What I’ve come to know is that horses, like cancer, don’t discriminate based upon our economic status, the color of our skin, our clothes, or job title. What they do discern is how we’re showing up from the inside-out. Like an artist combining a pallet of colors, horses bring a laser-focus to our mind, body, and emotions. They integrate who and what we are into a single picture, offering us feedback through their behavior. Horses suggest insight into what makes us tick and what can also make us sick.
Ad hoc stories suggest that it’s possible horses can detect cancer. One woman told me a chilling story of a horse who kept nudging her breast, increasing the intensity of the nudge each week she went to work with him. After several weeks of this uncharacteristic behavior, the horse’s owner encouraged her to go to the doctors, where tests revealed she had tumors in the very same breast the horse was nudging. Once the tumors were removed, and she resumed working with him, the horse never prodded her again.
While this blog isn’t about horses detecting cancer, the story reveals their innate ability to detect what’s going on within us, including:
Physical blockages in energy: While they can accurately interpret our external body language, a horse’s ability to understand what’s going on inside us occurs at a deeper level. They remain curious about energy that is ‘stuck’ in our body.
Thoughts: Horses intuitively seem to know what we’re thinking, especially if it’s unconstructive thoughts. When a busy mind or negative feelings take over, physiologically our body changes, as does a horse’s response to us. One woman walked comfortably with a horse at her side, with nothing attaching her to him. The moment her thoughts shifted to “he won’t keep following me”, the horse stopped dead in his tracks. Like x-ray vision, “it’s as if they can see completely through us and into our soul”, as one 28-year old cancer survivor said.
When we move to a more positive state, a horse’s behavior shifts in response.
Emotions: If you’ve ever heard that horses can smell your fear, there’s truth behind that. They smell the pheromones we give off when we feel afraid. They are so precise in their reading of us, they can detect the rise and fall of blood pressure even when we don’t know it ourselves. Causes for that are many – when we lack confidence, have racing thoughts, are stressed, anxious, or simply not being honest with ourselves and others.
So, how do these inherent equine abilities impact healing from cancer? First, we need to look at what research is uncovering about the evolution of cancer.
Connecting Mind, Body, and Emotions to Cancer
Per the American Psychological Association, trauma is “the emotional response someone has to an extremely negative event.” At the time these events occur, shock sets in and our body responds with a racing pulse, dizziness, confusion, numbness, disorientation, and distraction. They’re a normal part of our system’s “fight or flight” response.
Problems arise, however, when the effect of such events are so severe that they linger long after the incident. The latest research on stress, emotions, and illness reveal that unresolved emotional trauma can be stored in the cells of our body, create blocked energy, and may contribute to cancer. Dr. Douglas Brodie, MD, Dr. C. Norman Shealy, and former Stanford University scientist Dr. Bruce Lipton, are a few whose research shows the connection between emotions, the mind, and cancer, along with other disease conditions.
Additional research demonstrates that the quality of interpersonal relationships also has a major influence on the course and outcome of serious illness. Horses help improve personal and professional communications because they’re especially tuned into what their partners are communicating whether a horse or a human. But it’s not verbal communication. Rather, they’re taking in what our entire mind, body, and emotions are emitting – all relevant factors into how we show up while engaging with others.
Overcoming the Fears that Grip a Cancer Diagnosis
Recognizing that cancer does not originate from the body alone, yet can impact emotions, mind, and spiritual well-being, horses become undiscriminating partners in uncovering the barriers across these areas. Their immediate feedback creates ‘ah-ha moments’ that initiate self-discovery. A horse’s ability lies in highlighting re-occurring thoughts and behaviors that are steering a person’s life, and not necessarily in a positive direction.
For those recovering from cancer, horses alongside trained professionals, help expose the underlying layers of what may contribute to their health, past or present. For cancer survivors, they help address the fear and sense of powerlessness that often accompany a cancer diagnosis. People are able to increase trust, self-awareness, coping, a sense of well-being, self-confidence, reduce anxiety, while learning mindfulness.
As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and Author of ‘Lean In’ says, “When we are not aware we cannot change. Once we are aware we cannot help but to change.” Horses help bring about awareness that guides people in a positive direction with their health and their life.