I received a most fascinating email from a reader (let’s call her Jill) whose horse is now attacking her after she tried the Trust Technique and Reiki with him. And while her email is unique, at the same time she brings up important concepts that are pertinent to most horse owners. You’ll see what I mean…
QUESTION: “I’m trying to fix a situation with my horse after doing energy work on him. I was reading one of your articles and I tried the cloaking technique to keep my energy away from him, but he still is attacking me when I first show up in the morning to see him. And after reading some of your articles I can relate to the situation you were in, where the anger gets the best of you and you just want to lash out but he’s the innocent bystander.
I’ve also tried moving my energy around, so I’m not going head-to-head with him and it works sometimes to mellow him out, but then he’ll revert back to being passive-aggressive. I do not know what else to do and where else to try to get an answer to help me fix my situation with my horse.
It started out seeing a video of all these horses being mellow and at peace and I’m assuming the trust technique is using the Reiki practice, because it seems very similar by using energy work so I was watching the videos and I practiced it on my horse, who then got really aggressive around me.
I purchased a horse book on Reiki and it seems there’s a theme in where the horse did not want Reiki done on them, and to let them be if they did not want it.
I of course, was not aware of this prior to reading the book. So when Apollo was walking away from me, I was mentally pressuring him and never releasing him when he didn’t want it anymore, so hence the problem.
He used to be a loving horse, I had him for a year-and-a-half and he always loved hanging out around me. Now when I drive up he’s running around his paddock frenzied. And at first I thought he was happy to see me when I drove in. But I’m coming to realize he was freaking out because of him thinking I was going to do the Reiki practice on him, and not releasing on him the whole time I’m with him.
So now since June of this year, he has kicked me and been attacking me when I go up to his paddock. I’m assuming it’s to drive me away from him. Now it’s getting to a point where it’s dangerous because he’ll be standing next to me, then lunges at me with his teeth bared lightning fast and almost has gotten me a couple of times. And then he’ll walk away from me and then all of a sudden turn around and kick out at me – and I know it’s intentional because then he would run off. So now I’ve been trying to read up on all this energy work, but he’s fine with everybody else except for me.
The people at the barn think I should be reprimanding him, but I know that’s not the situation because it’s my fault where he is right now today. They’re telling me that I should act like a leader and show him who’s boss.
So when I go up to him I’m trying to be in a neutral space energy-wise and I am ashamed that when he does all this I get really angry and also aggressive with him, but I know that’s not his fault, it’s my fault, and it’s not fair to him.
But I need to know how to fix this because I own this horse and I’m not going to give him away, but I cannot leave him unhappy either, because I started the situation with him. I’m especially upset because we were okay before – but of course when you see the trust technique video, well who would not want to do that with a horse, to get them to lay down? It’s all very magical and other people are doing it, but apparently somewhere along the way I did it wrong.
I don’t know how to fix it because when I stand around him he doesn’t want me to even be around him, and when I try to pet him he turns around and walks away, when he never did that before, so now I’ve turned this practice into torture for him and it’s very disheartening. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this happening before, but it would be nice to get some kind of feedback.
I’ve contacted the guy who did the trust technique and sent him a video of my horse attacking me after doing the present moment and he said he was going to get back to me and give me some advice that was in October and I know he’s really busy but that doesn’t fix my situation. I don’t want to bug him because he is in another country and I’m sure it’s hard to help somebody when you’re so far away but I need to find another way to get my horse to be at peace again with me.
I look back and think I shouldn’t have even started this whole trust technique, but apparently I did it all wrong after viewing some videos, because when I started doing it he was yawning and almost going to sleep and then all of a sudden he reached up and bit me because he didn’t like it. I don’t know if you’ve ever even heard of something like this ever happening, but I don’t know what I did wrong here besides knowing now I should have been in the present moment and just held the space and not followed him around the whole 2 hours I was with him. And now it’s kind of too late to realize that.
Please let me know if you’re able to assist me in any way because he still is behaving the same way to me aggressively, and as I see him right now he looks truly unhappy.”
So. Where to start? First of all, I want to thank Jill for being brave enough to reach out and be honest about what happened and where she thinks she went wrong. So many horse owners don’t do this and the situation escalates until the horse is either sent to auction (slaughter) or euthanized. So lots of gratitude and much respect there.
