What I learned about my anxiety from a horse

HorseWritten by Trish

Today I met a horse; I was taking my walk and suddenly I heard clack-clack clack-clack behind me.  I turned around and there was an unaccompanied horse.  Of course!  The horse (which I did not have the audacity to check out if it was a he or she, yet there was nothing prominent in that “area” so I will respectively call her a she from here-on-out) came straight up to me and let me pet her nose.  I was a little startled and had some butterflies in my stomach but all-in-all, we seemed to be on the same wavelength.  “Maybe I’m a horse whisperer” I thought.

So I turned around and started walking back to the nearest horse farm and she followed me.  “Yes, I am one with this horse” I thought.  As the horse and I walked up the lane way to the farm house, she started to become aggressive.  As she nudged me, blocked my path and bit me, I realized that I had zilch knowledge about how to control a horse and this horse was walking me more than I walking her.  So much for my career as a horse whisperer.

No one was home at the farmhouse so I quickly walked down the lane way with the horse following me and becoming more aggressive; rearing, nudging and biting.  I kept searching my brain to find something I knew about horses or another situation I could compare it too and all I could come up with was “whoa”.  I tried it out.  Nothing.  “Ouch” and “stop that” didnt’ work either.

I began to assess my safety.  I checked-in with my body and though my mind was racing and thought I was unsafe, all I felt was a little bit of nervousness in my tummy.  I thought “don’t run, just keep walking back to the road and then once I’m back on the road, someone will eventually come along to find me trampled”.  As much as that was my worry, my body and emotions apparently did not buy into the trampled bit because I didn’t feel any fear or anxiety.  I felt it was kind of funny.

I made it back to the road and the horse continued to follow me to my house.  A car came along with two very nice people who decided to help.  They called 911 and the operator said they would send out someone who works with large animals.  The people in the car then told me they would drive to the other horse farms down the road and ask if they were missing a horse.  The horse went to graze on the neighbours grass and I went inside my house.

I expected to feel shaken and a need to lied down like I do after all of my run-ins with anxious situations and over-stimulating events.  Strangely, I was calm and decided to lie down just because I thought it was prudent.  I should feel more anxious about this, I told myself… my safety was in danger!  I checked my body for the usual signs that I am anxious: rapid heartbeat, senses heightened, lighted headed, ears ringing, the urge to flee, tension, vertigo and floating sensation, feeling really out of control.  Nothing out of the ordinary, in fact I felt a sense of calm.

How is it, I thought, that in a group therapy setting when it comes my turn to talk, my ears start to ring, my blood pressure drops and I feel faint, and I flee the room (excusing myself first of course–panic attack or not, I am always polite), get in my car and drive home never wanting to go back.  However with an aggressive horse who could have hurt my physically, I am calm.  Do I really fear exposing my feelings–myself–and human judgment and interaction more than a threat of physical harm?

I do.

How has it come to this point in my life that I fear being hurt by humans more than an unrestrained animal?

I am completely out of control in both situations, though with the horse I felt that everything was going to be okay.  Call it spiritual intervention, intuition or the fact that I have not been taught or experienced a reason to fear horses in the past.  I had nothing in my life experiences to compare to the situation too.  I completely did not know what to do.  Interestingly, I spontaneously accepted that I did not know and became totally present without any fear or anxiety.  Is that truly our innate response if we are experiencing something for the first time?

With people it’s different.  I have been wounded.  I have been judged.  Though I do remind myself that it is completely up to me to how I respond to these people.  However, I always compare people to the worst person I have ever had dealings with in the past plus all my teaching on how people are to be mistrusted, and assume that every negative experience I have ever had applies to everyone I meet.  This automatically happens when the anxiety kicks in and I act accordingly by wanting to flee.  This is survival mode amongst us anxious types; a reaction triggered by the past and not the present moment.

Could I approach my next meeting with a new person or group from a different perspective?  One of not knowing, one where the past and what I have been taught does not dictate the present moment?  Look at it as a new experience?

With some self-hypnosis work and a bit of mental prep, I am going to try.  I feel with practice I can do this.  I will remember the horse.

No horses were harmed in the writing of this blog.  Only one human will wake-up with a few bruises tomorrow and a little wiser.

Have you had a similar experience with anxiety?  I would love to hear about it.


Trish HurtubiseHi. I’m Trish Hurtubise…the founder, curator and an editor for Mental Health Talk. I love serving those who are relegated to the shadows by society by giving them a platform to share their voice and be seen and heard… hence my passion for working with all the wonderful people who have shared their stories and wisdom on MHT.

You may view all posts by me here.

Much love to you.

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