THE HEALING HEART OF THE HORSE
For thousands of years, horses have been keeping humans company, helping them through journeys no matter if they are long and arduous or slow and leisurely. These days, although horses are seldom used for transportation in this part of the world, the bond between humans and horses remains strong.
As intimidating as it may be at first to interact with a large, majestic 2000-pound animal, it is common for people to quickly discover that horses have an innate ability to bring about a sense of peace - an unspoken understanding and connection that is palpable but hard to put into words. It is as if a type of communication that transcends language is forged when humans work closely with them. While horses have strong, powerful bodies and a mind of their own to go against human wishes, they still choose to trust us when they sense that trust is placed upon them. This reciprocal relationship between a creature so small and another so big makes human and horse interactions so special.
While there are records as far back as the time of ancient Greeks that suggest humans are aware of the mental health benefits of working alongside horses, advances in modern science have proven what people have thought and felt about horses all along. A 2018 study by the University of New England found that simply being around horses calms the nervous system - even for people who haven’t had previous experiences with them.
Those who have spent a lot of time with horses often say that they have an amazing ability to read and respond to the emotions of those around them. They are known to mirror behavior and emotions, which encourage people to maintain a level of self-awareness and process what is happening in the moment. The ability to decipher emotions comes from the horse’s abundance of “mirror neurons” - a type of brain cell that promotes recognition and empathy when seeing the emotions of other living things. This is why humans, for so long, have felt a natural connection with horses. They help people safely express themselves with no fear of bias or judgment.
At Equinimity, horses are a vital part of our team. Whether it’s Mindful Grooming or Qi Gong with Horses, spending time with our “four-legged” team offers our community an opportunity to learn about themselves and one another. Recently, at Equinimity University (EqU), we explored the topic, Horses and the Healing Arts, diving deep into what makes horses such ideal wellness partners. In next month’s EqU, we will explore the other side of this relationship and learn more about how we, as humans, are impacted by working alongside horses and participating in different forms of healing arts to improve our wellbeing.
While horses no longer help with our journey on land as much as they used to, they are now, more than ever, instrumental in helping us with another kind of journey. Our journey back to ourselves.
Horses are some of the most powerful, sensitive creatures we humans have a chance to get close to. We are so grateful to them as they support people in rediscovering and developing their sense of safety, confidence, and connection.
If you would like to participate in next month’s Equinimity University class, Humans and the Healing Arts, please click here for more information and to register.
"Effects of Short-Term Human-Horse Interactions on Human Heart Rate Variability: A Multiple Single Case Study" (MS #1022) was published in People and Animals: The International Journal of Research and Practice and may be accessed at the following URL: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/paij/vol2/iss1/2