During lessons, clinics and seminars I have often heard teachers talk about bringing up your energy to get the horse to move, but I never heard any of these teachers tell their students how exactly to do that. This is where Awareness Horsemanship comes in. My objective is to give you some easy-to-use tools to help you use your innate energy to effectively and lightly communicate with your horse.
Horses are extremely sensitive, subtle and gentle beings. Yet most of the time that we want them to do something for us, we ask in a big and harsh way, using the same force we use with the humans around us, which for a horse is like screaming and shouting all the time. I want to show you another way, which will have your horse breathe a sigh of relief, improve your relationship, and have your horse happily do what you ask, with seemingly invisible aids.
For a human, it’s much easier and more straightforward to get the horse to perform with force rather than subtleness. Negative reinforcement is what people call it. It means: “if you move just like this, I promise to stop hurting you for a moment or two.” It expects the horse to learn our language. But is that really the best way? If we dare to choose a different approach, horses can teach us great things: to become more aware of ourselves; to become quiet inside; and to become assertive without being threatening. We can do all of this without the use of force and with an energy awareness and respectful partnership that creates a solid base for training and competing.
What is “energy work”? I use this term generally with everything that has to do with consciously using energy to reach a goal. Everybody is using energy at all the time. In fact, you have an unlimited amount of energy at your disposal. However, most of us use it without being conscious of it. Energy used consciously can have any shape or form to be used for any purpose. It is only limited by your imagination.
Exercise: Feeling The Energy Field
Deep breath in and out, then become aware of your body’s energy field by slowly moving your hands together. Start with holding them about 4 feet apart. When your hands get closer, there might be areas when you feel something: pressure or resistance, heat or cold, a tingle, a texture, or even a taste, smell or emotion. Most people can feel something at a distance of about three feet, 6 inches, and 1-5 inches. That’s about where the first three aura layers end. Explore how you perceive your field.
Tool #1: Intention
So how does one use this Energy? It is done with intention. “Intention” is an aim that guides action, it can be as simple as ‘I want my horse to walk from A to B’ or as precise as ‘after 5 trot steps stop and back up 2 steps’. Intention is the way to reach a goal. Always have a goal in mind!
Just being present with a goal will improve your relationship with your horse. These goals can be big or small, and even arise spontaneously. Picture the goal as you want the horse to perform it, but stay flexible during execution. Set the stage, than get out of the way, creating space for the horse to do what you have asked. Use intention to get focused and stay focused on your goal.
Tool #2: Energy Shapes
To better use our energy for our advantage, we need to become aware of it. Awareness is to be conscious of something perceived – a feeling, a thought, an inspiration etc. The majority of sensory input –what comes in from your various senses – is perceived by the brain as unimportant and filtered out, thus we are unaware of it. Only the tiniest part of information, what the brain deems immediately important for your situation, is made conscious and put into context, so it makes sense for you. All the other millions of bits of information are discarded.
By doing the exercise above you should have experienced that you have energy around you. But how can it be shaped? There are three different shapes you can use regularly around your horse: the energy arrow, the soft energy field, and the hard energy sphere.
The Energy Arrow is strongly focused to one point. It is demanding attention and immediate action. The focal point can be right in front of my nose, or out a mile, wherever you need it to be. You can use it to ask your horse for movement in the arena or round pen. It works for both groundwork and riding. Stand or sit straight, with your intention bring your energy up to your chest and project it outward and forward onto the focal point. The more movement you want, the higher and stronger the energy arrow needs to be. All you need to form your arrow is your intention.
The Soft Energy Field is unfocused, non-directional. Imagine it as a soft friendly cloud of energy around you. Use it to approach your horse in the pasture, or when you want it to come to you during liberty work. Let your solar plexus soften, release any body tension through your hands and feet, your gaze is down about 5 – 10 feet in front of you and soft. To make it even friendlier (i.e. to approach a very skiddish horse), point your chest away from the horse and, with intention, lower your energy into the ground. You can imagine putting any unhelpful thoughts or emotions in a ball and dropping it down into the ground.
The Hard Energy Sphere is a protective bubble that is hard on the outside. It is used to reinforce personal space. Imagine a clear shiny bubble around you, like a glass sphere. It is impenetrable. Stand straight, like you do when creating the energy arrow. Start with a small bubble around your body, than with your intention make it as big as you want it to be. You can harden or soften it with your intention as needed. You only have to keep it going if your horse keeps coming into your space. Hopefully he will learn quickly to leave your space, in which case you can soften it up or drop it completely.
Use any of these shapes with your intention, keeping a clear picture of what you want in mind, and before you start using your body. Once you have asked your horse to do something with your energy, you will need to follow up with your body if there is no reaction to the energy change. Your horse needs to know that you mean what you say so he can trust you.
We will discover Tool #3 in the Awareness Horsemanship Tool Box… Mindfulness.