Addressing Equine Insecurity with Flower Essences
Photo by Steve White, i2ik9.com
Insecurity in animals has many faces. As with humans, our animal partners may experience complicated, dynamic emotions. Sometimes insecurity seems present at birth, as if an integral part of an animal’s temperament; at other times it develops in reaction to a specific environment or event. Any lack of confidence affects how an animal experiences life. As an animal behavior consultant, I see a lot of reported behavior ‘problems’, ranging from undesirable habits to outright aggression. Typically, in my observation, at the core of these behaviors there is anxiety, or, more simply, fear.
Along with environment-management plans and humane behavioral desensitization and counter-conditioning programs, Flower Essence Therapy can offer tremendous support for the insecure horse to face her fears and often overcome them with liberating results. Whether you choose essences on your own or have a practitioner formulate a blend for your horse, this gentle, non-toxic, non-habit-forming approach can bridge the gap between emotional reactivity and relaxed learning. I find essences to be very stabilizing and helpful for integrating new positive experiences to develop a sense of peaceful confidence attainable in all circumstances.
Because Flower Essences (FEs) are energetic imprints, rather than herbal tinctures, of various flowering trees, shrubs and plants from around the globe, they contain no fragrance and can be safely administered in food, water, directly applied into the mouth, or even topically on areas of concern and misted in living quarters. Similar products made from energetic information of gems, environments, animals, and more are now available. Start simple by using founding creator Dr. Bach’s original core essences, which are readily available in most health supply aisles. Branch out as you are inspired to try others that resonate with you or your animals. Those FEs that are easily available commercially are safe to try. If an animal doesn’t need a particular action of a specific essence choice, there’s been no harm done. The animal gets what she needs to achieve emotional balance; there is no suppressive nature or radical personality changing possible using FEs. The horse is still the same horse, but with FEs she has the opportunity to reach her potential and remain in a state of emotional balance. Some clients report radical changes for the better, but at the heart, the animal is still there. Below are some options for treatment of insecurity in horses.
At the root of insecurity is anxiety. The most obvious form of anxiety we see in horses can be that which is attached to specific objects in the environment that may be linked to a frightening event. It can be as simple as a broom falling off the wall, causing a loud, unexpected noise. It can be as traumatizing as being trapped in a horse trailer that’s involved in a highway crash. Those horses may sustain significant insecurity around objects associated with their experience, linked to what they were looking at when the event occurred, or to falling objects, or even to all tight limiting spaces. In these cases, one terrific choice is Mimulus. This flower frees the horse to re-learn the positive aspects of an object or location while removing the emotional impulse to fear. This fear may be present after only one event, but often a suspicion develops over time. Mimulus helps when the fear is specific.
Photo by Elvira Coderch Giménez, Barcelona, Spain
When a horse’s fear seems generalized to many places and things, as
if expecting doom around every corner, and doesn’t attach to any specifics,
a good place to start is Aspen. If personal confidence needs
a boost, especially when the horse is expected to perform or express its
unique personality, Larch comes in handy.
We can ‘flavor’ these “core” Bach originals by combining a few essences that complement each other or place emphasis on a particular aspect. “Insecurity”, “fear” and “anxiety” are general terms. To most effectively address specific expressions of anxiety, we must target our therapies using the thousands of unique essences available today. For example, when your horse has ‘stage fright’ during competitions, address his fear of vulnerability and exposure with Golden Yarrow. The entire yarrow family of plants offers different forms of emotional shielding.
To bolster courage in different situations, choose Borage for a general boost; Tomato, Mountain Pride, or Elm for endurance in the face of challenges; Cerato or Alpine Azalea for self-assurance and self-trust. Violet essence nicely encourages the wall-flower to master his shyness, and Buttercup helps a horse connect to a sense of her own value so she can stand up in pride. Strawberry can bring dignity to an animal who has been injured emotionally or physically and isn’t yet completely sure of himself. Sunflower brings out the strong, balanced ego for competition horses.
