by Gloria Lybecker
The horse has evolved over millions of years as a prey animal. Their nervous systems are wired to react quickly to known or perceived threats. The physical structure of a horse’s brain, with its enlarged amygdala, closely resembles humans who have experienced trauma. This gives them the ability to engage easily with those who struggle with hyper-vigilance and reactivity, providing the “neuroception of safety” (safety felt by the subconscious) and intuitive understanding of who is trustworthy and who is not.
It is often said that horses see with their ears. This is true in that their visual to mental focus can be observed by where they point their ears. Yet every movement of the horse is communication: a twitch of its ear, a swish of its tail, the snake-like movements it can make with its neck.
Horses also have huge hearts, averaging about 9 to 11 pounds, although there are some, like the famous racehorse Secretariat, whose heart weighed 22 pounds. Human hearts, on the other hand, weigh between 9 to 10.5 ounces, yet science shows that our electromagnetic field has been measured to be between 8 to 10 feet around the body. Because of the horses’ heart size, their electromagnetic energy field is enormous. When in a horses’ presence, the human’s nervous system automatically syncs up with the horse’s. Learning to tune into the heartbeat and the breath, one moment can feel eternal.
Horses unsurprisingly respond positively to humans who learn to balance their stress levels at equine-facilitated learning workshops—especially when the experience is combined with mindfulness-based, body-centered practices. As a person learns to pay attention to their body’s wisdom, noticing sensations and emotions as they come and go, they can increase their body’s capacity for healing exponentially.
In a preliminary study at the University of Pisa Department of Veterinary Sciences in Italy, scientists are investigating the mysteries of the horse-human heart connection and have found horses and humans tend to couple their heart rate variability when the horse can move freely and choose whether to approach the human or not. According to the study as cited on TheHorse.com, “The opportunity to have choice is one of the new frontiers of animal well-being and, in that way, our very preliminary results seem to confirm that giving the animals the opportunity to have a choice meets their emotional requirements.”
HeartMath Institute presented the research and findings of Ann Baldwin, Ph.D. from a project she led in the fall of 2014 at Borderlands Center for Equine Assisted Services in Arizona. “Baldwin examines how a group of adults, age 55 and up, would respond to the “equine-facilitated learning” exercises Sending Appreciation to Horse and Con Su Permiso (With Your Permission). Equine-facilitated learning, she explains, “involves working with equine practitioners to facilitate personal growth and development of life skills through equine interactions.” Initial studies suggest a possible link between the horses’ low-frequency heart rhythms affecting human heart rhythms. Reduced stress, improved mental outlook, and improved immune response are thought to be associated with low-frequency heart rhythms (which horses have).
Those ready to step into a horse’s energy field will be stepping into the potential for healing to happen.
Gloria Lybecker is a specialist at Healing with Horses Sanctuary outside of Spokane, Washington. For more information, call 509-876-1802 or visit HealingWithHorsesSanctuary.com.