Muse from the Round Pen: Overcoming Fear

“One thing to remember is to talk to the animals. If you do, they will talk back to you. But if you don’t talk to the animals, they won’t talk back to you, then you won’t understand, and when you don’t understand you will fear and when you fear you will destroy the animals, and if you destroy the animals, you will destroy yourself.” Chief Dan George, Native Canadian


Chicago fears the camera. Head high, she is ready to flee.

What is it that you really fear? Are you ready to overcome your fears? Given the focus of The Mane Intent is connecting people to possibility — many individuals I meet share with me their fear of horses. Horses are big, unpredictable, and could be harmful, they suggest. This perception of horses is puzzling to me given the history of relationship between man and horse. I think what most people fear is that which they don’t know – the unknown — and what many people don’t know or understand — is horses.

Horses really have every reason to fear us and many do. Visit any horse rescue farm and you will learn quickly the abuse many horses are subjected to at the hand of humans.  In the wild, horses are animals of prey and though humans are omnivores and have domesticated the horse, there still exists an instinctive predatory/prey dynamic between humans and horses. Horses communicate non-verbally and rely on immediate feedback from their environment to survive. This communication dynamic between horses and humans is why they as prey animals can help humans learn about themselves – how they communicate, how they deal with emotions, how they problem-solve, deal with stress, or set a goal and achieve it. Yes, a horse is a very large animal and working with them requires one to become very present and aware – much like the horse themselves.

My horse Sunny has an overdeveloped sense of fear. Every new experience, sound or object is a reason to flee. People call horses like Sunny “spooky.” For me, his fear has required investing time with Sunny, working together to help him overcome his need to run from that which he fears. This means approaching a scary object like a big red ball on his terms and then allowing him to retreat again. I can’t force him to overcome his fears – that would be dangerous – however, I can work with him gradually in this way to get him used to challenging places and fearful things and ultimately build his confidence up. The experience of working together with him in this way has made me more aware of my own fears, including a fear of the unknown, and what I must do to overcome them.

Overcoming Fear

In her book “The Power of the Herd”, author Linda Kohanov suggests that “by becoming more horse-like in our response to emotion, you can successfully align thought, feeling, and action for optimal performance, enriching your professional relationships in the process.” Horses, she notes, especially those who haven’t been traumatized by abusive human handling, are models of emotional agility. According to Kohanov, horses:

  • Feel the emotion in its purest form
  • Get the message behind the emotion
  • Change something in response to the message; and
  • Go back to grazing or let the emotion go, and either go back on task or relax, enjoying life fully.

The emotion of fear is defined as a focused awareness of a threat to your well-being. Sometimes the threat is a real one – and often it is a perceived threat. To overcome fear and understand the message behind the experience of fear, we must first understand what the threat is and then identify the actions that must be taken to move to a position of safety. What is it that you fear? What are the fears that are keeping you from living life fully with intent? Do you fear criticism and rejection? Failure? Making a fool of yourself? Do you fear that which you don’t know? How would your life change or what would you do if you decided to overcome your fears?

We all have the ability to overcome our fears and here are a few steps to get you started. Get to know your fears. Use all of your senses to understand what information your fears carry for you. Write them down. Talk about them. Listen to what your head, heart and gut are telling you about what it is you really fear. Move close to them, stay with them for as long as comfort permits, and then move away. Revisit them. Create an action plan outlining the steps you need to take to move to a place of safety and strength. Follow your plan. In doing so, you will move forward with a greater sense of calm, confidence and intent.

The herd at The Mane Intent is helping people overcome their fears. If you are ready to face your fears, then book a private session with one of our teachers and connect to your full potential using horse power.


The Mane Intent

March 14, 2015

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