By Ainsley Beauchamp
The 4-year-old mare was all shining palomino dapples, her creamy mane and tail were soft with brushing. Her name was Ghrian, Gallic for sun, and she was as beautiful as any golden sunrise. She stood on alert, head high, eyes wide, body braced in the hesitation before fight or flight; the picture of equine anxiety. She was standing in her own familiar barn at a well-run, horses-first boarding stable, and her tension was palpable.
Her person, Dara, who’d known her since birth, stood quiet and calm, clearly not the mirror of her up-energy horse. We talked about the young horse’s history, and it was yet another tragic story of misguided/intentionally cruel human interference, and the fall-out that could be interpreted as equine PTSD. Her mother had been abused by a trainer, frequently beaten and locked away in a dark, lonely stall. No one knew she was pregnant, and when her foal came, the mare went into defensive overdrive. Sadly for Ghrian, she had learned her behaviors at her protective dam’s side, and worse, in utero, as she had swam in the biochemical soup of intense stress and abuse during her development.
As a bodyworker, my first thought naturally went to what physical manifestation she could be carrying after such an ugly early history. Often horses exhibiting high anxiety have a lot of body soreness, and it comes out as fear/anxious/aggressive behavior. A misaligned poll leading to chronic headache, trying to work past and never show pain (weakness is devastating for a prey animal), all these and more can contribute to behavioral issues.
In this case, the young horse was flighty, ungrounded, defensive and in general felt like standing next to a powder keg. It was very hard to find a peaceful place to work from; as energetically she droned like an irritated wasp’s nest. As I checked over her body, there were a multitude of areas that showed muscle spasm and vertebral misalignments. I thought I had the answer, and quietly went about the business of providing some physical relief. The mare was distracted and concerned, and Dara and I agreed that what was needed was a ‘best case scenario’ for bodywork and layering in a positive experience to give Ghrian something to build on.
We flowed (a bit more like a choppy whitecap covered ocean than a gentle summer stream) between energy work, massage, stresspoint therapy, acupressure and structural alignment. Her body softened as the cramps were relieved, but the buzzing and flightiness did not. I’ve done a lot of trauma release for horses and humans, and have several different modalities to work from. This time, nothing, no result; still on the edge of flight or fight for the entire session. It was heartbreaking as both Dara and I only wanted to see her have a moment of genuine relaxation, mentally and physically. We came to a place that seemed more comfortable for her, or at least as good as we were likely to get to, and quit on a positive note. But while she clearly felt somewhat improved, she was nowhere near relieved.
Scheduling and the holiday season meant I didn’t see the young mare again for nearly 2 months. The good news was, her body felt better. Physically she felt well enough that Dara wavered between another session for Ghrian, or a session for different horse. As Ghrian was still behaving in ungrounded ways, Dara decided to see if we could do more to help her energetically.
After saying hello, the first thing I did was to borrow a technique from Linda Tellington-Jones, and very lightly and rhythmically tapped each hoof with the back end of a lunge whip, first checking in with Dara to make sure she didn’t have ‘whip issues’. As with people, drawing attention to the feet is a powerful grounding technique. Ghrian didn’t mind a bit, but it also didn’t appear to make a marked difference.
I wanted to return to the trauma release idea, thinking that was the main priority. But again, she wouldn’t settle into the session, and within a few moments it seemed obvious this wasn’t what she wanted or needed right then. Finally, the light bulb moment: she needed to hold onto her trauma story because it was locked in by core beliefs.
What are core beliefs? They are the subconscious doctrines through which we filter our perspective of absolutely every aspect of life. They colour every move, every decision, every reaction, and for the most part, we are completely unaware of this operating system governing our beliefs. Core beliefs are learned at the early stages of life and most often reflect family philosophies, or are learned via trauma later. For example, a core belief would be either, “I am safe.” or “I am not safe.” That simple 3 or 4-word sentence affects every part of your world. And we all have them, including animals; they just don’t articulate theirs in a verbal language.
Having studied PSYCH-K® and used core belief protocols to switch unhealthy, unwanted subconscious beliefs for myself, people and many horses, it can seem like a miracle. For example, the middle-aged woman who’d struggled with depression and the feeling of ‘not being able to do anything right’ for her entire life, stemming from a failed teenage suicide attempt. She changed at the deepest level when she understood that it wasn’t incompetence that had kept her from dying via suicide, but a core belief that in fact, she wanted to live. “I want to live.” vs “I want to die.” Understanding that changed her world and her perspective of who she was and could be. And it shifted in minutes. Very powerful stuff. I ran into her again one day in a tack store – and as this happy, bright woman chatted away, obviously knowing me and me not recognizing her – she had changed so much even her physical self had shifted as she was now filled with light and joy of life.
