I was first introduced to the idea of communicating with horses through Energy back in the 90’s when I was on the way to becoming a Centered Riding Instructor (back in the days when Sally Swift was still considered a “maverick”). Part of the mental exercises that riders were taught to use was imagining a flow of energy coming in from your feet and out through your belly button. This was part of the process of Grounding and Centering. It was especially useful in creating long non-restrictive legs and getting people to connect through their core.

I was so interested in how to use Energy more effectively in my work with horses, that I spent a year learning Reiki and officially became a Reiki Master. It opened up my awareness of Energy Flows, and brought my attention to areas in need, and brought me further along my journey of healing. During this time I also studied Quantum Mechanics and String Theory and sought to understand exactly what this Energy was that we were playing with, and where did it come from? Through various experiences I came to formulate my own belief system because, just like no one can really say exactly what Dark Matter is, this nebulous idea of Chi or Living Energy is a purely hypothetical framework. I believe it’s there and that we can use it, but it’s just part of a whole set of interactions that we need to examine.

Over the last couple of decades, I have continued my studies in Equine & Equestrian Biomechanics and Bodywork. I can look at a horse or human and see areas of restriction and almost feel them in my own body. Do I have a magical power to intuit these things, or is it because I have watched and studied for more hours than I can count? When you watch a movie that makes you cry, are you feeling the pain of the people who are in the movie, or are you experiencing emotions because your brain triggered your body to release chemicals? Since studying the latest in neuroscience, behavioral science and learning theory— I can say that I never gave our brains enough credit for their interpretive abilities.

Studies have shown that our brains take all of our experiences and wire connections so we can respond quicker to the stimuli next time we are in similar situations. For example, when our brain interprets light into recognizable shapes, our mind paints a picture of what we think we are seeing. That is pretty awesome. But what happens when your brain gets the information wrong based on past experiences?

I had a chance to experience how clearly our brains can make us believe that something happened that didn’t happen when my best friend texted me late one night. I had taken benadry, so I groggily woke up and read the text and went back to sleep. The next day I thought I had spoken to my friend on the phone because I could clearly hear her voice telling me she wanted me to do something with her that weekend. It wasn’t until the weekend rolled around and I told my friend I was ready for her to pick me up that it became apparent that I had gotten the message wrong. I asked her how I could have gotten it wrong when she clearly had said the details of what we were going to be doing. She said she never spoke to me, she had texted. I didn’t believe her. But I checked the text messages to see for sure. It was there, but not at all what I remembered her saying. It was a vague text that could be interpreted in several ways. I was shocked, I was used to relying on my brain and here it filled in the blanks in a way that caused both my friend and I to be unhappy and confused. She and I had had some miscommunications in the past few months before this, but it hadn’t been clear what exactly the culprit was. Now I could see that my brain was using information from the past 20 years of friendship to fill in holes in our texts when I was stressed or tired.

How does this relate to energy or intuition? Well, it felt real. Just like when I feel energy coming from people I’m around telling me that they’re happy or sad or don’t feel well. Whatever form the waves of information that come to me might originate from, my brain is interpreting the information into something that feels like it makes sense to me. So there is always a possibility of misinterpreting things. And since I don’t always know what I am responding to, I am limited in what I can do with the information. Like with the misread text, I can’t double check something if I don’t know where to look.

Now to the idea of training using Energy and Intuition… I have seen many people talking about communicating with horses through energy. I don’t doubt that they do, but it’s not an instant transference of complete understanding. If my horses knew everything I know, they would have that feed room door open in a flash! I communicate with my animals all the time. I even see pictures in my head of what I think they’re trying to communicate to me. I have two way conversations in which they ask me questions and I answer. This is happening. But how is it happening? When I watch videos of my work more closely, I can see the horses doing tiny little ear flicks or head tilts or taking a deep breath— this is what my brain is reading and interpreting for me. How do I know? Because I can consciously respond to those minute tells and get even better responses from my horses. Horses are experts at reading people. But as great as they are, we can’t clearly communicate if we aren’t conscious of what we are communicating. Unconscious communication is limited.

Today, I asked my horse to flex her left pectoral muscle— and she did, repeatedly. If I was still trying to communicate with my horses just using my understanding of energy and ignoring behavioral science, I definitely couldn’t have done that. Your brain will give you information in many different forms. But what you think, feel, and act out has all gone through the filter of your past experiences. Every experience strengthens certain neural pathways. If you have had a lot of bad things happen, your brain will have a tendency to color everything around you as dangerous. You are more likely to overreact in interactions. And if you’ve never been hurt, you’re probably going to miss a bunch of warning signs that you are in a dangerous situation. It’s great if you’ve been focusing on an energetic connection with your horse, but I think the important thing to remember is that you have a lot of opportunities to mess up when you are not double checking your interpretations with conscious methodology and testable conclusions.

You can feel connected to your horse and still use science to give them the best care and training possible. If you fracture your leg, science has medical procedures to help you heal better than just thinking about quickly healing. Your thoughts do have power and even effect your immune system’s function, but getting your leg put back together using the latest in medical technology will get you on your feet faster.

Using science to communicate with our animals is equally beneficial. Learning Theory works. Try it;)