One of my earliest experiences using with Reiki with horses led me to discover how I could utilize Reiki to help horses let go of fear, and build trust.
It came about after our mare Psyche gave birth to her foal. She had always been a bit prickly but for the most part she was easy enough to handle. The morning her foal arrived, I was fortunate enough to be at home to welcome the birth of her perfect little bay filly which we named Sonsarai Blue Sage.
Over the coming days, it was lovely to watch Psyche with her newborn. She was besotted and doted on her like the proud mum she was. But when it came to me, Psyche’s demeanour changed from a sweet, loving mum to a vicious, fire breathing dragon. With ears pinned, eyes wild and nostrils flared, she’d place herself between me and the foal, and usher her to the other side of the yard until I’d done what I needed to do and left the yard.
I thought Psyche would mellow as the days went by and the foal gained more strength and confidence. But that was not the case. Quite the opposite. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks to months, her threatening behaviour toward me only worsened, particularly if I attempted to approach her, or her foal.
Before long Psyche had succeeded in teaching her foal to flee from us whenever me or my partner came within cooee of them. By the time she was several months old, ‘Blue’ was winging her way across the paddocks like a mini racehorse at the mere sight of us humans. There was no way that little one was going to be caught. We also learned that fences did little to keep her contained. Mum had trained her well. Why, was the mystery.
Time was marching on, and eventually, after trying everything I knew without success, I turned to a professional trainer for help.
Patience, time and a touch of horse whispering…
Gerard, a quiet man of few words, was tasked with the job of catching Blue. After a brief exchange I led him to the roundyard where Blue and Psyche were standing wide eyed and looking pensive. Armed with 2 halters, Gerard stepped into the round yard, and softly closed the gate behind him. After walking just a few paces he lowered himself and placed one knee on the dusty ground, resting a forearm on the other. Every movement was slow and considered. Blue and Psyche were standing motionless in the middle of the yard, eyes wide and fixed on the interloper, both ready to explode into flight at the slightest movement.
Gerard dipped his hat and gazed calmly at the horses, making no attempt to approach them, or move their feet. He just sat, and waited. After what seemed like an eternity, Psyche finally appeared to relax a little. She lowered her head slightly, and rested a back leg. Gerard took his cue and rose quietly, without causing too much change in Psyche’s demeanour. She allowed him to approach and slip the rope over her neck before fastening the halter. There were no pinned ears or wild eyes, just a quiet acceptance. After a few reassuring strokes along her neck he led her out of the yard without fuss and handed her to my partner, before resuming his position inside the roundyard.
After a few more hours of quietly waiting, Blue took her first step toward Gerard. And just as uneventfully as he had haltered her mum, Gerard was able to repeat the process with Blue.
Blue spent a total of six months with the trainer. The goal was to build her trust and teach her basic groundwork. Sadly that wasn’t to be the case. Throughout her time at the trainers her progress was 1 step forward, 2 steps back. Her resistance to any training was getting progressively worse. Trying to contain her was proving difficult as she would crash through all manner of fencing, be it wooden, steel, electric or wire, in an attempt to escape captivity. Putting her in a stable only made things worse as she would throw herself against the stable door in an attempt to escape.
After several fruitless months, the trainer’s advice was to ‘put a bullet in her’. In his opinion, she was unpredictable and dangerous – no way she would ever make a trustworthy riding horse, much less want to breed from her, despite her impeccable Arabian bloodlines. He even wondered if she could possibly be brain damaged as there seemed to be no other reason for her behaviour.
The thought of ‘putting a bullet in her’ was horrifying. I decided to bring her home.
Just a hunch…
Prior to coming to us, Psyche had given birth to a few foals, all of which had been taken away from her and sold. I had a hunch that her threatening behaviour towards us after she gave birth to this foal, was caused by an instinct to protect her from being taken from her like the others had been. This might also explain why she taught her foal to run from humans, so she couldn’t be taken away.
My plan was to put Blue in a smaller paddock with Chips, one of our brood mares, away from the main herd, and well away from the influence of her mother. In the paddock either side would be two other young horses who I’d be spending time with each day. My hope was that they’d be a steadying influence on Blue. I also hoped that by her being able to see me interacting with Chips and working with the other horses each day, she’d develop trust in me over time. I had also planned to spend time each day offering Reiki to see if that could help her build trust, and let go of any fear of humans her mum may have instilled in her.
By the time Blue arrived home Chips was ensconced in her new paddock and seemed happy to welcome Blue home. The plan was off to a good start. Chips had a sweet nature and took to the role of Nanny like a duck to water. Blue seemed calm in her presence and bonded to the older mare easily.
Reiki to the rescue…
Each day after I’d fed the horses and finished training the two youngsters, I’d sit at the base of a big old shady Ironbark just outside Chips and Blue’s paddock and offer Reiki. I was only a few feet away from their fence line but far enough not to cause Blue to run. Once the Reiki started flowing Chips would relax and stand peacefully to enjoy the Reiki. At first Blue seemed intrigued and watched me intently while I sat quietly under the tree.
