Having recently experienced the power of close connection and loving touch again, I’ve discovered the huge difference it has made to my health now that I’ve allowed those primal needs back into my life!
They were the two missing pieces to my health puzzle that has had me searching for solutions over the past 10 years.
And it’s helped me realise that it’s not just us humans that need daily or regular connection and loving touch to optimise our mental, emotional and physical health.
All mammals including humans are born to seek connection and loving touch from the start of their lives.
Achieving that connection and maintaining it is central to their health and well-being.
Any new born that doesn’t receive it’s mother’s care and milk will not survive!
That connection extends to the loving touch a mother gives her baby – licking them clean, nudging them for direction, and grooming them to teach about social connection.
Horses are social animals like us – they bond with each other and their herd as a whole so they also rely on that connection for their safety and well-being. Being able to touch each other physically allows for mutual grooming, play, procreation and expression of their feelings.
When we deny them physical touch and a connection with a herd or their pair-bond, it’s setting them up to succumb to a myriad of mental and physical health conditions.
Being seperated from the herd/pair bond either briefly or forever, can be such a stressful experience that when it lasts for too long or happens too often, it will most likely manifest in displacement behaviours such as wind-sucking, cribbing, weaving, pacing and head tossing to name a few examples.
In the long term a horse can become deeply depressed and ‘shuts down’ in order to cope with a solitary life.
In the short term, if the handler/rider isn’t listening to subtle signals such as refusing to go forwards, napping, teeth grinding, head rubbing or shaking, high head carriage, nervousness and general tenseness, then behaviours such as shying, being hard to handle, pushiness, bucking, kicking, striking, rushing and rearing may be expressed.
Some horses will be prone to skin conditions, get colic or their immune system falters. Others grieve to the extent that they become depressed and I’ve known of perfectly healthy horses to fret and eventually die when a close bonded pair is taken from them.
These are all indicators of stress which can be the biggest block to achieving a a powerful connection with your horse. A stressed horse is going to find it hard to relax and enjoy any connection with humans, and vice versa. Taking the time to de-stress will pay off.
So can we help horses experience connection and loving touch so it benefits them as much as us?
Yes of we can – when we have the mindset that enables us to see them as equals with needs similar to ours.
Spending time hanging out with your horses, grooming them at liberty, finding their itchy spots and satisfying that, giving them a massage or other body work, are all ways of connecting and providing loving touch when it comes from our hearts.
Connection will follow – it’s natural for us and them to want more of whatever feels good and that’s where the power lies. Not so much a power that is controlling, but a power that connects two beings to feel for each other and want to share an experience.
From that place of connection, we can then develop a true relationship based on trust and communication so that traditional tools, techniques and methods are not needed to enjoy each other’s company, to play and to have a conversation.
Those that have experienced this will have shared such a powerful connection that it only takes a thought to communicate what you’d like to do – then its up to the other individual as to whether they choose to respond.
I will always remember the times when being with horses I had a close connection to, I would think about turning, or going somewhere or stopping, and my equine partner did just that.
It blew me away, and often I’d think it was due to a change in my body language or position, but when I tested it and made sure I wasn’t influencing my horse in any other way, often it only took the thought to produce the result.
It was then that I realised the power of positive and negative thoughts and how we send ‘pictures’ to our horses of what it is we want them to do – and I wrote about that here.
Close connection isn’t just for our horse-human relationships. If we’re missing that from our family or friends we’re probably going to suffer in the long term, or are already suffering without being aware that this missing piece of the puzzle could mean so much.
A lack of connection and loving touch could also explain why so many people are drawn to interacting with animals (especially horses and dogs) when they don’t have a close loving connection with other humans.
Or perhaps they are drawn to competition with horses in order to get the approval not received from family and/or friends.
In Lissa Rankin’s book ‘Mind Over Medicine‘, connecting with other people on a physical level (not just on Facebook!) is one of the important pillars of enabling our bodies to de-stress and heal. In fact it has been scientifically proven that daily hugging for 4 weeks can improve your health measurably.
So why would it be any different for our horses?
Go on, go out and connect with your horse through loving touch and make a habit of it.
Then look at how they are living to see if you can improve the connection they have with other horses and make the necessary changes.
Follow that by making the opportunity to connect with other people for a hug, a meaningful chat, to care for them too and it will help open your heart to more love and connection.
And that can only be a good thing as I’ve discovered!