Fires are raging in Southern California. I cannot imagine the terror for humans and animals. I have been particularly moved by the stories of people trying to save horses, and images of horses being led out of fire zones. Everyone is, I am sure, doing their best in the face of this disaster.
Here are a few tips for those who are rescuing horses, or caring for horses who have been evacuated.
- To the best of your ability, stay calm. Horses are prey animals, and they are reading your nervous system like the professional decoders of human emotion that they are. When leading a horse, move as smoothly and calmly as possible. Yanking on the lead line, scolding the horse, or moving roughly only adds to the distress of the horse and ultimately makes your job more difficult.
- If you are feeling agitated take a few minutes before approaching the horse to breathe and settle your own body. Feel your feet on the ground, the breath moving through your body.
- Move slowly and mindfully around the horse. If they have been evacuated in haste, or trailer loaded quickly and with any difficulty, they are on high alert for the next scary thing. Use the slow, steady quality of your movements to reassure them that they are safe.
- Once the horse is in a place of safety, and has water and feed, take a few minutes to stand and breathe quietly with the horse, speaking soothingly in a soft, friendly voice. Let this shared breathing meditation help to quiet and settle your body and mind too.
- If the horse is comfortable with being touched, softly rest your hands on the horse’s neck, or use some soft strokes (TTouch) down the mane of the horse, or slow strokes along the ears. Use your touch to support the feeling of just being, rather than doing.
- Feel the reciprocal quality of your touches. Remember that as you touch, you are being touched, and are, in fact, soothing each other.
For more ways of making mindful connection with your horse, check out my book: Our Horses, Ourselves: Discovering the Common Body from Trafalgar Square Books.