Now that things are beginning to level out with the COVID pandemic, many of us are finally able to do something we haven’t done for over a year – greet our families and friends face to face instead of just over Zoom or through a window.
Humans are wired to exist in groups, and despite the communication technology available to us, we still crave human contact. There’s nothing quite like seeing a grandmother hugging her grandchildren for the first time in a year, or a parent coming home after months in the hospital. These stories have such a huge impact on us because we understand just how much we rely on the connection we have with our own friends and families.
Herd Horse Behavior
Horses also evolved as herd/community animals. Whether literally depending on each other for their survival in the wild, or hanging out with one of their buddies in a field – horses need this contact as well. This photo, Cuddle Up Boys demonstrates perfectly how horses stick close to each other when possible. For wild horses, there really is safety in numbers as their herd works together to stay safe. While some sleep, others are on watch. They have an interdependency that’s developed over millennia.
Today, some of our domestic horses miss out on being connected with a herd. Whether they’re owned by someone with no other horses, or turned out on their own for various reasons, a solitary horse can be an unhappy horse. They rely on us to be their “herd”. We supply water, and food, and safety, and companionship.
But, we get just as much out of the relationship as our horses do – possibly more!
When we’re dealing with stress (hello, 2020?), being grounded can help keep us mentally strong and healthy. Whether you choose meditation, yoga, gardening or walks in the woods – we need an activity that can help us release some of the stress that builds up in our bodies – even when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic!
Spending time with horses is probably one of the best ways possible to ground yourself and get in touch with the part of you that can relax and just breathe. Horses have a wonderful, calm presence, and even petting a silky neck or scratching on your horse’s favorite itchy spot – simply engaging with them can help our own flight, fight, or freeze reflexes begin to calm down. When a horse drops his head, or sighs, licks his lips or blinks, it’s a sign that he’s relaxing – and that relaxation seems to travel right to our hearts, allowing us to take a deep breath and relax as well.
If your horse could teach you a few tips for beating anxiety, they would probably be:
- Live right here, right now. Yesterday is done, and tomorrow is still in the future. If you spend too much time in the past or the future, you miss out on the wonderful moment that is the present.
- Together is better. Often, horses in a field together will stand next to each other facing in opposite directions. This way the tail of one horse keep the flies off the face of the other horse. It’s a perfectly simple, and simply perfect system.
- Stop trying so hard and just be. A horse never worries if it’s being a horse in the wrong way. It doesn’t feel the need to compare it’s body to the bodies of other horses, it doesn’t worry about what might happen, it simply is.
And that’s probably the best lesson we could ever learn.
Jody Miller is a professional photographer specializing in Horse Photography, Equine Photography, and Equestrian photography. Her work can be viewed online here in her gallery section, and she is also featured at these Arizona Galleries: Van Gogh’s Ear Gallery on Whiskey Row in Prescott, AZ and Coops Coffee House at Talking Rock Ranch. Arizona Downs OTB Room offers few of my Canvas work and several images are also available at The Phippen Western Art Museum