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Natural Awakenings Fairfield County & Housatonic Valley CT

Horse Wisdom for Thriving During a Pandemic and Other Life Challenges

Nov 28, 2020 03:50PM ● By Carrie Brady
Horses are in tune with their bodies and tuned in to the world around them. In each moment, horses know what they need and naturally and instinctively incorporate it into their daily lives. 
As prey animals, keeping their bodies and minds balanced is essential for survival. If they wore themselves down physically or exhausted themselves mentally, they wouldn’t be ready to detect when a predator arrived and wouldn’t be able to run when there was real danger.

Horses maintain this balance by practicing excellent daily self-care, masterfully navigating relationships in their herd and knowing what tools to use in times of intense stress. Humans can apply these same techniques to learn how to maintain balance and be prepared to respond to whatever challenges life may throw at us.

Find the Secret Ingredient and Prioritize It Every Day
Salt is one of the essential ingredients for horses to maintain balance. It is important to keep horses’ muscles functioning well, for the conduction of nerve impulses and for digestion. Domestic horses are given access to salt blocks and will take whatever they need on a daily basis. Wild horses find the minerals they need in the plants they consume or, if necessary, by eating dirt in specific spots where minerals are concentrated. If salt or other minerals exist in their environment, they will find them.

Humans also have nutrient requirements—which we often neglect—but the secret ingredient for humans isn’t necessarily something we eat. Each person has specific things that help maintain balance.

When we consider some days that have gone well for us, we may note that there is a common theme. Other days do not run smoothly, but we still respond to the unexpected with a sense of calm and ease. Note if there was something specific that was done on those days. That is our daily salt—the thing or things that help keep everything else in balance.

Our daily salt could be anything: a cup of tea, exercise, a TV show, meaningful conversation, time in nature, yoga, meditation, playing with a pet or a specific number of hours of sleep. The possibilities are nearly infinite. Once we have identified one or more of our secret ingredients for an excellent day, we can deliberately incorporate them into a daily routine.

If one’s essential ingredients are not obvious, experiment with some possibilities. Our daily salt may change over time, and we may need different ingredients on days that are unusually stressful. Identify what is needed in both situations. Taking the time to consider and identify our personalized essential needs helps us tune in to the body, mind and spirit and truly take care of ourselves. We cannot control the external environment but, like horses, we can take control of freely choosing the salt we need.

Know the Human Herd and Assign Roles Based on Strengths
Horses prefer to live in herds where they share responsibilities for the good of the herd. Roles in a herd are assigned based on strengths. These roles are fluid and may change over time as new herd members join, or as existing herd members develop new skills or are less able to perform their old jobs. Horses know what they can rely on from each member of their herd.

A person may be part of many herds, including families, friend groups, colleagues and community organizations. Humans tend not to consider the specific strengths of individual members of these herds, however, and therefore may assign inappropriate roles that lead to unnecessary stress. A spouse or best friend, for example, may not be able to fulfill every role we need when we are stressed. Some people are excellent listeners, some are fabulous problem-solvers and some provide loving, hands-on care, while others will work tirelessly to take care of logistical needs. One skill is not better than another. The important thing is not to have unreasonable expectations for the people in our life and assign them roles they will struggle to fulfill. A pregnant woman would not ask her dentist to deliver her baby, even if she liked the bedside manner of the dentist more than her OB/GYN. The dentist simply does not have that expertise.

We can make a list of all the people in our human herd, including professionals who fulfill specific needs. Consider the roles that need fulfilled when we are stressed and who in our human herd has the strengths to fulfill those roles. Keep the list in an easy to access location so that when we need support, there is a ready reference for who can best meet that need.

Develop Calm-Down Cues
The phrase “calm down” is actually derived from horse behavior. A horse that feels safe will put its head down to graze. Horses are masters of self-regulation. They move energy through their bodies and return to a state of calm by taking action—such as running, rolling, licking and chewing or rubbing their noses on their forelegs, which releases calming brain chemicals.
Humans also have the innate power to calm down our bodies and minds. One simple technique is five-part breathing: breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five, in slow rhythmic fashion. This breathing changes heart rhythms and signals our brain that the danger has passed and we can calm down. Combining breathing with a physical cue may be even more effective in certain situations where we feel the need to move stress through our body. It might not be appropriate to roll or run like a horse would, but we can develop a hand signal or other subtle body movement that we associate with calming down to help ourselves rebalance.

Carrie Brady is the creator of Possibilities Farm in Wilton, where she explores the magical connection between humans and horses in innovative non-riding programs for personal growth, professional development and wellness. This article is adapted from her new book, The Word from the Herd: How to Thrive During a Pandemic and Anything Else Life Might Throw at You, available at

Possibilities Farm LLC

Awaken new possibilities in your life by looking through the eyes of a horse. Possibilities Farm, LLC is an oasis in the Wilton woods offering extraordinary non-riding experiences, inclu... Read More » 


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