So PSYCH-K® for Ghrian, the emotionally damaged mare made sense. Because while horses don’t have the same prefrontal cortex and the complex thinking that humans do, they still have memories, emotions and beliefs about their world. The PSYCH-K® modality involves using muscle testing to ask simple yes/no questions. If the muscle test is weak, it means the subconscious belief is negative. When I tested Ghrian, there were 4 beliefs flipped, 2 of them were core beliefs.
Ghrian tested weak (negative) for:
I am safe –> Muscle testing showed she believed she was unsafe.
Believing you are unsafe is emotionally crippling, and it is impossible to move forward when in fear mode.
The world is a friendly place –> She believed the world is an unfriendly place.
Believing the world is unfriendly is a direct connection to feelings of safety.
I am response-able –> She believed she was not response-able.
Believing you are able to relax because you can respond to any situation gives a sense of innate confidence and ability.
I am at peace –> She believed she was not at peace.
Believing you are safe and the world is friendly, and you are response-able means you can be at peace, deep, true calmness at the core of your being.
The barn was busy on a weekend, with people bringing in horses to groom and saddle, and Ghrian was becoming increasingly distracted by all the comings and goings. Part way through the healing session, I asked if we could go back to the mare’s paddock. Dara said that we could, but her other mare would immediately call Ghrian over and the younger mare would always prefer to be in the company of her friend. Thus she probably wouldn’t stand well for the rest of the session. Believing in being open and curious during energy work, it still made sense to try…
The older mare watched us come in to the paddock and turned her butt to us, completely ignoring her young friend. The golden mare stood quietly without needing to peer around and keep an eye on everything and allowed me to continue. She was already much calmer.
Dara and I discussed language, and how important it is to support the new beliefs by how she talks to Ghrian. If Ghrian needs a little support in a new situation, instead of saying, “you’re ok” or “you’re fine.” which doesn’t mean much to the extremely literal subconscious, instead, try to language the encouragement as, “you’re safe” thus reinforcing the new core belief.
And it was time to let go of the story. Ghrian doesn’t need to live in the memory of her dam’s horrible treatment, or the terror she felt as a young foal. So time for her people to help by also letting go. It happened. It’s done. It’s time to leave that ugliness behind and look forward to new and wonderful experiences in life instead of dwelling on what a bad go it’s been. Lessons for all of us… In letting go of the story, Ghrian’s person could also shift in her own viewpoint. Dara could focus more on all the positives. As the late Dr. Wayne Dyer has so famously said, “When we change the way we look at a thing, the thing we look at changes.” And never is it more applicable than with horses.
At last, Ghrian was ready to accept some trauma release. Still working energetically, there was no sense of words or language to describe past events, but rather a thick, dark, tarry spiritual goo that needed to be pulled out. And pulled out. And pulled out. Eventually, the flow seemed to slow and finally dwindled to an end. Next step was to ‘flush’ the mind/body, with clear, clean, beautiful life giving water energy. When doing any kind of work like this, if something is coming out, then something else must refill the vacuum. When the water energy stopped flowing, I ran volumes of Reiki energy; bright white restorative light until that, too, became a trickle and finished.
We were there. But to my dismay, Ghrian’s head was still up. She was much calmer, but not fully relaxed. There was more to do, which brought us full circle back to bodywork. As an energetic being experiencing a physical life, the body also needs support. The body treatment was easy and straightforward, with just a few areas of misalignment.
And then the shift. At long last, Ghrian’s eyes softened completely, her head dropped to the level of her withers, and she was a golden picture of relaxation.
With the long-held equestrian’s understanding of quitting on a positive note, I backed away from the mare. Dara removed the halter and few moments later; Ghrian wandered over to her feeder and started quietly enjoying her hay, body soft and eyes still at half-mast. When I looked back later, she was still slowly munching away, clearly feeling serene and content.
Of course, it takes time to cement in a shift like this. Dara will need to hold space for Ghrian’s new reality and reinforce it verbally. PSYCH-K® and all the energy work create shifts and massive potential; it’s up to Dara and Ghrian how they support and assimilate their new way of being. I may have to come back for a few more visits over the course of the next six months to continue to help unravel deeper layers.
One week after our session I received this email from Dara:
“I finally managed to get to the barn last night and spent only a few minutes with Ghrian. As I approached her paddock she came right up the gate and greeted me. I walked in and she came very close and we shared a beautiful energy. After I walked out to go see the other horses she stood banging at her gate for more attention. This has never happened. Something had shifted, I felt it but I couldn’t put it into words.
Today when I arrived, I met a new woman who just started working there. When I told her who my horses were her first response was “Oh, she is soooo sweet!” She was referring to Ghrian and went on to tell me how friendly she has been with her. I could go on and on….. She is radiating a new energy. There was a storm raging all around her today and she held her peace within.
Thank you from my heart and hers.”
I expect Ghrian will continue to get softer and feel safer and will not return to her former state of hyper-vigilance. And that’s a big win for a golden mare and the woman who loves her so much.