Today was day one of my first equine facilitator clinic with Greg Kersten at the O.K. Corral Series in Reno, NV. I learned today that the “O” stands for “observe” and the “K” stands for “knowledge.” Today’s focus was around non-verbal body language/energy and how horses and humans move in and out of pressure and pain (otherwise known as a “re-circle”)
Have you ever brought awareness to your own body language and energy when you are approaching another person or animal for that matter? Do you notice another’s body language when you are approaching? What happens for you when you are being approached by another?
In today’s lesson I learned how horses, as prey animals, survive and work together in harmony as a herd. When the herd senses “pressure” from another herd member or an outside force (unfamiliar, unexpected and new stimuli) they move away from the pressure until the pressure subsides. They then stop and re-evaluate their safety before deciding what their next steps will be. Many times their next step will be to go back to what they were doing which is usually grazing or it may be to approach what scared them in the first place. This is because horses have a natural sense of curiosity which causes them to move into the pain that comes from the pressure/fear rather than continue to run away from it. This process is called the “Re-circle.” How do you as a human re-circle?
How can the horses be a mirror for us in an experiential way? This is what equine assisted learning and psychotherapy is all about. During an exercise today in which 3 of us where asked to take two horses over an obstacle without touching them, talking to each other, using any forms of manipulation with the horse (treats/food) and without using a halter. As I began this exercise, my energy was pretty big and the three of us were using sticks from the pasture as extensions to our arms. The horses were running and not very calm matching the pressure of our energy. Our wonderful facilitator came to the rescue and suggested a “re-circle” for us humans and we had to do it without words. I was leading us so I motioned to put down our arm extensions, pause, breathe. During our re-circle we were evaluating without words, sensing into our own energies. Without words, I was able with my body language to soften the other two. This is how the herd dynamic works. When we moved back in with softer energy and slower movements, we were able within 10 minutes to get both horses over the obstacle. This process was completely experiential of what was happening in the moment and using the re-circle philosophy/action helped a great deal. Horses are amazing teachers and I have so much gratitude for them.