Relating to others, regardless of species, is best enjoyed if all engaged are self-confident, content and not overly needy. A good relationship based on mutual trust and respect is crucial for successful training and riding experiences. If a horse displays clingy neediness and separation anxiety, panicking whenever the owner or rider leaves his side, seek the help of Heather (for the “lonely”) and Mariposa Lily if there has been a life-long sense of emotional deprivation. Foals who lose their moms early can benefit greatly from this heart-filler. The pushy attention-grabber could be toned down with Chicory. Although this horse seems confident on the outset, her demanding behavior indicates a needy edge that comes from fearing loss of attention.
One of my favorite combos is Mallow with Oregon Grape. Many animals harden themselves against open interaction with others after undesirable experiences or traumatic events. These horses appear to build up a tough protective emotional shell and avoid interaction, refusing to seek contact in fear of rejection or punishment and miss out on opportunities to enjoy being in relationship. Mallow softens the shell of insecurity to allow the risk to prove positive and rewarding, and Oregon Grape releases the paranoid expectation of hostility from others. Once the horse has some enriching interactions, the heart continues to open to more.
“In what way is a pushy, aggressive horse displaying insecurity?” many ask. If a horse is overtly aggressive with other horses, dangerous in her zeal to dictate the movements and behaviors of herd mates, there is an imbalance present. Constantly asserting oneself over others expends a biologically inefficient amount of energy, risking injury and extended herd stress. At the root of these endeavors often appears a fear of lack, or a fear of losing precious resources, such as valuable food sources, attention from handlers or relationships with certain herd members. The more insecure or anxious an animal is over the threat of loss, the more desperate and risky his subsequent behaviors. Sometimes the stress of learning new activities overwhelms a horse to the point that he no longer enjoys interaction. Social dynamics with different herd mates can be so filled with conflict that a horse puts up resistance and seems to build hostile defensive walls to all current and new relationships. The insecure horse may believe the adage ‘the best defense is a good offense’. Have a horse with a sour disposition around others, who responds to interaction with hostility and anger? Then Poison Oak may bring balance. Use core essence Holly to address hostile expressions of neediness stemming from jealousy, such as biting other horses or giving ‘the eye’.
Scientific analyses of various forms of anxiety show that fear induces stress on physiological levels in order to instigate the fight/flight/freeze survival response. Unmitigated stress can induce long-term habitual patterns of anxiety that reflect in obsessive-compulsive behaviors such as cribbing and pacing, and can lead to chronic health conditions such as ulcers and unhealthy skin. Because anxiety is inherently connected to the body, we see many insecure animals with embodiment challenges. Lack of proper embodiment may lighten the burden of this stress on a superficial level, but it can lead to clumsiness and injury, and ironically, greater fear, because environmental stimuli comes as a surprise or shock. Not feeling ‘at home’ in one’s body potentially leads to greater suffering from vulnerability fears. I suggest addressing body issues in the insecure horses, to provide a strong sense of grounding and connection. Rosemary helps bring connection from tip to tail, improving energetic circulation. Manzanita is a great choice for the body that has been jarred apart from its soul by trauma. Earthy Gem Elixirs are sensational for grounding and body presence; I highly recommend adding a few to your collection. Malachite gem elixir harmonizes the physical body with the emotional one. These body-unifiers nicely complement FEs such as Rock Rose for panic, and Red Clover for peer-influenced hysteria.
How to choose from the multitudes? Examine different approaches to find the one that fits you best. You know your horse better than anyone else. Noting behavioral and emotional change over time will determine the efficacy of your choices. Keep a journal as you explore options. Great books are available that describe the indications for each essence. Still stumped? Research the plants themselves, their nature and growth patterns; decide which flowers appeal to you or reflect your horse’s personality. FE therapy gently instigates naturally progressing change, so give each essence or combination time to work, at least 3 weeks of daily doses to start. Once healthy emotional balance returns to your horse, stick with the therapy long enough to become status quo. Because our horses are connected to us, they often reflect or absorb our fears, so consider treating yourself as well with the same essences. Alleviating insecurity breaks the chains that restrict our horses from true enjoyment, and Flower Essence Therapy is a safe and sound approach. Joy is possible!