Herd dynamics provide excellent examples of interactions that can bring great insights and realizations for the herd keeper. In my herd, I have attracted powerful lead mares that are seeking a herd in which they can become the central governing member. Watching these dynamics have helped me to understand the concept of affect contagion and emerging energy that can escalate into unproductive states.
Recently, a bright-red solid and energized hot quarter horse by the name of Scotch came to stay at the ranch. My horse Diva and I had ridden Colorado mountain trails many times with Scotch and her person. The two horses, having known each other from previous farms, get on brilliantly.
For various reasons during the time Scotch was here, I decided to place her with Ginger, a four-year-old long red mare full of youthful, ready-to-move energy.
When these two “red” gals were put together, they became fast friends. However, because of their strong personalities, they continued to have a conversation about who was going to be lead mare. The ranch soon went from a peaceful sanctuary to one filled with mares crying and screeching. Once a week, I would go out in the morning to find fence posts bent, gates broke open, and fences torn down.
Keeping the two of them together was no longer working. Between vying for the lead and both having a tremendous amount of energy to begin with, the affect contagion ran rampant and their ability to settle down and mellow out was not coming to fruition. They continued to feed off each other to the point where the rest of the herd wanted nothing to do with them. After three repairs to fencing and additional attempts to help them find their way through their relationship, I finally decided that it was just not going to happen. Scotch had gotten over Ginger and was now consistently pushing her away. This only pushed Ginger’s attachment buttons, causing more anxiety in her body.
There are several pieces that can be reflected upon based on the behaviors that these two horses exhibited in their relationship with each other:
1. Take control of how your body responds. When we do not have the governing power to control our bodily emotions and feelings, it can lead to the experience of affect contagion, eventually escalating to unproductive energy and wasting emotions that keep us in a tailspin. If you are unfamiliar with affect contagion, it is when we unconsciously entrain with the emotions and feelings that others have activated in their system and are expressing. Affect contagion is very common in herds of horses. The two red mares above always feed off from each other escalating their energy and emotions into unproductive states.
Highly sensitive individuals can also experience these phenomena, usually when they have not learned how to set their energy daily and track their inner landscape to the degree where they have choices about how they feel. I teach a practice in my EFLC Certification program that helps people track and change these unconscious moments, called The Four Steps to the Present. I am currently running a special for this Home Study. Click Here for the Special.
2. Two lead mares can successfully live together when they are mature enough to understand the flow of co-leadership. This requires each horse to understand their leadership skills and have the ego strength to step back when the situation requires another’s skills.
In other words, it requires a maturity of knowing one’s place. If one strong-headed individual within a collective cannot have reverence and respect for a wiser elder, this cannot be achieved. If a strong-headed individual also is not willing or able to recognize when to follow and when to lead it also cannot be achieved. The two red mares never reached this place of understanding.
I see this dynamic often occur in the human world, particularly with humans who have horses. There often can be a competitive energy that will arise when one feels it is time to get above another. If you find yourself in this mindset, it will behoove you to ask yourself a few questions such as, “What am I going into competition about? What keeps me from respecting the elder or the more experienced person? What can I learn here without having to get into resistant mind patterns that create separation with others? What uncomfortable energy in my body am I not addressing that would reveal my unconscious motivations?”
3. Things change, so stay flexible. A student said to me the other day, “When I take a horse in, it is forever.” This took me a bit aback because I recalled that years ago, I said the very same thing. Now that I’ve had the experience of placing three “head-strong” mares in new homes, along with trying to integrate a new one into the herd, I realized the naivety of this statement. First, it locks you into a promise that you may not be able to keep.
Second, it assumes that all relationships are meant to be long-term. And third, it leaves no open door for one to hear the wishes of herd members and their cries for a new situation when their spirit and soul is not flourishing within the container in which they have been brought. Although this statement expresses the human’s sense of loyalty, true loyalty is recognizing what is best for all parties when making needed changes for the welfare of all, even when painful to the human heart.
