow our thoughts.

It's a balance and, really, it's a gift to be trained in this way (them training us, that is).

If you think about it, good human leaders have the same qualities of controlled energy--not too much, not too little. Basically, enough to motivate but not so much they overpower. And no one wants to be around people with angry and bitter energy or low-energy.

When you find that perfect spot between the two, you find peace, and horses are constantly training us to find that perfect spot.

Any more thoughts on energy and horses?


  1. I agree with you about herds - they're very powerful teachers (for most horses).

    I think for me one of the most important things I've learned is to feel the energy level in the horse and try to use my own energy level to bring that up or down as needed. Sometimes with an overly reactive horse, I need to keep my energy level extremely low, to "balance" their overly high energy - it helps sometimes to bring it back to the middle.

    Interesting and thoughtful post.

  2. Kate, that's a good point. I have to keep my energy lower with Beautiful--a little higher with Cowboy on most days.

  3. Good post. I find with Chickory I really have to watch not only my energy but even what I'm thinking. She reads me much better than I read her.It's been a real learning curve for me.

  4. It's amazing how you, and the horses, pick up on different nuances to stay connected. I've said before that BG seems really tuned in to you, so I'm glad this was still the case on Day #3 :)

  5. Sounds like you and BG are really getting there with your training of each other. Loved this post. Herds are the best teachers to a new horse, she's already learned how to react to keep the peace as you say and I'm sure given more time she will relax even more.

    I try to keep my energy level on an even moderate keel while I'm around the herd. There's not too many times I have to up my energy level but there have been times when I have to basically stop my pulse to calm someone down.

  6. I wish the entire horse world would come and read this post. So many horses would be SO much happier if they lived in a herd. Horses can't live in solitary isolation (stalls) and be well adjusted and happy. It just doesn't happen.

    I'm glad you got your girl back :) You just needed a chance to reintroduce yourselves.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.