Horses tend to mirror the attitude, emotions and behavior of their handlers, which makes them a valuable tool for self-awareness and personal growth. The opportunity to modify your horse’s actions through your own mood management is a free and easy tool every horsewoman can use.

In the fairy tale “Snow White,” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the very beautiful, but fatally arrogant and proud Queen would stand in front of her magic mirror and ask: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in this land is fairest of all?” To this the mirror answered: “You, my queen, are fairest of all.” The queen was satisfied, because she knew the mirror spoke only the truth. As children hearing fairy tales like this, many of us would wish and dream of having something so powerful, so special as the Queen’s magic mirror. Now that we’re grown up, we have put “silly” notions like this behind us, but in actuality, those of us who own, or spend time around horses are in the company of just such a mystical tool.

This mystical tool is one that can detect what we are feeling, react to it, and in many cases reflect back to us the same emotion or energy. Where one finds a constantly fearful horse, one finds a fearful rider. Angry horse? The rider may be holding unexpressed anger, or feel like striking out. Calm, confident horses are usually ridden by calm, confident riders. You get the picture. This can be incredibly enlightening if we can accept what the horse is communicating to us; however, if the horse is telling us something that is hard for us to hear–messages that bring up feelings of inadequacy or “old” buried emotional issues or bad habits–we can feel like we are being given the poisoned apple to swallow. We, like the Queen in the tale, don’t like looking or feeling “bad.”

To understand how horses can do this kind of “reflecting,” we must first understand what makes horses tick. Horses are highly sensitive creatures. This sensitivity has been bred into their DNA for millions of years, making them an evolutionarily successful prey animal. Their lives depend on being able to read body language, to notice and interpret what seems to be imperceptible signals from each other. This enables them to quickly escape from danger and or death.

(“Horse As Mirror” was originally published in COWGIRL’s new Oct/Nov 2013.)