For those of you who don’t know what the Trust Technique is, you might want to stop here and read my post on it first. I’m not going to talk a whole lot about the technique here (yes, I purchased the course) but the core piece that Jill didn’t seem to grasp initially is this (quoted from my post on it):
“Forget about your horse and just learn how to enter stillness yourself. When you become – in your core – a grounded, peaceful person, your horse will trust you more and your relationship will naturally deepen and strengthen.”
However, whether Jill purchased the course, or just watched James French perform the technique in his free videos, I can understand where she would get the idea that she should be focused on her horse. If you watch James, even though he is not looking at the horse, sometimes he is in a closed stall with the horse – very close quarters and the horse cannot leave. And even in a field, his energy seems so focused and intense, you can almost feel there is an agenda to make the horses release, and lie down.
His intense desire to bring the horse into the present moment (where there is no trauma, no memories) and thus find release is understandable, but it is still an agenda. And if the horse is not in a 10 acre field where they can get far away from you, or, like Jill, if you follow them around, then the pressure of your agenda can become extremely noxious and intense.
It is very important to understand that ALL animals see, read, feel energy very clearly. If they did not, they could not survive in the wild – they would starve or be eaten. Here’s a quick example: A friend of mine owns a safari in Kenya and giraffes and wildebeest will sometimes come up to drink at a waterhole right next to a pride of lions, because they can sense that the lions are not hungry, so there is nothing to fear.
In this regard, Jill has correctly discerned that the energetic pressure she put on her horse, Apollo, was no less damaging than running him with a whip, or around a round pen for two hours. Although, perhaps it could be deemed more damaging, due to incongruence in the human. A human whipping a horse to run for two hours is pretty clear about what they’re doing – their intention and actions are congruent. It makes sense in that it’s clear. And it’s clearly nasty.
A horse being chased with energy for two hours – whether by Jill, or an equine therapy client, or an energy healer – is burdened with the added weight of incongruence. The human’s understanding, awareness and intent, are not congruent with their actions. So then we’re into mind-f**k territory; which can be more insidious, and take a bigger toll, than outright physical abuse.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you have a child who takes a cookie and mommy slaps her hand and says, “Hey, I told you no more cookies.” Mommy may be a jerk, but it’s clean, it’s clear from both sides.
Now imagine the child takes a cookie and mommy smiles with her mouth only, while her eyes harden, and says, “Your sister is SO beautiful and slim… she’s not a greedy little piglet like you, hahaha, well at least you’ll be around to care for me when I’m old, won’t you? You’re mommy’s special girl.” Now what is the girl feeling and thinking? It’s twisted. Mom’s energy and words are in opposition, and then her words themselves slap and then coddle her. Is Mom angry, or not? And how is this girl’s relationship to food and her body going to be?
Permission is a powerful thing
If your horse (or child, or dog, or employee) is a fully sentient being, then they are not a slave, and they own their own body. You don’t own their body; they do. So then before you do anything to that body, you need to ask for permission. And this is what’s missing from agenda-driven energy work. Whether your agenda is to heal your horse, or do good work, or to get him to lie down with you – you still need to ask permission. Which includes having them in a large enough space to say no by getting away from you. And then, more importantly, you need to abide by the answer.
Jill’s horse told her right away that he didn’t want her to do the Trust Technique (or her version of the Trust Technique) with him, she wrote, “…when I started doing it he was yawning and almost going to sleep and then all of a sudden he reached up and bit me because he didn’t like it.” A bite is a pretty clear NO. And Jill even realized he didn’t like it. If she had stopped there, apologized and left him alone for the day – or however many days it took him to recalibrate – Apollo would probably be fine.
If your horse walks away from you – that means No. Or not now. Horses have many ways of saying No. Pinned ears, averted eyes, tense wrinkled eyelids, rapid breathing, shifting feet, head turned away, etc. The first task when working energetically with horses is to hone your own skills to be able to listen to your horse and most importantly, understand when your horse is saying, No, or Stop. If you cannot do that with confidence, then don’t do any energy work with your horse! You need to hone your skills first; practice on your friends, meditate more, get way better with managing, discerning, controlling your own energy. THEN bring it to your horse.
