Minimize Your Companion's Anxiety
If you've followed my work as an Animal Communicator, you'll know it's always about the animal's point of view. How do they see the world? Why are they acting that way? How can we work with their unique point of view to create harmony?
I had an eye opening experience recently. Before I broke my back, my role at horse and dog shows was mainly as a professional groom/handler or competitor. I took excellent care of my charges, and paid little attention to others' animals except to briefly watch their performances.
For the first time, I had a vendor table at a horse show. The kindly managers placed me in an optimal location---right inside the competitors' barn, where I had an opportunity to observe everyone. It was great meeting many of the competitors and their gorgeous equines, from a tiny, snorty Welsh pony stallion who was crushing on an equally enamored Sport Horse mare (let me get you a chair, fella), to leadline toddlers perched adorably on top of patient "baby sitter" horses.
Despite these vast differences, I saw the same issue over and over. Anxious equines. Horses with tummies so nervous, loose manure was everywhere. Equines calling to each other with a frantic note in their whinnies. Explosions of energy: kicking, rearing, sidestepping, breaking gaits. Some competitors approached me with these problems. Anxiety was affecting ring performance. It was causing worries about leaving horses overnight.
This was another first for me: observing herd behavior, outside a herd. I'm well acquainted with herd hierarchy. How horses make friends and enemies, how they find places in their society. But at the show was a different kind of herd. One where each horse was exquisitely aware of the presence of all the others, yet had no way to make solid contact. They couldn't see each other over the stall walls, let alone touch noses, do the squealing, kicking, biting, mutual grooming, playing and advance/retreats necessary to create herd security.
Our traditional wisdom of bringing horses to a venue the night before to "settle," can create more anxiety. They're not necessarily settling. They're freaking out over being away from home, and being thrust into new surroundings. In my showing years, I subscribed to this practice as well. It became clear I'd not done all I could at the time.
What can we do to reduce anxiety?
I spoke with a Lead mare who was lathered with anxiety over being unable to manage what she felt were her new charges, and simultaneously worried about her herd at home. Imagine a high energy executive, thrust into a company and unable to see either her new or old staff. Another mare, more a "middle of the herd" personality, was shaking with vulnerability at suddenly being solo. Imagine a meek clerk being asked to give an impromptu public speech! Stallions sensed competitors from whom they couldn't defend territory; geldings feared being unable to defend themselves.
Their anxiety increased as they were taken into the ring, where yet another herd configuration met them. And yet again, no opportunity to truly connect. Some competitors were clearly at wit's end, pulling hard on lead ropes and reins. I'll repeat what I said in my last article about nervous symptoms in animals. Yanking on them in this state, drives the symptoms deeper into the nervous system. Petting and soothing may be of little use. They need their needs met. They need to feel secure. Neither correction nor affection can provide that.
To an animal, their herd is comfort, security, protection against predators. Whether you're a horse, dog, cat, bird or cavy, being thrust into the show milieu is something like you or I being given a few music lessons in the comfort of our homes, then being thrown naked onto the stage at Carnegie Hall---without first meeting your fellow musicians! Wouldn't you be anxious? Would someone patting your head or pulling on your arm, create a feeling of security? Not likely.
What does work? Besides giving each competitor the viewpoint of their individual equine, I counseled the same exercise: calm and ground yourself. Lead your horse slowly down the middle of each barn aisle, giving them an opportunity to see and have a word with every other animal. Tell them it's temporary; they're going home soon. Bring a buddy, and either rent a double stall or stall them across the aisle. If you can run home and get your horse's favorite hay, local water and treats, please do. Take your horse outside and let them see the ones in the warm up ring. Keep your energy and movements low and slow. Take your time with everything. If your horse lifts their head and stares at something you can't see, let them. Their senses are so much keener than ours. Appropriate variations of this will work for any species.
It worked. I was thrilled to see, from my central location, horsewomen returning from the show ring with ribbons. They smiled at me and held their prizes high. Their horses' energy had dramatically changed. They were now calm, walking with their noses down instead of waving frantically in the air. Stall kicking, squealing and nervous sweat lessened. These horses had had their anxiety dialed down, by their owners pro-actively showing their place in a temporary herd.
You can apply the same principles at competitions for other species. Cats are a bit different, as they're not typically pack animals. However, they're highly territorial. It's comforting for them to see their entire environment. Take a lesson from their love of perching in high places, and allow them to view the show venue. Explain to them that the enclosure they're in for the duration, is their exclusive territory and impermanent. Again, favorite treats and water from home. Make things as familiar as possible. Enter the "animal zone" I teach in my digital guided journeys, and have a conversation with your companion well before the actual show. Tell them what to expect.
By the way, this is an excellent way to train your animal to enjoy the vet's. Calm your energy. Drop into the waiting room "for no reason," and treat them. Tell the receptionist what you're doing, hang out for a few minutes, then leave. Next, take your pet to a place they love. Build positive associations around the anxiety-producing event. Create security.
What if you need a way to consistently calm and ground yourself? I offer a digital guided journey called Awaken the Gift of Animal Communication on my website. It contains a deep, Nature based meditation that engages the part of your brain which usually wanders during such exercises. If you do this meditation a few times, you'll be able to quickly put yourself in the grounded, relaxed zone which connects you with your companion.
All my best to you in the show ring, the vet's office and at home with your beloved companion.
Copyright 2013 Reisa Stone
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It's wonderful to see all the media attention on the dangers of leaving animals and children in hot cars. You probably know by now that it's not safe, even for a few minutes. Not with the windows open (cars are like greenhouses), not with the ignition on and AC running (dogs and kids have been known to get the car rolling---and to be kidnapped), not ever. Just ten minutes of heat exhaustion can cause severe brain and kidney damage, and even death.
I'd like to add: keep the driver's side door open until you get your pet or child out. Is there anyone who has never misplaced their keys? Imagine watching your loved one trapped in a furnace, while you scramble madly to open the door! I once lost my house keys after leaving food cooking. I'll never forget the panic, the frantic calls to my landlady.
Okay. Enough warnings. In the sidebar to your left are creative ways to keep your pet cool this summer.
Give the Gift of Animal Communication
Do you have a friend who's lost a beloved companion? What would being in touch with their pet at the Rainbow Bridge mean to them? Or perhaps you know someone struggling with behavioral issues, and they'd love to know why their companion is acting this way?
Give your pets a hug, and have a wonderful summer!
I have Gift Certificates available starting at $25, to any denomination you wish. I'll mail a certificate to your designated recipient. Please order early, as this season gets busy and mail can be slow. I'm in Canada, and mail to the US can take up to three weeks! Animal Communication sessions are over the phone, so distance is no barrier.
The special offer of a bonus Energy Healing (in sidebar) also applies to Gift Certificates! If your giftee books their full Animal Communication session by August 12th, they'll receive the $75 bonus.
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