Change did come for the two “red mares.” Scotch’s owner moved her to a barn closer to his home while, at the same time, I placed Ginger with the young gal who bought her mother. She has since been ridden more often, giving her an outlet to express her excess physical energy in a more constructive way.
4. Everything is energy and our bodies are conditioned and programmed by our minds. Both human and horse have opportunities to reprogram how we see and experience the world, leading to different results and often shifting the energy dynamics in front of us.
I was reminded clearly of this yesterday when I walked my dog. We walk along a stretch of fencing where a breeder of Huskies lives. The lead Huskies race across the two-acre fence and then proceed to co-run along the fence line. My headstrong Jack Russell often cannot constrain herself at the sight. She has a complete barking meltdown with her body turning into a whirling dervish (although not nearly as pretty). I often unconsciously “prepare” myself mentally before we get to the fence line. I get my grip on the leash a little tighter. I walk a little faster and think, “Let’s just get through this.” (I am being very real and vulnerable here. Sometimes, the teacher gets reminded of when she goes unconscious or into unproductive patterns too!).
On this day, I had done an hour of meditation and was practicing a form of “Prayer” while walking. I was truly in another zone and my emotional state was one of deep calmness and reverence as I released old emotion. We were halfway down the 400-yard fence line when I realized my dog was walking calmly next to me and the Huskies were walking (not running) along the fence line. Even after I realized it, my Jack Russell still continued to walk calmly next to me. The energy in my body was different and I had unintentionally prevented my “conditioned response” of “get ready for chaos” by being in a different zone through Prayer. This mental state of being created calmness in my body and the outer world reflected that change.
Being active in our energy management is key for ALL aspect of our lives. My Inner Vitality Meditations will take you through creative visualizations that will help you set your space and manage these unconscious energy dynamics that can often create havoc on your daily life. I am offering a special for you this fall. Click Here to see the Inner Vitality Meditation Special.
I hope this blog inspires you to look at your own herd and their dynamics, or to look at your life and the uncomfortable dynamics you are playing out, consciously or unconsciously, so that you can become more aware and proactive. When we start to focus on our personal space and energy and take proactive steps in developing the skills to move beyond unconscious response, affect contagion, co-dependency, competition, and rigidness, we may find much more grace.
2019 ACWH New Program Announcement!
NEW! Residential ELFC Level One program added! In March 2019 I will be traveling to Arroyo Grande California to offer the EFLC Level One program with on-site lodging. This is a fabulous location (fly into San Luis Obispo, CA) and is not be missed! Be sure to check out the calendar page for more details or Click Here to Email and get the Information Document.
2019 – 2020 EFLC Certification Program:
This is the time of the year that I am actively enrolling for the 2019 program. Once enrolled you gain access to the Horse Wisdom Library and our monthly Coaching Skills Calls. Have you reviewed our detailed packet of information for this program? If you would like to Email me directly for all EFLC Certification Program more information.
As mentioned above in my blog I wanted to extend special this month to support you on your path of self-awareness and energy management.
Home Study: Mind Body Method (MBM) Coach Training – Four Steps to the Present
A simple yet powerful tool to use at any time personally and professionally. Package includes: Webinar presentation, a full-length audio interview and teleclass with Kathy. Plus two bonus features: Top Seven Ways to Use the Four Steps Personally, and Top Seven Ways to Use the Four Steps Professionally. Video and Audio presentations, Electronic Files (pdf). Unlimited access. Fall Special – $27.00 USD Click Here for this Special
Inner Vitality: Energy Tools and Meditations
Three powerful meditations to clear your stagnant energy and increase vitality. Perfect for Coaches and EFL facilitators. Once you purchase this item you will receive an email receipt with a link to download your mp3 recorded product immediately and use it any time. Downloadable Audio (mp3). Fall Special – $17.00 USD
Click Here for this Special