“Do not let the horse know that you are scared” Have you ever heard that saying?
I know from my own experience that I have heard it said out loud by others several times, but I never realised how wrong this statement actually is. Either way it became obvious to me after I became acquainted with Linda Kohanov and what she calls emotional incongruity.
Emotional incongruity – what is that?
As human beings we often have an idea of which feelings are acceptable and which are not. Feelings such as anger, frustration and sadness are often considered as negative and something you need to suppress. Among other human beings we can often succeed in hiding these emotions or maybe the other person will just pretend they did not see it was right there in you. The problem often does not arise until we are with our horses.
Emotional incongruity means that you are not honest about your feelings so to say. It means that you feel one way, but try to convince yourself and others that you actually feel otherwise. It could be that you are actually really scared, but you try to act like you are all cool and without any worries. In this case, seen from the horse’s perspective, your body language and behaviour will not be in sync with your inner feelings.
Why is this a problem when we are among horses?
As you all know horses are prey animals and their lives are very much depending on their ability to sense their predators state of mind. They depend on their ability to sense the presence of the predator. They depend on their ability to sense whether the predator is up for a hunt or if he is just casually walking by. This is also the reason why emotional incongruity is a problem when we are among horses and act different from how we feel.
” A person who is ’emotionally incongruent’ who acts one way while feeling the opposite,
appears dangerously out of focus to the equine awareness system”
– Linda Kohanov
Suppressing our inner feelings appear untrustworthy and unsafe for the horse because they sense one thing and see another. They can not sense what we are up to because we are in an inner conflict of feeling sad, angry or frustrated, but at the same time tries to manage a smile and a happy attitude. If you on the other hand feel scared the only thing you will have to make your horse comfortable in your presence is to acknowledge the feeling. Your horse will not mind if what you are feeling is happiness, sadness or frustration as long as you are honest about it and does not try to act otherwise. In the mind of horses there are no such thing as positive and negative emotions. All feelings or emotions are allowed and accepted. Therefore you should never worry that your horse would not be with you just because you are sad as long as you don’t try to hide it. It is much more likely that he will walk away if you are really sad, but tries to pretend to him that you are not.
Another saying is that “the horse can smell your fear” and from what all that is written above this is more or less true. It is not a smell though, but much more subtle signals and energies the horses can sense, but the saying somewhat gives you the idea of the concept.
I personally found this knowledge to be a huge gift in my togetherness and training with horses. From the moment you acknowledge the sensitivity of your horse’s senses you will also soon realise that this is not only good knowledge, but also something you can use consciously in your training. Be honest to your horse. Let him know how you feel no matter the feeling. He will know if you are not honest with him and it will make him uncomfortable and insecure to be with you if you are not sincere in your presence.
My advice to you to day is to be honest. Especially with your horse. Do not hide anything from him – he will notice for sure. He will be thankful, calm and supportive if you tell him what is bothering you. He will not abandon you just because you are not jumping around and singing happy songs!
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