After several days Blue began to soften when the energy started to flow. At first it was resting a back leg, then after a few more days I noticed her head lower and eyes soften. There was still an air of vigilance but over all she was beginning to show signs of trust.
Feeding time was interesting. My routine was to halter and tie Chips, then carry out my grooming routine, acting as if I had all the time in the world. Initially Blue kept her distance, retreating to a nearby tree to observe, only coming back to join Chips when the grooming was over and the feed bucket was being filled. I made no attempt to catch her or touch her.
Gradually she became accustomed to the routine and retreated less and less each day until eventually she didn’t bother. Although it was my plan, it came as a pleasant surprise the day she made no attempt to retreat when I came in to groom Chips. Instead, she stood by Chips as I groomed, showing great interest in each of the brushes, even reaching to sniff my hand, or my body as I groomed. Every now and then I’d stop and let her sniff without trying to touch her. This tactic seemed to work. Before long she was becoming quite bold and even appeared to ‘ask’ for some grooming. By asking I mean, nudging me as I brushed Chips, or placing her head in the way as I groomed, or placing her bum to me.
At first I’d oblige by giving her a stroke or two with the brush so she could feel what it was all about. Not too much, just enough to give her something to think about and decide it was ok. Each day, whenever she ‘asked’ I’d respond by giving her a little brush, gradually increasing the time so as not to overwhelm her. Over time, I was able to build on that and gain her trust enough to brush her all over her body, eventually including her legs, mane and tail. From there it was just a matter of building the grooming routine with her incrementally.
As we were progressing with the physical interaction I could see that Blue was also beginning to trust enough to relax during the Reiki sessions. She was by now quite used to the energy and it didn’t take long for her to become receptive to the energy. Soon after I’d begin the session I’d see her take her position along side Chips, lower her head, rest a back leg and close her eyes. It was deeply gratifying to see her allowing herself to go deep into the Reiki space.
From that point, Blue’s training seemed effortless, much to the astonishment of the trainer. It was a complete turn around for that little mare. She transformed into a calm, confident, trustworthy horse with a heart of gold. There seemed nothing that she wasn’t willing to try. There came a point where I was able to return her and Chips to the herd without one shred of concern for her regressing.
The winning formula…
I believe it was a combination of elements that contributed to Blue’s turn around. The first was to throw away the clock, and disregard time frames. That took the pressure off me having to reach milestones at certain points in time. Horses will when they will. Simple. Next was calm, consistent and gentle handling. By allowing her to explore her world and the new things I was introducing to her at her own pace, I believe this enabled her to build confidence and trust. Together with the steadying guidance that Chips provided I think Blue was in the best hands/hooves possible.
But the thing that I am most grateful for is being able to offer Blue daily Reiki sessions. They provided a space for her to develop trust in me and let go of any associations that caused her to fear humans. Practicing Reiki also helped me to stay calm, focused and grounded which I believe is critically important when it comes to working with horses. Probably the two most valuable things I have learned from practicing Reiki is firstly, to let go of the attachment to an outcome, and trust that what is meant to happen will happen, in its own time. When you let go of the need to control the outcome, you are more able to trust the process, and less likely to try to force an outcome.
In Blue’s case, even the slightest ‘mental push’ towards a desired outcome could have blown her trust and sent her winging off to the other end of the paddock. Such a breach of trust would have set us back weeks, whereas by being able to just ‘be in the moment’ and allow things to unfold in their own time, I could let go of the need for a result and allow her to build trust in me naturally.
The other important thing Reiki teaches is mindfulness. According to Rick Hanson PhD, author of Buddha’s Brain, “being mindful simply means having good control over your attention: you can place your attention wherever you want it and it stays there; when you want to shift it to something else, you can. When your attention is steady, so is your mind: not rattled or hijacked by whatever pops into awareness, but stably present, grounded, and unshakeable.”
When it comes to working with horses, being mindful helps us to meet horses right where they are. By being present and staying focused on the here and now, it can help us to let go of worrying about trying to achieve an outcome, or from getting angry when things don’t go the way we want. Our energy stays calm and peaceful, and horses are more likely to connect with us when that’s the case, because they don’t feel threatened, whereas they would be less likely to want to come near us if we are radiating anger, frustration or impatience, which to a horse, is predator energy.
In a future post I will go into more detail about how I learned from this experience to utilise Reiki as my foundation for gentle horsemanship, and how it has helped me develop a deeper, more spiritual connection with my horses. I’ll also go into more detail about how Reiki has helped me achieve successful outcomes for helping rescue horses heal from the effects of trauma, neglect and abandonment.
Blue never ran from us again, nor did she ever crash through another fence. She became one of the most dependable, reliable and willing horses I have ever known. And of all the horses I’ve known, she is the one I’d most trust with my life.
If you found this post interesting and would like to learn more about Reiki and how it can help you or your horse, please feel free to get in touch either by booking an obligation free chat which you can do by clicking this link or send me an email and we can take it from there!
In the meantime stay safe and well!