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Intention of Touch
by Meg Harrison
There is a children’s game that uses only one finger and one refrain: “I’m not touching you.” It is a game played until the anxiety and expectation is too much to handle and someone pulls away or gets swatted. Few people are immune to this teasing, even without the words.
Horses play this game when reacting to a hovering fly. A muscle twitch, a swish of their tails, or a stomping of their feet is how they react to this “intention to touch.” How many times does Alpha Mare have to actually touch another horse to get him to do as she bids? Usually all she has to do is look in his direction to communicate her desires. I try to keep this in mind when approaching a horse to touch, handle, groom, affix equipment, or ride him..
Is he nervous? Stoic? Flighty? Withdrawn or a bit forward? Horses who are forward and in your space may be fulfilling a need to protect their space or create an area they can back into if necessary. I don’t always find the “forward” horse to be pushy. I am not talking about the bully with his chest puffed up like a rooster or sneaking up, breathing down your neck. This article is going to take everything down a notch from how I usually discuss behaviors. Previous articles deal with extreme situations and difficult personalities. Here, I want to talk about subtle cues our more sensitive horses send that may go unnoticed but are shouting volumes of important information.
15 minutes of observation will tell you lots about the personality you are about to ride, massage, groom, trim, or help in some way.
Initially, self-observe. Take a full minute to check in with yourself. Make sure you are not bringing emotional baggage into the session.
Introduce yourself and ask permission to be there, revealing your intentions. This does not have to be done verbally - the fly never says anything, yet its intention is well felt.
Get quiet. I am naturally chatty, so getting quiet makes me more attentive, more in sync with the horse and his immediate needs.
Assess emotions. How do you feel in front of this half-ton emotional storage unit? What is stored inside him? Fear, loathing, grief? Love, compassion, trust? And how is it affecting the overall well-being of this particular individual? Is your head swimming with worry? Do you want to shift your weight back and forth from one foot to the other? Are you starting to get nervous?
Think “lower”. I was taught if I got nervous to “lower everything” including voice, head, blood pressure and - if riding - my hands, heels, and heart rate.
St. John’s Wort Personality
This yellow flowering plant is delicate and innocuous, not large in stature, standing deliberate and erect. In full bloom, flowers and tendrils almost appear to twitch. It is highly invasive and will “intelligently” travel underground, deliberately emerging later at a great distance from its first planting.
The horse who may benefit from this plant is the one who may stand a bit taller in the head and shoulders; he may seem to do this deliberately and not be completely comfortable in this frame. He could be a bit on his toes. He may appear stoic, unengaged. He follows you with his eyes, not moving his body, yet he knows exactly where you are and what your intentions are. If you move slowly around this horse, he will anticipate where you intend to touch and be more accepting of your approach.
Play with him. Hover your hand - barely cupped, not flattened - a few inches above his fur and slowly float it over his body, following a muscle contour or a line of some sorts. Spray your hands with essences and do the same thing. What changes in his bodily reaction? Are you invited in to be closer or work longer? Complements and other essences for this personality include passion flower, lavender, and iris. Perhaps invite him to lower his head, softening the throat latch and relieving the neck and shoulders, effectively relaxing the back on through the topline until the entire body is comfortably affected.
Extreme cases can’t bear to be touched. He may tolerate the softest brushes and chamois but just does not enjoy being touched. Either these horses are literally thin-skinned or their hypersensitive nervous systems prevent them from enjoying human touch. (This is not to be confused with the avoidance behaviors of the abused horse or the one suffering actual physical pain.) The Lobelia horse’s respiration is superficial - no big breaths or ful exhalations. These horses tend to lean forward slightly, expecting to be hurt or made to feel uncomfortable. They may stop eating or drinking when you are around. They tend to have very expressive eyes, often showing a worrisome confusion or concern. They may perspire from the face, a sign of mental and emotional discomfort.
Historically, lobelia was used as a nerve tonic for humans and as a special ingredient in love potions. So, here I say, allow this personality to fall in love with you. Create a comfortable space of safety for them to enter when in your presence. If they tend to lean forward a few inches in a protective stance, you lean back. Take an actual step back, if you need, in order for them to want to approach you. Give this horse time, space, and lobelia flower essence. Complements and further support include essences of rose and impatiens.
Sweet Pea Personality Use sweet pea essence when you need “round-the-clock kindness.” This personality wants to be kind and gentle but it takes great effort on their part. Use a kind and gentle, but determined touch. Don’t mislead or lie to this type. Once trusted, don’t change the game plan. These horses tend to be flighty and nervous, ready to evade or evacuate at a moment’s notice. They are insecure and vulnerable, but often behave contrary in order to protect themselves.
Nasty and unfriendly for no apparent reason, this horse is often nicknamed a “witchy mare," even if he is a gelding. I had a mare like this who always seemed ready for fight or flight. Her feet seemed to hover over the ground instead of being connected to it.
Sweet pea types can be a challenge to ride as we need to trust and relax enough to discover their rhythm, their stride. Try to make every effort to make them feel safe and secure. If necessary, ask a friend with a trustworthy mount to help as a companion rider. Companion riding will build self-reliance and self-esteem while making the horse feel that he is part of the solution, not the problem. Complements for sweet pea horse and rider include apple, dandelion, and red clover essences.
For best results, mist flower essences over the body, down the legs, and under the belly. Avoid eyes, genitalia, any open wounds, and bare skin. Spray your grooming equipment, use in bath water, drinking water, or food. Spray your hands for touch and massage. Also, think about spraying your hands before picking up your reins for a ride. Enjoy.
About the author:
Meg Harrison, author of the soon-to-be-released book Helping Humans One Animal at a Time, is a Flower Essences lecturer and creator of BlackWing Farms' Remedies. She has 38 years experience studying and using Flower Essences and 20 years as a horse trainer and Animal Behavior Consultant.
Farmaceuticals for Healthy Behavior
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