There’s an interesting process that I’ve seen each of my wild and semi-feral horses go through. For the wildies that have had almost no human contact (other than severe trauma) they start out being frightened and distrustful.
Over time, as they watch the bond and respect I have with the other horses, their fear gradually turns into curiosity. I don’t maximize, or take advantage of this shift in energy/focus by ramping up my interaction with them, or using treats etc to build upon the relationship overtures. I continue to stay chill, go about my business, and allow them to dictate the relationship.
The next phase that follows curiosity about humans, involves some way of touching me with their nose and lips. Think of how an elephant explores her world through the tip of her trunk – it feels very similar. Notice I said, ‘they touch me’ – not the other way around. Sometimes they want me to have my back turned – with those grabby human hands safely out of the field of possibility – while they explore my shoulder, my hair, my jacket…
Once they’ve explored me for a while (for some days, others weeks, others months – every horse is different) they then become open to me initiating a greeting by stretching out the back of my hand. Over time, this progresses to the palm of my hand.
The next stage is the polar opposite of all this connection and touching. The next crucial stage of relationship is where they tell me to move away, or get out of their space… and I listen.
Boundaries = Safety
As humans, we tend to interpret requests to go away as a loss of relationship, or intimacy, or love. But if you spend time observing a herd, you will see their relationships segue easily between various distances of super close to super far away – with no loss of love, relationship or trust. In the video below, I’ve included lots of footage illustrating how horses ask for closeness or distance, both in play and when they’re serious.
The wildies cannot feel safe with me, nor trust me, unless I can understand their requests to go away, or move back, and follow through. No means no.
For some of the horses, once we moved through this stage of:
Horse: Get lost!
Me: Okay 🙂
they then requested even greater intimacy and physical touching. But for some of them, it was the gateway into being asked to assist them in healing from deeper trauma humans had inflicted upon them. By listening (and fully receiving without judgement) their request for separation, it proved to them that I was trustworthy. Honoring their boundaries is a crucial step into deeper connection, love and trust.
Likewise, even during this “piss off” stage, if I needed the horse to move out of my way for a good reason (not just a power play) and asked from the calm place of IT IS, they have always complied readily. Because of course, the need to perceive and respect boundaries goes both ways! Horses (unlike humans) don’t expect it all to be one way, all the time.
This video shows Cobra at the frightened/distrustful stage and then moving into the curious and exploration stages. This new video below shows Cobra setting and testing boundaries:
Actually, here’s something equally cool and bizarre… as I mapped this process:
- Healthy boundary setting
- Healing and/or intimacy
I realized something… does that not look like the plot map for every romance ever written?? And many coming-of-age novels too… interesting…
Jini Patel Thompson is a natural health writer and Lazer Tapping instructor. She began riding at age 2 in Kenya, and got her first horse at age 8 in Alberta, and so continues a life-long journey and love affair with these amazing creatures.
9 thoughts on “Horse Wisdom: Pushing Back Is An Important Part of Intimacy”
What a beautiful reminder to not act out of fear and understand the range of needs we all have, horse and human.
A new mare has been added to our little herd (now three mares) she came with a background in horsemanship and was very bullied by humans. Her owner was told she was always at the bottom of the herd as well. Over the last five months she’s been re writing her storey with the help of my two semi-feral mares. She did quite a big shift a couple days after she had settled into her new home and went from being shut down and ‘well behaved’ to embodying the empowerment that was naturally offered to her. She expressed this in a way that looked quite aggressive, but she was just calling us to be hyper vigilant when it came to pushing our selves onto her, her bubble is about a 2 metre radius. She offers up some of the yummiest moments and chooses to ask for intimacy. It’s so much better when it’s not forced and we’re both expanding together, not one of us feeling contracted and hating the interaction. I’ve found that not only respecting her asks, for us to leave or move away. But offering her the gesture of giving her space and following the two metre bubble, has imbued a lot of confidence into our navigation around each other.
I had a special moment with her about a week ago. I felt to acknowledge her power and strength and tell her that I stand with her not against her. She yawned and licked and chewed a lot, lowered her head and went all soft eyed.
It just makes my heart sing.
I’ve never felt like there was so much juice and goodness within my equine-human relationships in the past.
Thank you Jini for all you share🙏🏼
Pure, absolute MAGIC Ben!! Nothing can compare to stuff like this – and it’s hard to explain to someone else how these experiences can make our heart sing with joy. What a blessing you are to each other. And watching the semi-feral mares teach her ‘normal’ horse language/behaviour is a treat in itself. I have videod Zorra’s journey from domestic ‘nice girl’ horse, bullied by other horses to a completely new/different being over the last 4 years. When she’s done, I will turn it into 1 video to show the progression of her empowerment. All the horses have helped her, but especially Aude and Cobra. And then just in the last few months, HUGE shift because my daughter (her chosen human) has been spending time with her regularly. Anyway, LOVE what’s happening with your posse and thanks so much for taking the time to share this slice with us xox
Hey Jini, How timely!
I’ve had to practise boundary setting of late with humans which was a little uncomfortable, and Jarrah much easier.
With J the energy goes up when he nearly rips out my tomato bush as he takes a bite, I say no and then my energy just as quickly drops right back and he plods off.
I’m fine tuning my listening with him as I give scratches, and its always different, I can’t assume lol! and also sometimes I say ‘No’ to him ‘not this time’, in a fairly gentle manner.
As he would have me scratch almost every time he comes up to me.ha ha! So we’ve sorted that one out and it’s not an issue.
And since Ive fostered a mostly hands off approach he now comes over for a nuzzle and a wee kiss on the nose!!!! most times.
I kind of feel into it an get a sense of whether it’s ok or not.So special! There was a time when he wouldn’t have tolerated that. Also he gives me a low whinny when I walk past or call his name most times, it’s nice. So we are learning boundaries and respectfully interacting together.
He has been a major grounding factor for me especially at this time in history.
As I am isolated most of the time usually, and the little contact face to face with other humans I do have, has been curtailed, so he has been a great blessing to me in that way. Helping me stay present and grounded.
Now that the flies have diminished I am able to meditate with him again in his energy field yum! I’m sure I’ll learn and heal more. So much more ahead.
Thankyou to you all at LTYH you have helped me so much and I dont feel so alone. Love to all humans and horses and big hugs(with permission of course)lol.
Beautiful Erin! ✌🏼❤️🐴
Oh the low whinny – my fave! Both Kaliah and Makah do this and I just adore it. Sounds like you have a truly beautiful relationship now Erin. Not that the learning/growing is done (is it ever??). SO glad you have your soul mate with you at this time of great crisis/opportunity xoxo
Awesome post. Love the video with this post.
Thanks Kathy! Some things can be explained best by seeing them in action 🙂
I am definitely a human who use to take the bug off…personally and as a rejection! But now I just realize that we all want to be left alone sometimes! I try to make sure my touch is asked for first and leave my hands out of it …until the horse requests them! I am realizing the horses I interact with seem to appreciate the face to face interaction way better and I actually love this closeness also, so it works for me! Sharing breath with a horse is like peace and feels so intimate and like a true gift! Although I do ride with Buck and Dreamer the more I practice listening the deeper our bond goes and the more they seem to want to offer me! It truly is special and I never want to take it for granite & always thank them for all they gift me! ✌🏼❤️🐴
Yes, each horse is so individual in their preferences, we can’t ever assume 😉