Energy Awareness and Personal Space.
It’s the little things that make the big difference.
Protecting your personal space is important first of all for safety and secondly in terms of leadership. Protecting personal space signifies leadership and is one of the ways horses display herd hierarchy. Knowing when a horse is pushing on your space is therefore very important and it is also important to realise that pushing on your space has nothing to do with the physical proximity of the horse to you. A horse can be physically in contact with you and not necessarily be pushing on you and yet a horse could be the length of the lead rope away and be pushing on you. So what is the difference?
One way to start to explain this is if you pictured the energy fields around you and your horse. Every living thing has an energy field around it. I am not a scientist and what I know about energy is what I have felt, experienced with the horses, read in books and learned in martial arts combined with finding a few people to talk with on the subject. The following explanation, in a very simplified way, is how I understand it today which I am sure will continue to evolve as all things do. I have found working with this awareness extremely helpful so I am now sharing it in my teaching. We are going to keep it really simple, untechnical and use images to help you get the idea.
Energy fields have many layers. They can be different sizes and have different intensities which we can change through our thoughts and intentions. We can expand or contract them and intensify or soften them. To keep it really simple we are just going to imagine ourselves in an energy bubble. The most immediate layer is a circumference around you about an arm’s length away. This is the most minimal distance around you that you need to protect as your personal space. Protecting your personal space is an important sign of leadership with horses and it is one way that horses establish leadership with each other. We can expand, contract, soften or intensify this field or bubble as required or as we like. Some people and horses innately have very expansive and strong energy fields. We can all develop the capability of using and directing our energy more expansively and effectively. Like everything else it requires practise.
If a horse was up close and making physical contact with you and you felt perfectly comfortable with this and were not in any way feeling like you were physically moving or leaning out of their way, even just the teeniest little bit, then the horse is not pushing on you. In this case the closeness feels really good and there is a feeling of absolute softness. Through a mutual but unspoken communication you have mutually agreed to come together and because of this mutual agreement your energy fields have merged. This is connection, synchronicity, unison or true unity as Tom Dorrance would have called it. We have drawn the merged energy field below in a heart shape to remind you that it is through a centered ‘heart’ connection that these energy fields merge.
When a horse is pushing on you, you will start to, even if it is just slightly, move away, maybe not even moving your feet, but just leaning away. This can be so subtle that commonly most people don’t even notice it is happening to them, which is why I like to bring people’s attention to it. It is like our bubble gets pushed back. When a horse’s energy field is expansive, strong and intense it can have this affect from a quite a distance away, which is where you will have the feeling of wanting to give them a wide berth.
Horses are extremely aware of energy and they know when they are pushing on you energetically and they know when you know and they know when you don’t know that is happening. They feel when your energy field is weak and contracted or expansive and strong and this tells them a lot about you before you ever even lay a hand on them. An expansive strong energy field doesn’t have to mean an intimidating one, if a person is centred an energy field can be extremely large and powerful and yet absolutely soft, warm, friendly and inviting.
A lot of times when horses feel worried or insecure they will expand their energy field in self-defence and in an attempt to take control of the situation. At other times when they are insecure they may contract their energy field like when a dog cowers. There is a body language and posture change that goes with each change in thought, emotion, intention and feel of the energy field. The energy field just mirrors the thoughts and emotions because thoughts and emotions are energy.
What do you do if you become aware that the horse is pushing on you? You need to expand your energy field to match the horse, or even just a bit more than the horse. How? You just imagine that happening and have it as your intention and as you imagine it, your body posture will change accordingly. That is how you use energy, with your mind. You just think it. You imagine your energy bubble expanding and particularly expanding it from your centre (belly/ pelvic area). The more clearly that you visualise or imagine it the more effective you will be. Give your energy field texture and density, I often use the expression to students to put more “fill and shading in” otherwise it will be like a vacuum and draw your horse in. If the horse doesn’t respond, get bigger and more active with your energy by flapping or tapping with your arms, twirling the end of your lead rope or waving the stick, but you must be specific and precise in regards to where you direct this energy towards the horse. Sometimes you may have to escalate until you make physical contact with the horse to get them to move out of your space. The more effectively that you use your energy the less physical you will have to get. These physical actions should all just be extensions of your energy which is why I like to think of the stick as an energy stick. Even if you had to step back out of the horse’s way to stay safe, you not only expand your bubble but even more directly extend your laser beam of energy (intention) from your centre towards them as you move out of their way. The secret is being aware of and knowing what you are doing with your energy and using it first before you start using more phases, pressure or physical stimulation. Be sure that what you are doing energetically is congruent with what your body language, actions and tools are doing. A lot of times what I see is that people are not congruent which is why they are ineffective and their horses are unsure.
When you walk shoulder to shoulder with your horse you can imagine the energy bubbles so that you are each in your own space (individual energy bubbles) but at the same time, both of you and your individual energy bubbles are encapsulated in a bigger combined energy bubble. It is through focus on your breathing and the intention to connect to the inner part of your horse that you both connect in that bigger energy bubble.
When we would like to walk in and be close to a horse or make physical contact with them we should ask their permission and be polite and respectful about this, just as we would like them to be towards us. When we respect their space they will also be more respectful of ours. We should enter softly into their energy field and not just barge through it. I remember when catching unhandled horses Ronnie would get us to rub the horse’s energy field at about an arm’s length away from the horse before we made physical contact with the horse. The way that we ask permission and be polite about walking into a horse’s space is to soften ourselves, bring our energy down into the ground, walk slowly, have our laser beam from our belly button pointing down and observe the horse’s reactions as we approach. Stop, pause or hesitate as soon as the horse looks or acknowledges you. Different horses will need different degrees of this softening. Looking down with your eyes and softening and slightly rounding the shoulders will soften you more. The more sceptical or uncertain the horse is or the more that you want to show the horse that you are not intimidating, the softer you need to become.
As you become more aware, you can get to where you actually feel the horse’s energy field with your body and feel the wall they put up when they don’t want you to enter closer. When you stop and acknowledge this it means everything to them and then they often are happy for you to come in because then they know that you know, and that you can feel and understand a key ingredient in the language of horse, the language of energy. As soon as horses know that you are aware at this level and act appropriately they will look at you through different eyes. It is pretty cool when you start feeling that stuff. In my courses we do lots of energy awareness simulations, they are lots of fun and most people are surprised at what they actually can feel.
So pay attention to the little things and start developing your energetic awareness.
*(to find out more about centering you can refer to my centering article on the website http://www.melfleming.com.au/archives/1946 )