Benefits of connecting with horses during the pandemic

Connecting with our horses is always beneficial for our well-being. But amid a global pandemic it offers even more advantages.

In these times of social distancing and restrictions that limit our in-person connections, horses offer us exactly what we need. They serve to remind us that even in the absence of closeness, we can still experience a sense of connection to one another through our thoughts and energy. If we increase our vibration (see sidebar), we can improve our sense of connection even further rather than ‘shutting down’ from the ones we love during the pandemic. We can continue to feel their energetic embrace, and turn this daunting global challenge into an incredible opportunity for personal and interpersonal development. In this article, we’ll look at how horses can be our greatest teachers as we navigate the pandemic and the deep emotional and physical shifts it has created.

Equine energy vs. human energy

Have you ever walked into a barn and noticed the diversity of energy among the horses? If horses are in the same environment and receiving the same care, why is it that one horse can show signs of depression (head hanging low with a blank stare), while another is alert, energetic and seemingly happy?

After more than two decades of research and practical experience, I have come to believe that horses in captivity maintain their health and happiness through connection and expression. Their energy is greatly affected by the attention and genuine appreciation they receive from their caretaker. If a horse isn’t given the love and care he deserves, he’s much more likely to become a ‘shut down’ horse, expressing an attitude of being unloved, unheard and, in the worst of cases, deemed ‘useless’.

In the human world, the same holds true of our needs. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we face increasing numbers of similar ‘shut down’ humans, with cases of depression and addiction continuously on the rise. According to Psychology Today, the “opposite of depression is expression” and the “opposite of addiction is connection”. If this holds true, it reveals that connection and expression are invaluable components for holistic wellness – a theory that we see reflected time and time again through our equine partners and other domesticated companions.

Furthermore, countless studies have shown a direct link between our thoughts and emotions and our overall health and wellbeing. The thoughts we think and the words we speak of and around our horses carry an energy that effects our horses’ overall behavior and wellness. The same holds true within our relationships to each other, and to ourselves.

Heart-focused connection during the pandemic

In the wild, horses generally stand about a meter apart to avoid collision. In many cases, they value space over touch, and often begin forming herd bonds with some physical distance between them. Ultimately, physical touch is a sacred exchange between horses, reserved for close friendships and intimate relationships. Horses are deeply attuned to subtle energy and rely on this awareness to communicate and, ultimately, survive as prey animals. Social distancing offers us the opportunity to connect with one another in the same way that horses do – on a deeper yet subtle energetic level.

The HeartMath Institute’s extensive research studies show that certain emotions such as gratitude, compassion and love are regenerative to the heart. This explains why horses who have a deep connection with their caretakers and/or herdmates are happier and healthier.

It’s important to recognize that a life of captivity for horses can often resemble our pandemic “lockdown” – little space to move in comparison to the 20 miles they could travel in one day in the wild. With this lack of freedom comes a less diverse herd environment and limited foraging opportunities. Nonetheless, horses have learned to adapt in captivity and, with the support of their humans, can still thrive in a less than natural environment as long as heart-focused connection is a priority.

According to the HeartMath Institute website:

“Research shows the human heart is much more than an efficient pump that sustains life. Our research suggests the heart also is an access point to a source of wisdom and intelligence that we can call upon to live our lives with more balance, greater creativity and enhanced intuitive capacities. All of these are important for increasing personal effectiveness, improving health and relationships and achieving greater fulfillment. In recent years, we have conducted a number of research studies that have explored topics such as the electrophysiology of intuition and the degree to which the heart’s magnetic field, which radiates outside the body, carries information that affects other people and even our pets, and links people together in surprising ways.”

Increasing heart-focused connection through breathwork

There are many ways to connect with the horses and humans in your life (see sidebar) and increase the positive vibration of your heart. One of the most efficient ways is through heart-focused breathing. This type of breath exercise is about directing your attention to the heart area and breathing a little more deeply than normal. As you inhale and exhale, imagine you are breathing through your heart as opposed to your lungs. Breathe in for a count of six seconds, and out for six seconds. Bring awareness to the breath and allow it to flow in and out with a smooth, natural rhythm and ease.

In the beginning, placing your hand on your chest as you breathe can help direct your focus to your heart. While you practice this breathing technique (on your own or in the presence of your horses), mindfully cultivate regenerative emotions such as gratitude, compassion, appreciation and love.

Heart-focused breathing does not require a lot of time and offers plenty of benefits to overall wellbeing. The more we practice feeling good with an open and grateful heart, the more we will experience connection with our horses and loved ones.

The COVID-19 pandemic, with all its challenges, is offering humanity the opportunity to tap into our hearts and expand our individual and collective vibration. Doing so will heighten our intuition, align us with the sensitive awareness of our horses, and keep us together in cohesion as a “herd” even while we are physically apart.

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Fotini has had a lifelong fascination with Horses. Growing up in Toronto, Ontario, she had very little exposure to horses. When she was in her early twenties, Fotini followed her passion and moved to the countryside to explore her connection with the majestic horse. Through many winding roads in the horse world, Fotini finally found her purpose rooted in studying the horse-human bond, horses in art and spirituality and interspecies communication. Fotini is the founder of a unique equine-guided wellness modality; Horse Wisdom Yoga®, where humans and horses find deeper purpose and connection through presence of mind, flow of body and awareness of breath. Fotini and her horses reside in Ontario at Red Barn Wellness Farm where they offer private equine-guided wellness sessions, group retreats, training opportunities and support services for equine-guided professionals and stewards.