Kyle Van Splinter
Is it possible to be aware of and manage YOUR "energy" to improve your horsemanship?
Updated: Oct 5, 2022
Is there such a thing as internal radiating "energy”?
Communicating with energy is always a difficult subject. Energy is something one can’t see; most individuals can’t feel; it certainly can’t be touched; and therefore, there’s always skepticism surrounding the topic. I am certainly not an expert, but I’ve learned how to control and use my own energy with horses quite effectively. Horses are wonderful beings to practice using energy around as they give you immediate feedback. They are like a mirror of your own energy.
In researching this topic, I've discovered that there are many words that are nearly synonymous with "energy" such as: chi, energy fields, electromagnetic fields, aura, morphic resonance, intuition, etc. I've been trying to see if there's some kind of proof that we have an internal "energy" and that it can be accessed and controlled so that we all can feel more comfortable with the idea. I’m going to share what I’ve learned, but please be kind as I’m not a scientist and I’m doing my best to interpret what I’ve read as well as what I see and feel.
Well, I'm super excited because I've learned that scientific research is PROVING there's internal radiating energies within us; so, we likely can learn to harness those energies to influence our horse's connection with us, influence our horse's movement, and communicate boundaries to them.
Finding, controlling, and using our internal energy to communicate as a component and initial start of any conversation with our horses is an ideal. My learning in this area has been gleaned from mentors, attending seminars, reading books and articles, as well as personal discovery with my horses over the years. I've identified over time how to access and be aware of my own energy as well as to use it as part of my overall communication with horses. In the latter part of this article, I will delve into how to control your own energy and communicate using it with your horses, I’ll share some of the skills and ways to find your energy and recognize what you’re putting out there with your horse.
Into the research:
The results of energy can be seen when one gets to watch a herd of horses. Horses survival is predicated on their intuition or what we could also consider to be a holistic energy. That energy might be described as a “sixth sense”. In a herd, there is “dynamic communication with each member by ‘feeling’ into the herd. If something is suspicious to one horse, the whole herd reacts. Each individual doesn’t have to ‘know’ what is going on – he or she trusts the greater good of the herd”. (EQUINE WELLNESS, “The energy field between you and your horse”, Joan Ranquet)
A wonderful book, Zen Mind, Zen Horse: The Science and Spirituality of Working with Horses by Dr. Allan Hamilton provides many insights into horses’ nature, their energy field or chi, and how horses communicate with this energy……ultimately to help us understand how to better connect with them. What’s interesting about the author is that he’s not only a horse whisperer and trainer but is a Harvard graduate who currently holds four Professorships at the University of Arizona including a full Professorship (with tenure) in Neurosurgery. Dr. Hamilton believes that most humans lost most of their “intuition” and the ability to communicate with energy when we developed the spoken word or language. We still have some forms of intuition, but we’re not always aware that we have it: Have you ever been about to leave your house and just can’t shake the “feeling” that you forgot something? But, you ignore the feeling …..and then guess what, you realize what you forgot later in your car or when you get to your destination. That’s an example of intuition.
So back to: how can we be assured that there is such a thing as “energy” or “energy fields” and if so, how can we harness it to improve our relationships with our horses? ….and possibly humans as well?
Energy seems to be related to the heart (and somewhat the brain). The existence of energy can be seen in a regular EKG or ECG which measures the electromagnetic signal whereby information is sent to the brain and the rest of the body. But a more accurate measure of our heart and brain’s emotional state can be found via a Heart Rate Variability (HRV) test. Ellzen Kaye Gehrke (The Horse-Human Heart Connection Results of Studies Using Heart Rate Variability) states that: “HRV dynamics are particularly sensitive to changes in emotional states, and positive and negative emotions can readily be distinguished by changes in heart rhythm patterns, which are independent of heart rate.
The HeartMath Institute evidence shows that “Beyond the heart’s vital function as the organ that pumps life-giving oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood throughout our bodies, the heart also plays a greater role in our mental, emotional and physical processes: The heart is a sensory organ and acts as a sophisticated information encoding and processing center that enables it to learn, remember, and make independent functional decisions.”
Research from HMI has also identified that there are brain cells IN the heart….referred to as “heart brain” which consists of about 40,000 neurons. This kind of makes sense when we think of common sayings like “What does your heart say?” or “He (she) was thinking with his/her heart rather than his/her brain. The heart brain talks to the head brain about how the body feels and more.
HMI researchers also suggest: “the heart’s field to be an important carrier of information. In several studies, it was shown that the magnetic signals generated by the heart have the capacity to affect individuals around us.” The heart radiating information is in direct correlation with the heart-rhythm patterns. “This means information about a person’s emotional state is encoded in the heart’s magnetic field and is communicated throughout the body and into the EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT!” (Epona’s Soul “Musings on Horses blog”)
So hopefully, the information that I’ve gathered here will help us be comfortable with the idea that communication can occur via energy. It certainly helps me feel comfortable about talking about this concept as it relates to the horse world.
