Great session with the HorseSense UK horses this afternoon.
If you thought you could put any old horse in a space together, and they'd be fine, you'd be wrong.
Just like humans, horses acquire trauma that is stored in their bodies. This trauma becomes a filter through which they experience their lives, shaping the way the respond to stimulus.
For example, when Jim gets nervous and unsure, he nips. On the surface of it, many would interpret that as "bad" and "antisocial" behaviour, but he's actually reaching out for reassurance and connection. Catch the need for connection before he nips you, and the nip doesn't happen and he stays pleasant and calm.
Dainty is different, she tends to be more promiscuous, not knowing when to set a boundary, and often provoking the other horses into responding.
So what's the antidote to equine trauma?
The same as human trauma, safety*.
Safety is something we can connect to, by being aware of the safe space that underpins our existence. Safety always exists, but when we are traumatised, we're not always aware of that safety; we have lost connection to it.
This is where co-regulating with another really helps. Being in the same space as someone highly connected to safety helps to calm and improve our experience of safety, and in turn our experiences of trauma heal and fade.
So that's what I did in the barn today. We made the arena a safe space where everyone got to be themselves and I held the space for that.
Part the way through the session Jim mentioned why just the arena? Why not a safe world? It was a great question, so we shifted our attention and felt for a safe world.