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What a one-eyed horse taught me about myself

As the sun rose on Monday morning, I could see the silhouettes of the mountain range standing proud on the horizon. The vines were empty now as the Merlot and Semillon were being transformed into some of Australia’s best wines. I stepped out onto the lawn to hear the grass crackle beneath my feet as the frost broke beneath me. I realised that we were no longer in Townsville. As I strolled through the paddock, an eerie figure emerged from the morning fog. As I went in a little closer a chill came up my spine as if someone had walked on my grave. I felt the 700kg horse reach out to me with its long nose gently nuzzling my cheek. I felt the immediate connection and for a moment I was at entirely at peace. Then he turned his head and I immediately recoiled. The emotions running through my body were immense, but it was fear that leapt out of the starting blocks first. I gathered up the courage to reconnect. It was in this moment that I saw the true devastation this animal had experienced. It was now that I could see “Maestro’s” skeletal eye socket emptily glaring at me from what would have been his right eye. I realised then that this one-eyed horse would teach me more about myself than I could ever achieve on my own.

I have just come back from an equine development program where I spent the week learning about me. When I was first introduced to the idea that working with horses could help me become more self-aware, understand my emotions better and learn how to live in the moment, I thought this was nothing more than pseudo-science like phrenology and flat earthers. I could never have been more wrong. Over the week I found that my energy, emotions and state of mind had a direct impact on how Maestro interacted with me. I also found that my learnings also applied to the people I work, live and interact with every day. What I worked out is that my energy not only affects me but everyone else around me.

So how did it work?

In the wild horses are a herd animal and prey to carnivores. They don’t ever think about the future because that has no evolutionary advantage for them. You will you never see a horse contemplating whether they should eat hay in this paddock or the hay from another paddock. They live moment to moment, highly attuned to what is going on around them. Like all herd animals they work together to keep safe. When one horse’s ears prick up because they hear a noise that might indicate danger, the other horses do the same. In a way they are like meerkats except you won’t see a herd of 600kg horses standing up on their back legs in anticipation of danger.

When it comes to communicating, horses have strong connections to all their senses. However, it’s not entirely clear how horses are so intuitive to the rousing’s of their environment. Some call it a sixth sense and some call it the horse’s energy field. Either way there is something going on that we can’t quite quantify with science yet. What we do know is that horses have a way of connecting with humans on a very personal level.

As Maestro only had one eye, I felt we were at a disadvantage. Again, this was wrong. Maestro was highly attuned to the energy around him and was able to pick up my emotional state no matter how much I tried to hide it. Over the four days Maestro would mirror my emotional state and show me in real time what it was that I was really feeling. For instance, when I was anxious, Maestro would be jumpy and impatient. When I was frustrated, Maestro would bite me and push back on my commands. When I was calm and happy, I could lead him around an obstacle course without a lead. Over the four days I was able to see in real time the impact my emotional state had on those around me.

So how does this translate to my personal and working life?

As Maestro was able to reflect my emotional state it became easy to see what I was really thinking about. It was like holding a mirror up to my soul seeing all the imperfections and all the beauty at the same time. Very confronting but extremely enlightening. Two things I learnt about myself were:

  1. Most of my energy was focussing on what’s next. I was always looking around the corner and thinking about the job I needed to do next. I rarely lived for the moment. This is true in both my work and personal life. I rarely stop to smell the roses. I have my sights set firmly on the goal and once that’s done, I’m onto a new one. It’s no wonder I feel anxious a lot of the time; I’m always thinking about tomorrow. The thing about this state of mind is that your spending so much energy working that you can overlook some of the finer details. It also takes a lot of nervous energy looking towards the future. You are always worrying about things that are yet to happen.

If you are constantly focussed on the world of tomorrow, worried about all the things that need to be done, you need to make time in your day to bring yourself back to the present. One way to do this is:

    • Stop what you’re doing, take three deep slow breaths and then list five things you can see.
    • Take another deep breath and list five things you can hear.
    • Take another deep breath and list five things you can feel
    • Take three slow deep breaths and now you’re done.

I call this my Maestro moment and it is now scheduled into my daily routine and is making a huge difference to my stress levels.

  1. I have always thought I was great at hiding my true emotional state. I was wrong. Whilst on the surface I would smile and come across as though everything was going well, this is not what others were experiencing. My emotions were in fact leaking out and impacting those around me. It also meant that I wasn’t acknowledging how I was feeling. It was like I was a pressure cooker at full capacity, still trying to push more things in. Eventually it would blow. Holding back your emotions has huge physical and psychological health implications.

If you notice that you are trying to put on a smile even though you know you don’t feel happy, you may benefit from finding a way to express what is really going on. I know people who keep a mood diary as a way to recognise how they are going. I have started paying attention to what I am feeling moment to moment and acknowledging it for what it is. They say whatever you resist will persist – so don’t fight it, just name it.

What we all can learn from my one-eyed beauty is to take the time to smell the roses. It may sound counter intuitive but going slow, makes you more productive. This also allows us to live for today and not constantly looking towards tomorrow. When we do this, we reduce the level of stress and anxiety we allow into our lives. It’s also important that we recognise our feelings and emotions and that by denying them, we are putting undue pressure on our mental health. Finally recognising how we feel at any given moment is not only the cornerstone of emotional intelligence, it is also a great way to understand how our emotions impact our decision making, interactions with others and our personal relationships.

Create opportunities every day to experience your own Maestro Moments. By doing so you’ll find a reduction in stress and anxiety and experience more joy in your lives.

If your interested in learning how horses can help you and your team contact Scott today on 07 4772 3800 or email us.