Some personal stories illustrating "energy":
I'll now tell you a couple of personal stories with visual proof of utilizing our own energy around horses ….. these examples illustrate properly and (unfortunately) improperly used energy 😞:
A number of years ago when I first learned of using energy around horses, of course I had no idea what that entailed. I was attempting to learn how to “lift” my energy but really didn’t understand when and how to do so. One day, I was practicing with my horse, GiGi who was quite young at the time (side note…GiGi has a very strong energy field herself plus she’s the “leader” type and very confident). Well I clearly lifted my energy, HOWEVER I not only kept it “up” for too long, but I probably also did it inappropriately and presumably at the wrong time. I think GiGi tried to warn me first, but I didn’t notice…..and this was the result:
The next story is about some liberty that one of my working students was learning and practicing with my other girl, Firenzé (who is super sensitive to energy; is innately not very confident; and is more of a follower than a leader). My student was perfecting her “stand/walk/trot by me” with Firenzé. When my student initiated an upward transition to a trot, her energy was too high for Firenzé and so she reacted (see video below). Thank goodness, my student is super focused and always “in the moment”, so she realized what happened and quickly lowered her energy to communicate “I appreciate what you’re doing with me”. The positive change in Firenzé was immediately apparent and shortly thereafter Firenzé shook her head releasing adrenaline and then licked/chewed. Firenzé also got back to being totally in sync with my wonderful student.
Discovering your own energies:
Let me offer a few tips on being aware of your own energy and playing with it a bit when you’re working and playing with your horses. First and foremost is to “be present” and “in the moment”. Authenticity is key when communicating and being with your horse. It’s detrimental to your relationship to say one thing with your body and vocal cues and at the same time be thinking about something else. Your message delivery won’t be congruent.
To learn a bit about the feeling of the energy that you’re sending out, when you’re away from your horse explore some of these ideas (but remember you must be totally in the present to accomplish these successfully):
I have heard and read that yawning releases endorphins and other feel good chemicals and also releases negative energy from the body replacing it with more positive energy. I’ve discovered, that while creating a BIG yawn, one can identify a feeling that occurs in your upper chest and then moves toward your mid-chest and may even feel like it goes down further toward your stomach. If you can feel this phenomenon, try to recreate it while not in a yawn. This is a very relaxed, low, and calm energy.
Dr. Susan Fay, author of 𝗦𝗮𝗰𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗦𝗽𝗮𝗰𝗲𝘀: 𝑪𝒐𝒎𝒎𝒖𝒏𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒉𝒐𝒓𝒔𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒓𝒐𝒖𝒈𝒉 𝒔𝒄𝒊𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒑𝒊𝒓𝒊𝒕 speaks of a "safe & comfortable" energy. To find yours, imagine yourself in your most safe and comfortable space. For me that's sitting in a comfortable recliner cuddled up to my face with my fuzzy blanket (the blanket is covered with pictures of animals past and present in my life). Once you feel that feeling, identify where in your body it is located. Practice finding that feeling in various places without your horse until you really "get it". Then use it appropriately when you're with your horse.
Another technique that I learned was at a Mark Rashid talk. He asked us to stand still and breathe out (exhale), but breathe out further than normal through your mouth. think about breathing out through a straw. Breathe out for an extra 1-2 seconds than you would normally….or think of 1) breathing as much air out of your lungs as possible 2) when you can’t breathe out any more, breathe out more 3) and again when you can’t breathe out any more, breathe out more. He also mentioned that when you initially inhale (in order to exhale) do so without lifting your shoulders because you need to use your diaphragm properly. This exercise will not only calm and relax you but may make you feel more grounded and also that your center of gravity might have lowered. Mark also said something funny that day relating to breathing out: “…some people (most likely: highly stressed or type A personalities) still have air in the lungs from the last century 🤣” I'm sure I was that person a number of years ago.
Learning meditation can give you even more practices of techniques to bring your energy down.
You may discover from these exercises a little bit about the emotional state where you spend most of your time. It’s possible that you live mostly in a calm meditative state. Or, you may find that you’re in a more uptight, stressed, or high energy state a good part of the time. Identifying these feelings may help you to be more aware when you’re in that stressed, NOT “in the moment” state. One of my wonderful interns who is also a very high achieving UF student found that she was living in a very tense, stressful state and she didn't know it. She was so kind to write a little about controlling her energy more in a review about my natural horsemanship teaching: “Working with (Kyle) has also had an improvement upon my personal life because I have been able to apply (internal energy) control over my emotions and energy into everyday situations.” So if you’re actually aware that your energy is high, stressed, unhappy, etc …. you then have the opportunity to address the situation before you get with your horse.
Remember the quote earlier on: “(Your) emotional state is encoded in the heart’s magnetic field and is communicated throughout the body and into the external environment” Bouncing off that thought, when you’re with your horse try capturing a feeling of love that you might express in words like: “I can’t wait to see you ❤️”. It should come from a feeling that you may have with your child, boy/girlfriend or other loved ones. Another similar technique is to imagine a ribbon connecting your heart to your horse’s heart. Your energy will translate as a highly elevated level of appreciation for your horse. Your horse will feel it and connect with you.
Lifting your energy to create movement and to establish boundaries as a benevolent leader with your horses can be accomplished as well. And, there are many other energies and levels of energy. If enough readers are interested, I’ll delve into that topic in another blog installment. Please let me know if you’re interested in reading more about this “energy” topic in the COMMENTS section….way, way down at the bottom of the page
Again, down in the COMMENTS section….way, way down at the bottom of the page, please let me know if you try the exercises and I’d love you to tell me what YOU felt. Additionally, I’d love to hear what feedback you received from YOUR HORSES. Any thoughts or questions are also totally welcomed.