The Way of the Medicine Horse
By Tina Marie Barnes
There is a ‘situation’ I orchestrate from time to time prior to the start of my workshops.
I set up the scenario as follows.
I ask two people who’ve not met before to stand face to face in the center of the room.
Prior to this and unknown to the others I will have taken one of these two aside and given them instructions to approach the other and place their hand on the other person’s nose and rub it. Perhaps stroke the side of the face. Pat the forehead of the other.
They are asked to take their seats after which I ask how this interaction made the group feel.
It never fails that the group find the interaction invasive on a deeply personal level to say the least.
The recipient of the interaction always tells about being startled and not knowing quite how to handle it.
This is precisely the approach people take when meeting horses.
We reach in without asking permission and invade their personal space feeling we have every right to do so.
This is counter to every cell in the horse’s physical, spiritual, emotional, energetic being.
The demonstration is the basis for the lessons I will teach on honoring the horse their way.
It sets the stage for learning how to give the horse, especially those that have been drafted into the realm of healing arts, the necessary opportunity to approach the imbalanced energy of the client on their own time.
At the Medicine Horse Sanctuary we manage the herd in such a way that no matter where the horses are when a client or group of clients arrive the horses have the ability to stay away from the client(s) until such time as the group energy has entrained to the highest level possible. At that time the horses signal to the facilitator(s) that they are ready to have clients approach if they are stabled or held in a confined area.
If the herd is out in a natural environment such as a pasture the clients are kept a distance away allowing the horses to approach individually or en masse if they feel inclined and only when they feel such an inclination.
We mimic as best we can the way horses integrate a new member to their herd society.
As someone who has studied domestic herd behavior (since 1981) , with a special emphasis on integration of all breeds, ages, sizes, sexes I have been able to map and identify methods that horses we learned to call Medicine Horses within the ever changing herd used to retain balance in their society.
These horses came from all walks of horse life. Private purchases, our own breeding programs but more than most, some 600 or so over the years, were purchased from the local auctions especially the Kitchener-Waterloo Stockyards now known as Ontario Livestock Exchange.
We were regulars at the auctions spending two to three days per week buying selling and trading horses.
No matter the breed of horse we were able to predict with certainty the methods the Medicine Horses would use to keep the newcomer(s) separate from the main body of the herd but more importantly the methods used to integrate the new horse into the society.
It is these methods we replicate.
We mimic the ‘distance’ by keeping visitors to the healing herd separate until one or more members of the herd signal us to come closer.
In the meantime the herd will be moving in predictable patterns, feeling the energy.
They are measuring magnetic and electrical circuits and capabilities.
Acknowledging the presence of a flicker of pain here.
The nuance of a restriction there.
Feeling restrictions through the heart, the arms, and the hands.
Noticing pain in lower back, knee joints, ankles and hips.
All the while moving here, standing there, laying down and rolling, raising and lowering the head.
Flicking an ear…..yawning…..
Rubbing a muzzle down a leg….grounding heart.
Opening heart to allow more flow of Source Energy.
Rubbing the top of the head on the same leg or perhaps the other……moving energy off the brow and top of the head.
Relieving a headache.
Mitigating the symptoms of schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s.
Rocking from left hind leg to right hind leg…dropping a hip….moving the energy from lower back through hips to ground……passing gas. Pooping. Peeing.
Grounding. Grounding. Grounding.
Moving restricted energy causing pain in the visitor’s body.
There are many movements and combinations of movements the Medicine Horses make in order to restore balance in the visitor. The new horse. You and I.
Equine Tai Chi.
Every movement has deep 100% predictable meaning and outcome.
When the Medicine Horses create balance and ‘groundedness’ in beings within their energy field they feel better.
When the circuits are open and flowing they receive hits of feel good chemicals….and so do their visitors.
Horses are able to individuate and become One at will and they selflessly take you on the journey to One as they accomplish their goal of bringing you into a balanced, open and grounded state.
In the majority of equine facilitated wellness programs the therapy horses are desensitized to levels that curtail the ability of the horse to feel.
Clients are encouraged to engage with the horses in ways that push the horse to shut down the magical parts of his knowingness.
Some therapy horses are trained to move on cue, stop on cue, back up, come close….all designed to give the client a feeling of powerful mastery over.
Encouraging clients to have better self-esteem.
Teaching them to set clear boundaries.
Respecting boundaries begins with respecting the boundaries our equine partners, indeed masters, wish we would respect.
We’ve only to glance a photo of a ‘therapy horse’ standing rigid, ears laid back and neck braced while a ‘troubled client suffering from trauma’ rests their hand on the horse’s shoulder to know that the horse’s boundaries are not being honored or even noticed at all.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Let the horses lead the way.
They won’t let you down.