Ask a Horse: Fear & Safety

AMBER: Fiona, it feels like you have a topic this week that you would like to connect about.

FIONA: Yes, I would. The topic today is safety. Safety – being around horses, partnering with them. Safety on your end and mine.

Many people are very timid around horses. We are such big creatures compared to you. You fear for your physical body and for your emotional safety as well. Many people are nervous about how horses perceive them, and how they interpret your energy. Not everyone is comfortable having an animal that can read their body language and spirit the way we can. Those who feel physical fear around horses often have this emotional fear present first, and the one leads to the other. If you can recognize that some of your fear is emotional, it will help you relax physically.

AMBER: That’s certainly true, though I’ve never thought about it like that before. I was never afraid of horses as a youth, but in my 20’s I had a harrowing incident where a traumatized horse nearly struck me in the head. After that I had physical fear like I had never felt before, but I also remember feeling overly conscious about myself and emotions around horses. I didn’t want my fear to impact them, certainly, but perhaps it is better to say I was afraid of them seeing my fear and weakness.

FIONA: Yes. Most people feel the ability of horses and other animals to read them, see their innermost workings, and respond to this accordingly. Being so open creates tremendous discomfort among those who are not seeking such intimacy. Many humans have shut down or withdrawn from their lives or other people in order to protect themselves and keep that information secret, so being around a horse is an act of inherent vulnerability to them.

AMBER: I’m assuming you aren’t suggesting that everyone who is nervous around horses does so because they are trying to hide?

FIONA: No, but most of you use withdrawing or sheltering your being – your true self, the unacceptable pieces of you – as a way to stay safe. This is the underlying insecurity that is revealed when someone is fearful in the presence of a horse. It is the fear of their wounded aspects, of the parts of them that are fragile, of the ways they don’t fit into the world. Exposing such places activates the most basic survival instinct of all: fear of rejection. This manifests as physical fear of the animal.

Some animals also have trauma, instinctual memories, or emotional patterns which activate your own if you have had similar energetic experiences. This is why you may fear one horse and not another, because not every horse will mirror an unwanted part of your psyche. You do not feel exposed or vulnerable unless the patterns you share have created a negative experience in your life.

When you worked with the mare who struck at you, she had already activated fear within you before the incident. You believed that it was because of her unpredictability, but it was because her past contained great trauma – just as yours did. She had you questioning your abilities and desire to work with horses, and made you frustrated with yourself for your perceived failure and then for your lack of compassion for her circumstances. Those were areas of trauma in your life at the time. This is what you feared when you were around her, because your attention and energy shifted from your confidence and expertise to your failures and deepest regrets. All of these shadow parts of yourself became activated in her presence and you doubted your ability to handle the situation with grace and care. Then you worried because you knew she would pick up on your emotions, and you believed you would not be able to remain calm, which added another layer of fear. That is ultimately what led to the accident, for if you had been able to accept those dark parts of yourself and forgive them, you would have been able to stay emotionally clean around this mare by remaining present to her mental state and not your own.

AMBER: Well, that about sums it up. I honestly never considered that side of it before. I really thought my fear with that particular horse was because she was so volatile. In retrospect, so was I at the time.

FIONA: Yes, and that is really the point of this message. What ever you feel around any animal is your own projection. It is your own pain, your own fear, your own heartbreak, your own anger, your own frustration. Horses are so attuned to the energy of people – we can see and read it very clearly – that you receive energetic feedback below your conscious awareness almost immediately after entering our presence. That is why we elicit such strong reactions, of love and hate and fear and joy, and why people seek us out and also attempt to dominate us through force. We are showing you to you. The parts you may not know about. The parts you may not want to see. The parts you may adore. The parts you may loathe. And every horse will have a different message of this sort, for we will align with you in different ways based upon our makeup at the time.

AMBER: How is it for horses to experience people like this? What can we do to feel safer in your presence, and to help our equine partners feel safe?

FIONA: Those questions all have a similar answer. Horses seek stability and truthfulness. Honesty in your being, your energy, not just your words. Someone who fears us yet tries to be nice is not to be trusted for it is a mismatch in our eyes. We don’t know what to do with that discrepancy, and often we get nervous because of it. Some horses are more steadfast than others in this regard, especially the old and seasoned animal. More commonly, we experience those with inner turmoil – like you mentioned you had at the time of the incident above – who wish to connect with us through love. This is difficult for us if you bring the turmoil to the relationship, and the result depends on the quality of the relationship otherwise established. Someone who continually brings turmoil to the partnership may never fully have an animal’s trust. Others who let such feelings melt away when they see their horse, or who only occasionally bring such emotions with them, will always have a better partnership and success while riding.

