I have no formal qualification in horse therapy, but what I do know about horses is purely experiential. When I watch this clip, I notice the freedom within their relationship. Horses are big powerful intuitive beings. Here, this beautiful mare is free to roam but she chooses to follow and play in a really intentional way. This is a beautiful example of unconditional presence. Neither one of them are being forced, coerced, bribed or persuaded to join in the attunment. It comes very naturally from a place of unconditional response, a desire to be together, to be present without condition. This playful interaction gives such insight. It really reminds me of the parent and child dance, the non verbal cues that are firing at every given opportunity.
When we talk about attachment we refer to the interpersonal bond between a parent and a child. Everything about attachment is delivered through our senses. A mothers touch, her soft soothing tone, the mirroring of the preciousness of baby as she’s lovingly cradled and gazes are held. This is all non verbal, we understand our world firstly though our senses and in time we learn verbalisation skills that help bring into play a more cognitive approach to learning.
This bond helps our children feel emotionally and physically safe and nurtured by a reliable caregiver who will consistently meet their needs. This allows trust to develop, ensuring that those in charge are trustworthy, reliable and safe which helps children to gain a strong sense of the world around them. This enhances their social skills, language ability and their own moral compass as they know what to expect from a relationship.
Play is a huge part of this interaction. Play enables joyful, spontaneous and meaningful interactions to emerge and this playfulness signals safety. One of our leading experts in the field explains "play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects us to people in a positive way, stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates our emotions and boosts our ego" (Landreth, 2002).
I know parenting is hard in the world we live in. We are all functioning at such high speed and getting our children to their clubs, hobbies, activities, filling their diaries up so they are jam packed, and all with good intention. But all this time we are losing valuable time to make treasured connections. We may spend all day with our children but how often do we look them in the eye and be so incredibly present with them that we hear, feel and see the important story they are telling us. These are moments of pure magic that may be missed in the business of daily life.
When I watch this clip of horse and child, I not only feel I may be out of a job as a mum and therapist, but I also reflect and learn so much about the essential aspect of human connection. The felt response of another, the affect we have on each other without words. The non verbal connection of pure unconditional love and responding. A desire to be close for the pure joy of connection.
Being present in our relationships is the most precious gift we can give.