Musings on Horses

The Way We Feel


Generally, the work with horses and other animals is greatly enhanced by our ability to feel, sense and also see what is going on. This requires us to be fully present and to be able to get out of our heads and into our bodies.

It also requires us to develop, understand and rely on our individual abilities and strengths in perceiving things. The way we feel and perceive is very individual and depends on the person and their personal mode of experiencing and sensing.

In hands-on acupressure work, for example, we use our hands not only to address imbalances in the animal’s body but also to detect and to assess them. So how does an imbalance feel? Basically, it feels different than the rest of the body and also not quite right. And yes, this may be felt as warm, hot, cold, solid, soft and tense areas and in many other ways.  

However, if I find and feel an imbalance it is not necessarily helpful to tell and describe to others what I feel, especially if they want to learn to feel imbalances for themselves. If I put names and labels to that imbalance, students will tend to look for the same kind of feelings and by doing that they may miss their own way of perceiving.

This became very obvious during one of my recent workshops. Two students were independently working with a pony. There was an area of imbalance you could feel on his back. The first student pointed out that area saying: “This area feels very solid.” When the next student was working with the same pony, she pointed out the same area: “This feels warm.” I got the first student to feel that area again telling her that the other has described it as warm. She feels again and she looks at me shaking her head: “No, I do not feel warmth but it feels solid.”

If I had pointed out that area as feeling warm, the student who indicated it as feeling solid might have been so focused on looking for a temperature change in the pony’s body that she may have missed her individual way of sensing which informed her that this area to her feels more solid than the surrounding structures.

So, if I avoid to offer descriptions of what I feel under my hands, particularly when teaching, it is not because I do not want to share what I feel. It is because I like to see people recognizing and developing their own way of perceiving and then learning to trust, build on it and strengthen it.

Learning to understand and rely on the information we receive, certain patterns will emerge that can be put in a wider context and offer precise information on what we are looking for. This takes practice and can be supported by a number of exercises so that our sensitivity and capacity to sense and feel will be strengthened and refined over time.

Allow yourself to perceive what you perceive, feel what you feel, see what you see.