There are three energetic systems through which we communicate and relate to the universe. These three centers combine to make up our consciousness, build our understanding of the world, and enable us to interact and communicate with everything. These energetic power houses are known as the upper, middle, and lower Tan Tien in eastern philosophical practices such as Qigong and Tai Qi. Let’s take a look at these three systems and the role they play, for both human and horse, when riding.
Energetic Centers for Communication:
Mental Intelligence – Brain Intellect
Emotional Intelligence – Heart Intuition
Physical Intelligence – Gut Instinct
We tend to focus on the talents of the mind alone. We emphasize words and thoughts over energy and feelings even though the majority of communication comes from the heart and the gut. Studies have shown that only 5-10% of a communicated message is based on the words that are used – even in a spoken conversation. The remainder of the message comes from body language, tone, and energy therefore it is important to become aware of how you are communicating through your body and listening through your other energetic communication centers.
Our minds are constantly full of chatter and thoughts. We put a great deal of thought into what we will say in the future, what we said in the past, and what we should have said. Projecting and reminiscing about communication does nothing to help us communicate clearly and authentically in the moment. In fact, the words we speak in the moment often come out before we think about them based on our emotional reactions.
Focusing on the verbal aspect of communication has even less benefit when working with horses because they do not understand our words at all. Horses communicate with us through our energy, emotion, intuition, and intention. Horses cannot communicate effectively with us through the mind. They are incapable of understanding our words or following our complex ideas.
Horses are non-verbal and extremely sensitive to body language and energy so they can teach you important lessons in communication. Your riding and training will also be greatly enhanced if you learn to work with the horse from a perspective other than your thoughts.
When riding, it is important to utilize methods, such as meditation, to quiet the mind and bring your awareness into your heart and gut. We have all experienced what happens when we get caught up in the stream of thoughts – particularly when they are negative. Perhaps you start thinking about your next jump and you begin to worry and create a mental negative picture. Those thoughts affect your other two energetic systems.
The thoughts cause an emotional response in your heart space – in this case your worry may turn to fear. The thoughts also impact your body – in this case your worry may turn to a physical feeling of imbalanced or insecurity. In addition, the fear can contribute to physical insecurity and worry and physical insecurity can contribute to fear and worry. All three centers work together and communicate a clear message.
Your horse will mirror you and respond to your communication. In this case, your horse may begin to fret, become spooky, refuse the fence you are worried about, disengage his hind end, or become imbalanced. Quieting the thoughts will help break the cycle and allow you to communicate more authentically.
While humans need to shift the emphasis from the mind into the heart and body to become balanced; the horse could use support activating his mental energetic center. Horses are not very good at focusing their mental energy. If we can support them to improve that ability, they will be better able to pay attention during training and retain more information. The process to bring horse and human into energetic balance is quite synergistic and centered around the heart.
The heart is the fourth chakra which makes it the central point in your body’s energy system. Research through the Institute of HeartMath has shown that the heart has a larger electromagnetic field than any other system in the body, including the brain. When we are riding, or in the presence of a horse or human, we are actually connected and communicating through the heart that extends out multiple feet around our bodies. This field communicates our emotions and feelings even if we are not aware of what is being emitted.
The horse’s energetic heart field is even larger than our own. When we ride we are sitting in horse heart energy which has the ability to engage our heart center. Learning to be attuned with this connection is really important because it allows us to synchronize our rhythms in a positive manner to ride in harmony with the horse. We can learn to listen to the horse by focusing our awareness on our emotions and the subtle messages coming through the heart.
We can also communicate through our hearts by cultivating positive emotions and sending feelings through our intention. This is a method of communication that the horse is much more attuned with. You can positively impact your horse’s behavior and help engage his mind to build clarity and concentration. The Institute of HeartMath research has also shown that the heart-waves in one human can entrain the brain-waves in another human.
I believe that we can use that with the horses. By activating our heart energy we can actually engage the horse’s mind to work in a calm and focused way. We have the ability to synchronize our rhythms with the horse and communicate flawlessly through the heart. We must first quiet the mind and be aware of our own energy and power to make that shift.
The third energetic center for communication is located 2-3 inches below your belly button. This center is absolutely essential for riding effectively. Activating your awareness in this area allows you to listen and know things instinctually and intuitively – like when you know something in your gut.
The lower Tan Tien is considered your center of balance and reservoir of life force, energy, and power. Martial arts teach you to activate this area to ground, stabilize, and balance yourself. I like to think of it as your point of personal power and your center for physical connection when riding. It is extremely important to use this center to engage your seat and connection with the horse. This is the center that Sally Swift focused on in ‘Centered Riding’ because it keeps you secure on the horse and allows you to communicate effectively through the aids.
When we engage this center in our body it encourages the horse to also engage his point of personal power. When the horse activates this energetic center it engages his hind end which is precisely what we want in every discipline. The hind end is the horse’s engine and where he generates his power. When you engage this area it has a ripple effect throughout his body and results in your horse working in a balanced frame while remaining light off the aids.
Your point of personal power is central to your physical communication with the horse and your horse’s physical way of going. However, as we discussed, all three of these centers integrate with one another to create the complete picture. I believe that the heart is central to riding, training, living, and communicating. The heart connects the mind and body to provide the energetic meaning behind your communication. Practice engaging all three centers in a balanced manner and notice how your horse reacts. Practice speaking and listening from your heart and notice how your loved ones react.