Another important point is that different horses have vastly different levels of energetic sensitivity. None of my 11 horses have ever asked me to cloak my energy; only Cobra. Kesia’s mare, Amalia, is another super sensitive horse and Kesia has this to say about Jill’s situation:
“Amalia hated me trying to manipulate her energetically for years, but it took me a long time to get out of my story of her rejecting me and actually listen to her. It turns out she is extremely sensitive, extremely powerful, and does not want to talk about it. My energy feels itchy to her. Sometimes she doesn’t even want me to look at her. And yet when she does choose to connect, it’s extraordinarily sweet and vulnerable. Techniques don’t account for individuality… no one approach works for all horses. They are just tools to try, discard, or learn to master. What really counts is being able to commit wholly to who this being actually is.
So step #1 is: Stop any and all energetic explorations. The energetic version of sitting on your hands… not because what you did was wrong, but because he has been so affected and can’t bear it right now. Just stop. Relate to him as a physical being only for now, until HE initiates otherwise. The Trust technique did the opposite for my horses – nothing. I was intrigued by it too and like anything, it is, in the end, just a tool.”
If you’re trying to “connect” with your horse, or share love, or feel close – those are all energetic pressures! You need to develop your own self-love, your own meditative practice, so you can sit in stillness and acceptance of yourself, first.
The physical aspect
Apollo’s behaviour is his way of clearly communicating with Jill that he is very distressed and things are very not-right in his world. So along with looking at the energetic and emotional aspects when our horses are unhappy, ill, or behaving negatively, we also have to take a good look at their physical conditions.
As Mary Walby detailed in her post on Rehab Tools – simply feeding the wrong diet can hugely affect a horse’s behaviour, as can the freedom to move and exercise.
Jill wrote that she drives up to “his paddock” so my first question is: Is Apollo kept in just a paddock, all day, every day? And does he have any herdmates? When horses are kept in stalls, paddocks, and just a few hours of turn-out per day, they only have two choices: Dissociate from their physical body, or, go crazy. Most horses will dissociate and shut-down. Like learned-helplessness, the horse will appear to be calm, docile, content. When in reality, the horse is lights-are-on-nobody’s-home, because their life is that unbearable.
The sensitive horses will become “problem horses”. They will weave, crib, chew wood, become aggressive and angry. Horses are herd animals. They must have a herd – even if that’s just one or two other horses – that they can touch, groom, eat, sleep and meditate with. Over the fence doesn’t count! And a herd consists of horses who actually want to be together. Horses have very clear likes and dislikes, so again, you need to listen to your horse and let him choose his companion(s).
When I purchased Kaliah, I was very clear and had it written into the contract, that if my herd didn’t accept her, then I could return her. It would have been horrific for her, and destroyed the peace of my herd to keep them together if they rejected her.
Horses also require a lot of movement to stay healthy and sane. If you can’t give your horse at least 2-5 acres, then set up a track system. Here’s an example of a great environment for a herd of 7 ponies, on only 2.5 acres of land. Remember, if you kept a dog in a crate for 23 hours/day, you would not be ‘wondering’ why the dog was nuts!
Physical pain (ulcers?) can also make a horse aggressive and lash out. Does Apollo have a hay net, or slow feeder? His stomach is producing acid 24 hours/day, does he have low-sugar hay available 24 hours/day? Grain also wrecks the gut flora and can throw a sensitive horse into neural distress – remove all grain and just feed free-choice Hoffman’s minerals instead.
Jill may think Apollo’s environment and diet are not the issue, because he was fine for the 18 months before she tried Reiki and Trust Technique with him. But that could just be coincidental timing, or it could have been the ‘final straw’. Perhaps Apollo’s distress with his living environment had been building to a crescendo, until he just couldn’t take it anymore. Or perhaps Jill’s energy work ‘woke him up’, perhaps it broke through his dissociation, and now Jill needs to make the necessary changes to his diet and/or physical environment.
Perhaps, in Apollo’s current living environment, he doesn’t have the tools – enough space and same-species companionship – to recalibrate his nervous system. In that case, nothing Jill does energetically or emotionally is going to help him. She needs to focus on meeting his physical needs first.
