There are two categories of animals in the world, preys and predators. Some animals are both. Horses are prey animals. As prey animals, horses have developed their capacity to be receptive to even slight changes in their environment, so that they can be aware of any possible danger. This is their memory of when they were roaming wild and free in nature. This receptivity takes place in their body, through their sensations. They are constantly feeling and sensing everything around them to stay save.
Horses naturally trust their instincts and are sensitive to the moods and body language of others. They care for the emotional condition of their herd members, as the survival of the herd is a priority to the survival of the individual.
Horses have the exact same panel of emotions as humans do (anger, sadness, fear, joy, frustration etc.), so they easily relate to them. But horses have no opinion about the emotions, they are non-judgemental. For horses, all emotions are considered information. This information helps the horse to understand what is going on and to make choices in the moment. For example; when they sense fear they need to know; am I in danger? Or when they sense anger; need i get out of the way? When we interact with horses, they naturally reflect back to us the information and emotions they read from our bodies. Through this mirroring, they can teach us about ourselves, about what they perceive from our bodies.
Horses also teach us to be more present in the moment, sensing and feeling as opposed to thinking. Horses always live constantly fully in the present. If one thinks about the past or the future, it is impossible to be in the present and be receptive to sensations and emotions that can save you from a predator. When humans become more present in the moment, it actually becomes easier to make decisions based on the actual ‘present’ moment, instead of based on our thoughts or conditioned beliefs. Being more present is something we can practice and learn. Horses can help us learn.
Horses don’t talk with words, like humans do. They communicate with the language of the body. A switch of a tail, moving of an ear, the way they approach each other…, it is ALL communicating something about what they think or how they feel. They can sense directly any change in breathing, heart rate & muscle tension and react to it. In our society there is a great emphasis on spoken and written communication. But thru research we actually know that only 10 % of our communication is verbal. We humans actually communicate thru body language for 90% of our communication, just like horses. We communicate thru body posture (for instance crossed arms versus open arms). But also thru energy and emotions (approaching someone with anger in your body versus approaching someone with joy in your body). Interacting with horses can help us to become more aware of the sensations and emotions in our bodies and what we are communicating to others with our body.
By becoming more aware of the information from our bodies we can often better understand what exactly is going on in ourselves and in social situations, then through the interpretation of the brain/cognition alone. Horses are excellent teachers of this body awareness.