Friday, November 14, 2014

"Spirituality and Horses ... and Us"

Howdy Friends, 

Anyone who has ever sat with a horse alone in a barn, walked a trail among natures beauty with a horse, or hugged a horse's neck while crying out tears of sad, happy or worry has felt the spirit of the horse connect to their heart. I was about 10, sitting with the horses one of the first nights on the farm I'd been dumped off on like a stray cat. I didn't have any tears, or hope, or dreams left, but I remember it was the first time in my young life I'd ever felt safe, welcome. I didn't know it then, but it was the first time I'd felt the spirit of the horse.
Kessy and me
It would be nearly half a century later while Reiki Master Maxine was helping me that together we discovered my spirit guides are horses. It was an extraordinary moment, though deep inside perhaps not a total surprise.

I've long said horses and humans have a spiritual connection on a level so different than any other. Of course dogs and cats and many animals have connections that are wonderful, but horses, if we let them, will touch and guide us in ways that connect to our spirit, our soul and our hearts.

As I say in my tribute to horses, "Horses Among Us Thank God," – "When I think of the horse's spirit and how it has selflessly carried the spirit of man through the ages I'm awed at the nobility of them. How they have answered every call with strength, beauty and unquestioning devotion.  No matter the sacrifice. Today, the noble horse is embarking on perhaps its most important calling … The healing of man." It is with that tremendous spirit they will selflessly heal us, make us better beings. It is out there for all to see in the explosion of Equine Assisted Therapy programs and centers throughout the world.

If we listen our horses will teach us about patience, kindness and humbleness. They'll introduce us to beauty, connection and responsibility.

Even as tens of thousands stand enduring the unkind, ignorant hand of man in BLM holding pens, in torture barns of the TWH insanity and as other breeds suffer the heavy hand of man's misguided pursuit of fame, money and who knows what ... They wait patiently to teach us, heal us.

Their spirit is calling to us to understand there are things greater than money, fame and ourselves. Riding my mare Kessy alone through the forest she'll often stop and take a long soulful look into the trees. She's not always looking at anything in particular, I hear her telling me, "Take a moment to enjoy this." And together we do.

"Take a moment to enjoy this." Isn't that a beautiful sentiment? Spirits connect, minds and hearts come together. I see it all the time at Heartland Horse Heroes, and Inner City Slicker events when the magic touches the hearts, and spirits, of the young folks. They may not have totally understood, but they've felt the spirit of the horse.

Is there a spiritual connection between human and horse? You bet there is, and thank God for it.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, November 10, 2014

"Horses and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder"

Howdy Friends,

We are all very sensitive to people enduring Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Veterans, First Responders, Police and of course women and children. But what about horses? Can horses suffer from PTSD? I submit they can and in fact do, all too often do. Sadly this is usually diagnosed as bad or non compliant behavior and a wide variety of "training" routines are administered most of which can only deepen the grip of PTSD in the suffering horse.
Kessy helping me with my PTSD with her love ...
PTSD occurs when a traumatic or sustained stressful event or events occur, causing an over active adrenaline response which creates deep neurological patterns in the brain which can persist for decades after the event or events that triggered the fear. These patterns in the brain are a transformation making the person hyper-sensitive to future stressful or fearful events, real or perceived.
Some of our Coffee Clutch and Facebook friends know bits and pieces of my childhood, the unspeakable abuse I endured for over 3 years locked in a room. I can tell you, to this day as
an old geezer in his 6th  decade of wondering this beautiful world, it takes only a single instances of the wrong kind of fear or stress and I'm 8 years old again, back in that horrid room with the blackened window. Interestingly recent studies at Harvard Medical School in Oregon found that adults who were in foster care for one year between the ages of 14 & 18 were found to have higher rates of PTSD than combat veterans, and the recovery rate significantly lower.

I share the tidbit of my personal struggles to help make the point, the younger the individual, or horse, when the original trigger events happen, the more ingrained the PTSD. The more difficult the personal battle to manage it is. It walks with you as an unwelcomed friend every day. Unexplainable or out of context behavior, feelings and emotions simply occur without the ability to completely manage or control. They are as much a part of PTSD as kisses and hand holding are to love.

In my travels I've seen many horses, young, old and middle aged displaying the symptoms of deeply ingrained PTSD. I know I'm right about this, and it breaks my heart. They may not have all been abused, they may have been weaned too young, trained too hard too young, trained, owned or shown by one, or too many individuals who could not understand them and disciplined instead of trying to connect and understand them. They may have been yanked from friendships, or homes in ways they could never understand.

How can we help horses with PTSD? Our interactions, our intent, our training should follow one simple rule, "Ignore the negative and celebrate the positive." And in everything we do, operate from the horse's perspective ... We want to do our best to never be the trigger that drives them back into that horrid room with the blackened window.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry