As Monday mornings go, mine are pretty special but I got a lot more than I bargained for yesterday at The Holistic Horse & Pony Centre. I was greeted by Wendy Price as I got out of my car and admired her beautiful workplace. Smiley’s Workplace: in Starbucks or at my dining room table. Wendy’s Workplace: surrounded by stunning landscape, fresh air and unconditional love. At this point, I was oblivious to all that lay before. I hadn’t anticipated a huge emotional out pouring (I would have brought tissues instead of leopard print wellies), or the powerful intensity of healing energy that would change my perspective of love forever.
Horses for increasing confidence, healing + autism
Horses are not just for riding. Previously, I had read about PATH (Personal Awareness Through Horses) as I had heard that it helped build confidence in children and was a fantastic leveller for autism. I had also read about how horses had helped heal people with addictions and made a mental note to enquire about my sudden cravings for cake (interestingly the emotional correlation to food cravings are emotional lack. Cake being reassurance. Oh and if you are interested: chocolate being love).
‘Personal Awareness for me is not about trying to mend something or someone who is broken. It is much more about helping people like yourselves become more of who you are. To help you reach your highest potential and achieve those dreams and goals you have.’ ~Wendy Price, B.H.S.I.(T), Dip. Practical Metaphysics, M.S.E.C., B.R.C.P.
This is much how I view the children who come to me for coaching. They are a symptom of something that is amiss in the family system. They are not broken but hindered by something that prevents them from being their true authentic self. It’s not about finding fault or blaming. Sometimes it’s about creating awareness so history doesn’t repeat itself. Clients uncover and choose their own path.
Drawn to a horse who mirrored my inner beliefs
Our group of 4 began by setting our intention. Mine was to explore my relationship with food and how I could better sit with my uncomfortable feelings instead of eating them. Next was how to centre ourselves and be fully present. If you know how to meditate you will be a pro at focusing your attention on what you see, hear and feel around you. It’s in that conscious space where you find inner peace and where the horses can attune to your energy.
We were then invited to walk around the yard and spend time with the horse we felt most drawn to. Immediately, I discovered a sandy coloured pony. Half asleep, he felt calm to be around. I wasn’t sure. I wanted to check he was the one. Forever the doubting Thomas, I ambled around the other side of the stables to meet more horses. One of them, seemed pleased to see me and fan-fared from his bottom and the others were lying down snoozing, disinterested or eating!
I returned to my sandy pony, only to find that his neighbour opposite willing me to come over. These huge chocolate brown eyes and soft face said: ‘Love me, please love me. I need you to love me.’ I couldn’t resist. A sucker for love, I turned my back on the little sandy one (he didn’t seem to mind) and went towards this huge brown horse with a white spot in the middle of his forehead.
‘You need a haircut my friend.’ I told him. I didn’t know his name at this point, but he felt like a male. I later found out his name was Pablo. I stood with Pablo fully present and calm stroking his nose and admiring his deep dark eyes. The intensity of his gaze caused an enormous wave of sadness to rise up in my chest. It didn’t stop there and continued to engulf my whole body. Like watching a sad movie, the tears were unstoppable and they poured down my cheeks.
‘What are you thinking?’ gently enquired the EAT (Equine Assistance Therapist). ‘What made you feel sad?’ Out of nowhere, I rambled on and on about everything I could see in this horse that was hurting. Tears streaming down my face. He was sad because he felt unloved. By the end of my ramblings, he was leant right over the stable door in my arms and me on tippy-toes leaning towards his big brown eyes. Aaah that felt like love. Right there. Love doesn’t hurt, does it? No, it’s being without it that moved me to tears.
HIT – A Horse Inspired Thought
Now what happened next was rather surprising. To the words ‘I just need to accept myself the way I am’, Pablo pricked up his ears and jerked his head away from me. ‘There’s your HIT,’ said the EAT. They call it a ‘Horse Inspired Thought’ and in that moment, I knew where I had work to do. Pablo’s story was rather interesting too. An event horse who had been overworked and not treated very well, he was confused about who he was without that life. He didn’t belong anywhere. Like attracts like you see.