But it is important for anyone to work on maintaining the same inner state and outer state. The “fake it until you make it” approach doesn’t work well with the horse because it is an inherent deception. That concept is the same to us on an instinctual level as the cougar prowling at the edge of the herd, pretending not to be a threat. It usually elicits the same reaction of unease in the horse, as well.

That’s not to say that if you are fearful you should act out your fear, and certainly not your anger or cruelty. Acting those feelings out will confirm that you are untrustworthy to the horse, and even a few such transgressions may damage your bond severely. Every horse is different in their level of tolerance and willingness to trust again, but some only take one or two strokes before they write you off as a viable guide and friend.

If you are fearful of horses, or any specific horse. I recommend that you do some reflection on what it is you’re afraid of. You may find that your own mortality comes up. This is a very common answer, but it’s rarely the root cause. Why do you fear your own mortality? Is it because your life is out of your hands? Is it because you haven’t accomplished what you set out to do? Is it fear of the unknown? These are deep, penetrating questions, but you must understand that what arises in you when you fear a horse is a deep, penetrating, survival-driven terror.

Do not look to the horse to solve those issues for you, but merely to provide stimulus for your own journey and exploration. It is better not to be around horses with whom you feel fear. You are not doing yourself or the horse any good by pursuing that relationship unless you are working through those issues on a path of massive transformation. That is my advertisement for you, Amber.

AMBER: Thanks, Fi. You’re very kind.

FIONA: As I was saying, unless you have access to truly transforming those feelings by addressing them head on and releasing them, you would be better off working with horses who do not bring you fear. Not every one will. You only need to find a horse who mirrors your positive qualities. Your attempts to try to conquer your fear by conquering the horse – through riding, goals, or show success – simply keep both of you locked into a pattern of trauma and pain. This is not meant to be harsh, but some of you do not see that you are using the horse in this fashion. You perceive yourselves as courageous for not giving up, and yet the horse remains engaged in energies and feelings he would really rather forget. Horses do not feel good when their survival instinct is activated. Over time, it will have consequences to their health and soundness, just as it does to yours. Your efforts to persevere do not consider the nature of the horse, who cannot overcome his feelings in the same fashion. As the leading participant in the relationship, your responsibility is to ensure the wellness – physical and emotional – of both individuals. You cannot do that if your primary intent is to master your fear instead of ensuring that wellbeing.

Instead, do not be so hard on yourselves. Have compassion for your fears. Find kindness. Treat your fears the way you would like to treat the animals in your life, with gentleness and love. You would not lock a child in a dark room to cure her fear of the dark, so do not force yourself to ride through difficult moments or persist with a horse who terrifies you. You need not be held back by fear, but you may need to change your approach so that fear does not rule your inner and outer state as you partner with the horse.

Consider finding a horse who feels solid and safe to you. Be willing and open to seeing your limits and contractions without judging them. Allow those places to be there, yet focus on building the relationship with your horse that you want – not the goals you think you must accomplish. As your partnership and trust grows, your horse will resonate to and maintain the energy of your connection. This will soothe and shelter you when you approach those limits and corners, because you will be held in a state of loving kindness. Over time, as your dominant experience shifts to one of love and relatedness, you will find that the limits are not as present as they once were, and then you may playfully begin to expand your joy together by seeing what you might accomplish in this state of togetherness.

Similarly, when your focus is on the relationship you desire with your horse, and you feel at peace around her, you will find that your steadfast energy calms your horse in moments of reactivity. You become the guide and leader she looks to when threats arise. By holding this energy, you shelter her, too. All of this goes back to trust, to living on the outside the same as the inside, and staying in balance so that the relationship may blossom. It is not easy, but isn’t that balance and shared joy the reason you seek to partner with horses?

AMBER: Yes, it is. At least for me. And most everyone I know. Thank you, Fiona. That is truly wonderful. I appreciate your insights.

Have you ever wanted to ask a horse how they feel about a particular subject? Now’s your chance! Hear about horse-keeping and equestrian subjects straight from the horse’s mouth. These segments are conducted interview-style between Amber and equine advice extraordinaire Fiona, or a guest horse. Have a question or a topic you’d like to know about? Leave a comment here or on Facebook or Twitter with under #askahorse.

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