In my last article I talked about how horses are teachers for humans in areas of personal, emotional and spiritual growth. What a person holds emotionally in the body, and mentally in the mind, affects how a horse responds to them. Interacting with a horse on the ground can teach a person a tremendous amount about them selves (if one is willing to listen).
Horses also serve humans when they are ridden. For years now therapeutic riding centers have employed horses to carry mentally, developmentally or physically disabled children and adults on their backs as a method for healing. The power of the horse to heal is not mystical, but is directly connected to the motion created when a rider sits on a horse’s back. The rider benefits as their hip and pelvic area begins to follow the flow of the horse, moving side to side. With each of the horse’s stride the rider’s hips shift back and forth pumping spinal fluid through the spinal column. The spinal fluid then flows through the nervous system and stimulates the brain and all of the nerve endings of the limbs of the rider.
In my work with healthy adults I offer ‘Integrative Riding Sessions.’ In these sessions the client rides the horse with only a bareback pad. The back and forth rocking of the hips stimulates the spinal column and helps the rider become more body centered and integrated from head to toe. Through a series of movement that include the upper torso and arms, is accompanied by the breath, clients reconnect to parts of their body that they may have become disconnected from due to trauma, chronic pain, accidents or lack of exercise. For those who are more metaphysically oriented the rocking opens the energetic system of the body bringing flow through the chakra centers. The whole body comes into higher levels of awareness and openness.
During the Integrative Riding Sessions I also encourage clients to create positive affirming statements to verbalize as they ride and to lock into their mind. With each stride of the horse the rider’s hips rock back and forth. As the hips are rocked each side of the brain is activated. The combination of speaking the affirmation while allowing the hips to freely rotate on the horseback plants the statement into the left and right sides of the brain.
My horse Moon is an excellent facilitator of the Integrative Riding Sessions as he is very grounded in his nature and takes great pride carrying a rider in this way. Often during these sessions his head will drop low and he will give signs of relaxation through licking his lips and yawning. He has helped individuals release fears, old traumas, and then embrace in their imagination what they most desire.
As I write this I think how ridiculous this must sound, that a horse could help a human let go of their fears and find their confidence through activating the nervous system. If you have the unexplainable connection to animals, you probably understand their innate ability to be fully present and to connect us to our well being in a ways that many of our human companions cannot. To feel and watch the transformation of clients is palpable. To experience it is often indescribable. The horses keep giving in ways that we are just beginning to understand.