My friend Devon is a counselor and has three horses that she uses to do equine-assisted therapy. The first time I visited her farm, she took me out into the pasture to meet the horses. They’re beautiful, friendly, intelligent creatures, and each one brings something special and unique to the therapy that she provides.
But there is one who is just special. Cain is a big, black horse with an interesting life story. In a nutshell, he’s overcome a difficult past and is a survivor – like many of her clients. Now he’s an amazing therapy horse. “He’s like a big puppy,” says Devon, when describing him to those who haven’t met him. “He’s the horse who will change your soul.”
When my eyes fixed on Cain, I was in awe. In love! Every bit of stress and frustration that I’d accumulated throughout the day and carried into the pasture with me was suddenly gone. I wanted nothing more than to meet this majestic horse and become his friend. Apparently, it was mutual. Cain walked right up to me, sniffed my face, and rested his head onto my shoulder.
“Ah,” said Devon, “he likes you. He’s giving you a hug.”
I put my arms around his neck, and he turned his head, nudging me closer to him. His nose grazed my face.
“And a kiss, too!” She said.
If you’ve been around horses, or even if you’ve just seen any horse movies lately, you know – they’re highly sensitive creatures. They’re SUPERsensitive to electricity. You should see the distance they keep from the electric fence. They don’t even need to be zapped to learn; they can sense it just as they approach it. Human beings are “bioelectric” and we’re constantly discharging energy. We put off vibes – literally – and horses can feel them and read them. They are amazingly intuitive about what kind of “baggage” we’re carrying when we enter their space. Approach them with confidence, grace, and humility, and they’ll allow you into their space. And if they sense negativity or malcontent, they’ll retreat and won’t allow you near them.
Meeting Cain and the other horses made me think about how we interact with people in the healthcare world. While our fellow homo sapiens may not be quite as intuitive as horses are, I think we can still sense and feel what kind of vibes we put off when we approach one another. Maybe a patient can sense our vibes, for instance, when we come to give them meds. Maybe there is a big difference between these two scenarios:
“Here are your meds.” Please hurry up and take them so I can chart this and go home. I’m tired and ready to get the heck out of here.
“Here are your meds.” Let me help you take these so they can get to work in your body. Let me help you heal and feel better.
The same could be said of our interactions with our colleagues:
“Is there anything I can do to help you today?” I’m asking to be polite, but I hope you say no. I’ve got plenty of my own work to do.
“Is there anything I can do to help you today?” It would be a privilege for me to help you. We are all part of a team, working to care for those who need us. I want to give all that I can to make us a stronger, better team, so that our patients ultimately benefit.
There’s a lot that we can learn from horses. When we see how clearly they can sense or feel human energy, it makes us recognize how important it is for us to approach them in the right spirit. We have to put aside our “baggage” and come to them peacefully, honestly, and compassionately. We must offer them the very best of ourselves.
And we should do the very same for our patients and co-workers. A hug and a kiss from a big black horse named Cain made me realize the power of our motivations and intent; how our interactions with others mean little if they do not come from a sincere and compassionate place inside of us. We are every bit as accountable for our “vibes” as we are our words and actions.
That said – we should all bring a little more horse sense to work with us each day.