In our world of high-tech connections and megabits per second, we tend to forget about the other mode of communication — one that’s not done via cellular towers or digital servers, or even the human voice. It is intuition. And I believe it’s one of the most vital avenues of communication we have with animals.
Intuition is that quiet inner voice that says, something isn’t quite right with my horse when everyone around you is saying, “Oh, that horse is perfectly fine.” It’s that little whisper inside that says, feeding this doesn’t feel right, or, he appears fine but I still feel that he has ulcers.
Riding is a thinking sport, and we horse owners do spend a great deal of time alone with our thoughts. Competitions are a physical endeavor for both horse and rider, but they’re just as much a mind game. When we do manage to get out of our heads, though, and just feel, we can find ourselves in that zone of connectedness with our animals. Present, intuitive… in the moment.
Intuition is something well understood by some of the best competitors and trainers I know. They all have in common the ability (and willingness) to let their intuition direct their thinking brains, instead of vice versa. They don’t just try to “figure out” what their horse is telling them; they feel it.
Like trainers and competitors, the best veterinarians are also the most intuitive ones, at least in my opinion. Heeding their own intuition liberates them, allows them to take a few steps back and regard the whole picture. That’s a particularly valuable option to have when encountering complicated cases that don’t fit an established course of treatment. It seems that the intuitive veterinarians are also the first to make the connection between chronic health problems and specific drugs or therapy regimens and adjust dosages, for example — even when it’s not what the pharmaceutical companies dictate.
In general, our modern society doesn’t encourage us to listen to our intuition. I believe it’s due to our high-tech lifestyles disconnecting us from our intuitive feelings. We’re inundated daily with the overly simplistic good/bad, right/wrong, black/white poles of judgment and decision-making, leaving no room for red or blue, gray or green, or a rainbow.
Intuition is a deeper awareness, free from rational thinking. And while we think of science as being the epitome of rational thought, many highly esteemed scientists have long held that intuition is an essential ingredient of true innovation and pioneering work in their fields.
Now before you think I’ve lapsed back into a hippie state from my youth, or been overexposed to the complete Grateful Dead catalogue, let me just say that it’s the animals themselves who are forever reminding me of the power of nonverbal communication, of intuition. I fully believe that the animals regularly communicate with us by way of our intuition above all else. And I find that when my brain is fluttering around and babbling to itself like a catbird, or when I’m distracted with stress, it’s a lot harder to hear my intuition, to pick up on what the horses and dogs and telling me.
Keeping a sense of trust in the intuition we feel is especially important when it comes to caring for our animals, feeding, selecting supplements, knowing when to teach something new, knowing when a horse has worked enough for now, and getting that all-important sense of what’s really happening with a stoic horse when something just feels off.
Something else I love about intuition: everyone has it! A while back, I was giving a whole food seminar when a doctor in the audience asked, “How does one know how to tailor a whole food diet to each individual horse?” When I advised him to “use your intuition,” he looked dumbfounded. Like most of us, even this doctor had been conditioned to ignore intuition, mistrust it, avoid it. You would have thought I’d told him to run around the room naked. But that moment really taught me: we must learn to let go of the instruction manual before we can hear the horses.
Naturally, hearing and heeding our own intuition is not a replacement for our rational thinking ability or our need to make accurate observations. It’s just another — and in many cases the most reliable — channel for receiving information and facilitating clear communication. Listen to it, trust it, celebrate it.
When your intuition is there, whispering in your ear, don’t be afraid to trust that little voice.