Horses are mirrors.

Cate Johnson
4 min readJul 10, 2018

If you ever what to check your energy and how others might perceive you, stand in front of a horse. An animal of prey, horses’ brains have evolved to move away from negative energy and toward positive vibes as a survival technique. There’s no dating of “bad boys” in the equine community, plotting revenge kills, or anxiety about what might happen next year. Yes, horses are emotional and have strong memories, but the here-and-now dominates their consciousness.

If humans are thinkers, horses are sensors. Their cerebellum takes up one-third of their brains (vs. one-tenth for humans) and powers their responses to the outside world with physical movement. They are able to quickly move away from predators while also quickly learn and perform many amazing sports like dance-like dressage, cross-country jumping, and racing.

Punny author, Cate, riding Gus at Leighton Farm in Maryland, USA. ©catebjohnson

Today’s Design Challenge: How might we take inspiration from horses to manage our energy?

First, you’re going to need a horse. Ha, just kidding! The bounce rate on this post would skyrocket if that was for real. Instead, let’s take inspiration from these friendly, furry, four-legged creatures for the following lessons on presence, pressure, and balance.

Presence. The Ram Dass classic Be Here Now might as well have been written by a horse. If a horse is freaking out, it’s because something bad is going on right. this. moment. They’re not spiraling out thinking about what might happen in 2020 or re-living last month. Horses teach us to use our senses — all of them — and stay attuned to what is right in front of us at this moment. They also teach us to practice empathy and compassion when others are acting one way or another. More on that later!

Learn the power of presence from horses. Horses will mirror your anxiety, sadness, happiness, anger, serenity. How you want them to behave is first modeled by you! Think about how this might change our world if we were more proactive about the energy we project and taking a moment to practice presence before reacting or making decisions. We affect those around us.

Take a moment: What are you smelling, feeling, hearing, sensing right at this moment? What does the air feel like against your skin? What can you hear that’s farthest away from you or what’s the closest sound you hear? How is your heart, your big toe, or the hair on your head feeling? Take a deep breath and notice what smells are here. How might the things around be affecting you?

Pressure. When teaching someone to ride a horse for the first time (which I did quite a bit of when I was a teenager), applying pressure is one of the very first lessons. You can’t just yank on the reins and get a horse to move where you want them to go without first giving them a confident kick from behind. Pressure both gets a horse moving and gives them direction (kick your right leg if you want them to go left). If you just do one and not the other you won’t get the results you want. Maybe they go forward, but in the opposite direction you want. Maybe you pull too hard and they actually start going backwards!

Learn from horses to apply pressure and respond to it. When you notice someone moving away from you (figuratively or literally), stop to notice what pressure they might be responding to. Horses diligently teach us this lesson over and over, and not only with physical pressure. You can stop a runaway horse simply by standing in its path with your arms up, putting out pressure energetically by blocking their way. They’ll never run you down…though they will look for a way around you and the pressure you exude.

Take a moment: What pressure are you feeling right now? How might you listen to it to channel your direction, how you’re using your own energy, and/or simply notice what pressure may be influencing your behavior, attitude, or energy level?

Balance. This might too obvious, but duh! horses have twice as many legs as humans do! What does that mean in this context?! Well, beyond them being able to hold up more weight, they are designed to stay grounded (and therefore balanced) much more easily and consistently.

Learn from horses to balance yourself first. Similar to the airplane safety rule: apply your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Often I find myself trying to help someone else before taking the time to stabilize myself. When you get on a horse and are off-balance, you throw them off, too. They literally can’t jump as high and it truly becomes dangerous for both them and you if you try to. It’s such a powerful reminder of how we affect those around us, those we rely on, and those who look to model from us.

Take a moment: Imagine that you are twice as connected to the earth as usual. How might that strong foundation make you feel more secure, confident, strong? What grounding and balance practice can you do right now to work toward that feeling and the potential positive outcomes for yourself and those around you?

One of the author’s favorite wild horse destinations: Assateague Island, Virginia ©catebjohnson

For more on the amazing energy of horses and the benefits of spending time with these creatures go here, here, here, or here!

About the author: Cate feels most herself when surrounded by more trees than people. She grew up in the woods of Maine riding horses and playing in the shade of hemlocks, birch, and maples. Today Cate is on a mission to connect leaders to natural solutions by immersion in wilderness and inspiration from nature’s beauty.

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Cate Johnson

I believe in the healing power of nature and the happiness advantage for humans. I value sleep, co-creation, and love. (she/hers)