Then, after he has had plenty of time and space to heal himself and get his head straight, and get back to being a horse, then maybe it will be time to explore energetic connection and communication again. Or not! Again, Kesia has a great perspective on this:
“You haven’t done anything wrong; own it not as guilt or fault, but as an attempt to do right by him. You are now getting the opportunity to learn to listen to what he actually wants and needs. What that is, we can’t know until you figure it out. It may be physical distress within his body or environment. It may be chemical or psychological. Regardless, feeling bad about what we’ve done, or not done, gets in the way of hearing what needs to happen. You may not have to DO anything. He may just need to you stand back and witness this transition in him, regard him for even more than you initially thought he was. Perhaps he’s coming alive, moving down through dissociation towards regulation, which is incredibly uncomfortable for him. It is not fun to be “woken up”. If the Trust technique felt that invasive to him, then he maybe has some big stuff to move through.”
Since Apollo doesn’t want to have anything to do with Jill right now and all her attempts to connect or come into his space cause him distress, if I were her, I would focus all my energy on improving his physical environment and meeting his physical needs better. Whatever improvements she can make, are better than none. And Apollo will respect her for hearing him and for doing her best.
Here’s one little example to show you how important every aspect of their living environment is to horses. For my herd of 11, in addition to having enough slow feeder boxes under shelter (because it rains so much here), they showed me that I also needed to add open boxes specifically for their daily alfalfa. Juno showed us we couldn’t simply fill the slowfeeders with hay and put the alfalfa on top, because the first time we tried this, he stood both his front legs inside the feeder, on top of the feeder grate, to push it down so he could better get at all the little alfalfa bits! Oy vey.
And then, after I got 11 more open boxes for their alfalfa, Zorra showed us that one of the boxes needed to be moved to a better location – she showed us 3-4 times, very insistent, until I got out my drill, removed the 6 screws and screwed it down again in the place she wanted it:
You can see from this one small example how important it is for horses to be in control of their physical environment. Of course they know what they need, better than we do! They also want to live peaceful, fair, interesting, varied, satisfying lives. And they know what’s not working for them, and what we need to change. So we need to both study wild horses (equine ethology) and listen to what our own horses are asking us for. Then we need to action and make things better for them.
How much is your stuff?
Lastly, let’s take a look at the spiritual aspect. The ‘horse as mirror’ perspective.
As I’ve already talked about above, it is super important to learn how to ground and manage your own energy first, before you try to work energetically with others. If you don’t have your own meditative practice yet, then here’s a guided meditation from my horse Montaro, to get you started.
You certainly will not be able to cloak your energy from a horse, until you can sink your own energy into the ground and enter peace and stillness throughout your own physical, energetic and emotional body. For a horse like Apollo, I would do my meditating and grounding outside his space. I would put a fence in between us, then forget about him, and do my own work on myself.
So perhaps this is the space Apollo is calling Jill to? Perhaps his behaviour will force her to go to the next level of mastery within herself?
I’m reminded of a friend of mine – a wonderfully talented artist. She focused so hard on being a ‘good mother’ and a ‘good wife’. Meanwhile, her true, wildly creative self was crying out for her to connect and move into deeper authenticity with her own soul. She also had two cats, that she never let outside. She was worried that they would get hurt or eaten by raccoons in the area. After 15 years of marriage and child-raising and worsening health (when we don’t listen to our soul, our body tries to send us the message too), she separated from her husband, and moved into her own place. Which she quickly filled with art projects and beautiful art objects – and let her cats come in and out of the house, as they pleased.
When she freed herself, she was able to free her cats.
So the gift here for Jill is to look at Apollo’s behaviour and pretend he is a mirror for her own life, self, soul. To ask herself these questions: What is wrong with my environment? Where am I making myself crazy? Where have I pressured myself, or been pressured to the point where I just want to blow up and deck someone?
I too have been in a place where my own energy/emotional body was so manky none of my horses would even stand next to me, let alone allow me to touch them – scroll down this post for my drawing of what my energy body looked like!
So Jill’s situation with Apollo is an excellent snapshot, or microcosm, of what we all go through, or may go through, as we walk this path of growth and learning with our loved ones.
For all of you reading this, what’s the mirror in this story for your own life? Perhaps it’s something you’ve already been through, or are currently are in the midst of… what things speak to you, or jump out at you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories in the Comments section below 🙂