As I share my experience, I hope you are reserving judgement, just like the horses do. Their unconditional love enables them to mirror back to you your most inner feelings. It felt safe to be myself and cry. Often those feelings are held in as they feel unacceptable, inadequate or shameful almost. I’m very judgemental. The opposite of love.
Reserving judgement enables authenticity
When you judge, you are not only seeing the world through your life lens, you are making something good or bad. You might also unknowingly be projecting your stuff onto somebody else. If your child told you they had accidentally ripped their friend’s book, you might have already judged: (judgement often comes from a place of fear) ‘Oh no she is going to get a reputation for not looking after other people’s things. How disrespectful! I don’t want a disrespectful child’ and so on. Then you tell your child off for their book ripping behaviour and then you tell them what they need to do. ‘Well we can mend it or we can buy them another one.’ You think you are being helpful by fixing the drama, but in fact, you are taking away the opportunity to problem solve and make amends.
I recently posted something quite similar on my Facebook page. Here it is again:
If we see our children sad or upset and we focus on their pain, we are actually reflecting back their energy to them and creating more of the same. Are you with me? What you focus your attention on grows so your energy needs to focus on what you want to happen and not what you are scared of or lacking.
This is why we need to see our children (or the people we love) as we want them to be – happy, carefree and secure. When we let go of our need to fix, change, prescribe and control, we shift to trusting that it will all work out okay. That creates a higher energy which heals. The more we try to fix, control or change painful stuff and the feeling of what we don’t want to happen, all we do is perpetuate it with our energy.
Learn to trust and let go
It’s letting go of judgement that allows us to trust that everything will be as it is meant to. We can trust that our children have the potential in them to do the right thing. We have to let go of our fears and doubts. It does not help them.
The horse is a mirror. Sometimes you’ll like what you see – and sometimes you won’t. ~Buck Brannaman, The Horse Whisperer
Just like a mirror, you reflect back to your child who they are. I cannot emphasise enough that listening, empathising and validating feelings as often as you can will play a huge part in how your child feels about themselves.
If you are conscious of this one simple fact, you will find it easier to remain connected to your child. Your child develops its sense of self by how you react to their behaviour. Offer praise at least twice as often as you criticize (and try for four times as often). How many times a day do you find yourself saying to your child ‘Don’t forget this!’ ‘Stop doing that!’ ‘Don’t touch!’ ‘Be Quiet!’ Try to remember and focus on your child’s lovely qualities and their strengths. Start sentences with ‘Remember’ instead of ‘Don’t forget’ and tell them what you want them to do and not what you don’t want them to do. Try to remember to be realistic about your expectations of your child depending on how old they are and allow them to make mistakes that are learning experiences.
Awareness is the first step
How can all this horsey-ing around help me with my children? Ok, well let’s have a think about how you can translate my experience into supporting your children:-
- Horses are incredibly forgiving. They let go easily and don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Horses are deeply intuitive and look beyond the behaviour to understand what feelings lie beneath
- The mirror effect. Make sure your child’s mirror is bright and shiny. Reflect back their good stuff as often as possible.
- They are full of unconditional love. There are no terms & conditions.
- They reserve judgement. It’s not about being right or wrong or good or bad, it’s about loving what is.
- They don’t take things personally. They know it’s about you and not them.
- They see your potential. They don’t focus on what you are lacking as they know what you focus your attention on grows.
- In their gentle and calming presence, wonderful things happen. Horses don’t yell (!)
That feeling when I was with Pablo will stay with me forever. Even though I cried, I cannot put into words the understanding and acceptance he gave me. Wow, what a gift! It takes my breath away still thinking about it now. Your child would flourish immersed in that feeling. I promise you, they would and so would you.
Before I finish, I’d like to thank Wendy and her team for such an amazing day. I’d also like to thank them for being so warm and creating an environment conducive to sharing. I’m sure I will be visiting Pablo and his friends again in the very near future. They definitely speak my language of love.
The second part of the course was about boundaries which are also an important part of parenting. I made some fascinating discoveries about how I don’t set boundaries and how I relate to people I love. I’m going to save that post for next week, so stay in touch.