Reiki for equine trauma
Photo courtesy Lexie Cataldo.

How to create a Reiki Space to help heal the traumatized horse.

Almost all horsepeople help their equine partners get through some kind of trauma at some point. It might be a horse we rescued from a difficult situation, or perhaps they have experienced some other ordeal such as surgery or a long rehabilitation from injury. Trauma in horses can show itself in many ways, such as hyper-sensitivity, distractedness, anxiety or even aggression. Reiki can be a powerful way of dealing with trauma in horses, because it’s healing the origins of the issue, rather than just treating the symptoms.

A meditative approach

Although we may think of Reiki as a hands-on healing modality, this is only true with humans. Animal Reiki treatments look very different. For animals, Reiki is a meditative practice that nurtures heart-to-heart connections. True healing starts where our hearts connect.

Because of its gentle approach, in which animals lead each session and no physical contact is required, Reiki is ideal for helping even the most sensitive horses heal from trauma. Some horses may choose hands-on contact during the meditation practice, but others may not. The healing does not come from physical contact, nor does it come from our focus on what’s wrong. It comes from a much deeper place, beyond our conscious awareness: the place of heart connections.

The Reiki Space

Through Reiki meditation, when we connect heart to heart, we can experience a deep sense of peace and well-being, from which joy will naturally arise. Our horses will be drawn to this beautiful space. I like to call this joyful place of heart-to-heart connection with a horse we love – a place where he can heal himself – the Reiki Space.

The Reiki Space is an inner sanctuary of comfort and happiness, where your horse’s body, mind and emotions can restoratively align. It is a place created through compassionate connection through meditation. It is alive with the presence of here and now, and where trauma loses its power, because it is simply dust of the past.

The Reiki Precepts (see below) offer guidance on how we can create this space with, and for, our horses. The precepts remind us to stop and breathe, listen without judgment, and look deeply into the heart of things. Rather than simply reacting from an emotional state, we learn to harness our inner power of mindful presence. The more we stay mindful of these precepts, the more we can begin to experience a deeper and more balanced way in the world. Radiating this beautiful mindfulness can transform and relieve the suffering of the horses we love.

The Reiki Precepts

These precepts are the central teachings of the Reiki system:

  • For today only
  • Do not anger
  • Do not worry
  • Be grateful
  • Practice diligently
  • Show compassion to yourself and others

Mindfulness and the Reiki Precepts

Reiki for equine trauma
Photo courtesy of Kathleen Prasad.

The Reiki precepts “Do not anger” and “Do not worry” point to the power of staying in the present moment. When we are angry or worried about something that happened to a horse, our energy is unsettled and it becomes very difficult (if not impossible) to be right here, right now. Our thoughts may begin to focus solely on what may have happened to cause the horse’s trauma. In this way, without meaning to, we might begin to identify the horse with what is “wrong”, rather than focusing on the positive. This can generate a snowball effect of emotions within us – including anger, worry, bitterness, helplessness, and so on. The horse will sense this within us, and therefore, connecting with him becomes difficult.

Sometimes it’s too painful for us to observe traumatic behaviors, so we might try to ignore them or just “power through” whatever sensitivities or anxieties the horse is showing us. In doing so, we are avoiding the unpleasantness of the present moment and not listening to or honoring the horse’s experience and feelings. The horse can sense this and may shut down or not want to connect with us.

Our own emotional reactivity, whether it’s anger, worry or avoidance, creates an energy that is very out of balance and ungrounded (like a whirlwind). It doesn’t help our horses at all. The more we can be stable and calm for our horses, the easier it is for us to help them shift back into a balanced, peaceful space.

Acceptance, gratitude and loving-kindness

Reiki meditation can help us take the time to ground ourselves, and stop focusing on the negative or avoiding what’s difficult, so that we can just “be” with our horses. This way, we honor them and give them the space to express their feelings, without us trying to avoid, fix or change the problem. This kind of mindful presence is a powerful way to reassure your horse that everything is okay, and that you are here at this moment, whatever it looks like, even if it’s difficult. Accepting your horse completely and without judgment, even when she is not feeling her best, is a powerful healing attitude; she will feel your relaxed, open heart and be drawn to it. When your acceptance of the horse comes from a place of peace – without anger or worry – it’s very contagious, and your horse will derive a great deal of strength and comfort from your presence. Just try it, and notice how your inner positive attitude has a positive outer ripple effect on your horse!

The third Reiki precept, “Be grateful”, holds a key to opening the door to true acceptance, which can help us stay positive. Even the most difficult moments in our lives shape us, help us grow, and make us who we are. If we look through eyes of gratitude, we can see the best qualities of a horse, even in the midst of a challenge: for example, his strength at getting through trauma, his courage in moving forward (at whatever pace he can), and the depth of his forgiveness, compassion, love and joy, despite certain moments of anxiety or distraction.

Sometimes, we want so much to help our horses that it can be very difficult in tough moments to let go of anger and worry and find gratitude. This is why the fourth Reiki precept is to “Practice diligently”. Through daily Reiki meditation, we can practice creating a beautiful Reiki Space of calmness. “Reiki time” with our horses becomes an important healing time, where we can stop all the “doing” and just “be” together. It is a time to open our hearts and connect with loving-kindness. The more we practice, the easier it becomes! The healing power of being rather than doing is extremely strong, for there is no greater healing power than compassion!

This leads us to the fifth and final Reiki precept: “Be compassionate to yourself and others”. Compassion is really about loving-kindness – a way of living that is mindful, relaxed and full of gratitude. By practicing the first four precepts, you will learn how to face difficult moments with more compassion.

What to look for

Signs that Reiki is working include signs of connection or relaxation, including peaceful grazing, licking and chewing, sighing or yawning, becoming drowsy or falling asleep. Even small observable shifts from anxiety to peace indicate big shifts on the inside of your horse! Be patient, as it may take time for him to heal from his trauma. Simply breathe, practice listening, and be present with kindness for your horse. No trauma is so deep that it cannot healed by the power of love, and this is the real Reiki Space that heart-to-heart connection develops within us.

Reiki grounding breath practice

Helping our horses heal with Reiki simply begins with awareness. Our greatest healing power lies not in what we can do to our horses, but rather in how we are when we are with them. When your horse starts to show signs of anxiety, distraction or extreme sensitivity to a situation, don’t ignore it or try to push through it. Start by reciting the Reiki Precepts three times.

Next, practice this Reiki breathing exercise. Give your horse some physical space and freedom to move (do not hold or cross-tie him). Breathe in through your nose, filling your body with each inhale all the way to your belly. On each exhale, imagine your breath can slowly expand out your body, filling the space around you with peace. Feel as if you have roots growing down into the earth, grounding you and keeping you stable.

Keep your mind focused on your breath (breathing in all the way to your belly, breathing out and expanding) and your roots, rather than the on horse’s trauma behavior or any anger or worries about the past. Invite your horse to connect with you physically, from a distance, or not at all. Simply breathe and be here in this moment. Notice how your horse responds, and accept it all with gratitude and love.

Continue this grounding breath for several minutes. When you are ready to finish, recite the Reiki Precepts three times again, and thank your horse for connecting to you in this moment.

If you find this meditation helpful, consider taking an animal Reiki course to learn even more tools to assist your horse.