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Exploring the Power of Holistic Horsemanship: Science, Spirituality, and the Depth of Connection Possible with Horses

Updated: May 20

How Holistic Horsemanship Develops a Deeply Connected, Safe and Happy Partnership with Horses

Most of my students’ challenges with their horse’s stem from a lack of connection with their horse, and I’m not talking about connection through mechanics, aids, contact (bits, legs, excessive force and pressure), or coercion "food rewards." These types of connections are what prevent you from a deeper, more meaningful and felt connection with your horse. I'll explain how and why in this blog. For starters, the above mentioned ways of connecting with horses are superficial connections - they appear to be true or real until examined more closely. Meaning, these types of connections make a horse do what you want BUT they don't inspire a horse to want to connect or stay connected.


While we need mechanics, aids, and contact in horse training, these are not the “be-all and end-all” when it comes to developing horses in meaningful and lasting connection.

In my training method, meaningful connections is what it's all about, meaningful for the horse. When the connection means something, when it matters to the horse, they desire the connection and when they desire the connection, they are motivated to seek that connection. This makes them fully focused on that connection.

I'm going to criticize food rewards, clicker and target training, R+, anything that uses treats to motivate a horse because it's wrong. It's wrong because it's superficial and misleading, developing a type of connection (obsession and dependency) that is unhealthy.

The reality is food rewards make a horse totally focused on food and not you. This type of focus only lasts long enough for the horse to receive the "fix" or the reward. Soon as they get the food/treat, they lose focus or worse, become fixated on more food.

In the end, horses by nature don't connect, choose relationships (bonds) or raise their families using food rewards so why should we be using them?

I believe it's because we humans don't know how to value ourselves, nor have we been taught how to develop healthy relationships that are based on the language of horses, love (unconditional) and leadership (respect and boundaries).

The type, or level of healthy and meaningful connection, I am referring to is the deepest connection and that's because it's about connecting to what the horse innately, instinctively needs and wants in both a relationship (meaningful bonds) and for their survival.

This type of connection is what makes the horse choose you, want to be with you and in my training, I teach you how to continue this connection all the way through your training, development, rehabilitation, and performance goals with horses.


Connection in training should be an extension of our hearts, thoughts and bodies as they align and work together.


Most of today’s training (natural horsemanship, traditional, classical) teaches us that connection can only be achieved through a mechanical process, one where we make the horse do what we ask.


Take for example Parelli’s Natural Horsemanship’s circling game. This is a perfect example of forcing the horse to do something and with no connection. Sure, the horse did what he wanted but the only connection the trainer has with this horse is through mechanics, making his feet move.


Rather, we should be asking ourselves if the horse looks ok with what we are asking (making) them to do.


The horse in Pat's video looks frightened, confused, defensive, tense. It doesn't understand what he is doing because the way he is acting naturally triggers the horse's sympathetic nervous system, placing the horse in its self-preservation modes of freeze, flight and fight.

This type of training, called natural horsemanship, has ruined millions of horses. Why on earth would you go after a horse like he does in this video? This is not teaching, this is not training, this is abuse. It's abusive because it not only forces the horse to comply through force, it makes the horse comply (submit) through dominance, physical exertion and mental confusion.

This is NOT what connection is all about yet natural horsemanship is famous for his type of connection with horses.

ALL training should be about the horse. How the horse feels about what they are experiencing. The late great horseman, Godfather of natural horsemanship, Tom Dorrance knew this and taught this.

His unique approach was founded on the belief that the human needs to think more and do less – to feel what the horse is feeling and operate from where the horse is.


So much of today’s training is done without empathy, compassion, connection, 2-way conversation, or understanding of how the horse feels.  The video above is a great example of not caring about the horse, and focusing on what you can get the horse to do.


It’s obvious to me that the horse in this video was scared, nervous, unsure when he was forced to move out and away. A trained eye can see the horse’s tension, confusion and lack of self-regulation. When you act this way toward a horse you naturally push them into self-preservation. To make matters worse, you are then told/taught to fight with them, wear them down, and keep after them until they tire, just like Pat in this video.


Unfortunately, this has become the norm, training horses in stress. 

Stress creates a horse who learns how to either check out, go on auto pilot during training or escalate because their nervous system has been flooded with adrenaline, from too much pressure, confusion, and frustration.


In my 25 years of evidence-based experience, working with thousands of horses from all types of backgrounds, I have learned much about horses and their connections. How they connect to each other, and how they choose connection.

Holistic Horsemanship, riding with connection
Caroline riding with true connection through Holistic Horsemanship

For one, horses are always deeply connected through their nervous system and heart-coherence. Both types of connection are energy based. They use this energy (Chi), to communicate with each other, organize and manage the herd, and create safety.


Emerging science shows us the power of sharing heart-coherence with horses. Heart-coherence is about the horse’s heart rate variability (HRV), the electromagnetic frequency (energy) of the equine heart.


A coherent heart pattern is indicative of a calm nervous system (parasympathetic/PNS) that is capable of recovery and adaptation to stressful situations. Many times, we just need to be in the presence of horses in their PNS to feel a sense of well-being, calm, and peace.


The opposite is true too for horses that are not in their PNS, like the horse in Pat's video. We can feel, and see, the nervous energy of a horse that is stuck in their sympathetic nervous system (SNS) of fight and flight. We can also see a horse that is stuck in their freeze mode. They are checked out, on auto pilot or worse - in learned helplessness.


Through heart-coherence we begin connecting to horses and most importantly connecting to their parasympathetic nervous system of rest, digestion, and regulation. Connecting this way is how we create trust, confidence and feeling safe within horses and with horses.


This is how we achieve deep, powerful, and lasting connections with our horses - through energy.


Energy is the real and silent language of horses. Through heart-coherence they develop meaningful and powerful bonds, and through their nervous system they communicate quietly by sharing electrical frequencies.

Example: When you become alarmed you feel stressed, agitated, and tense up. This is because your body naturally releases adrenaline, which is released through your nervous system, your brain, and your entire body.

Adrenaline is a hormone, a chemical, that omits the strongest frequency within our nervous system and is only found, released, within the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).

SNS is responsible for self preservation. There is not time to think, only time to react. This is because the stronger the frequency, the quicker we act, the better chances for survival.

Same goes for the horse.

The opposite is true for both horses and humans. Example: When we feel relaxed, calm, at ease we are in the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) or rest, digest, and relaxation. This frequency is low, yet very strong, and soothing and this is why we feel safe, we are in heart-coherence.


This is why it’s so important for horses to be trained, developed, in heart-coherence and in their parasympathetic nervous system.


Let’s now get more specific about what type of energy horses prefer. They prefer, and respond best, to the calm, soothing strength of Chi energy.


Developing our Chi has many benefits. For one, it teaches us about balance, self-regulation, yin yang energy flow, and leadership. When our Chi is strong and balanced, it creates an energetic space of safety, calm and peace.


Chi energy is vital energy. It is your life force, the energy that flows through us and through everything. Chi can be described as the purest energy that arises out of consciousness, awareness, stillness – through us into our body and all expressions of life.


Chi is the bridge between physical form and pure awareness.

Chi energy is the most powerful of all energy. Since understanding the way horses use Chi energy, I have been able to successfully rehabilitate and develop horses, restoring them to their authentic selves. This is a spiritual process, journey, for us both as we merge our emotions (feelings), thoughts, sensations, and bodies together.

This is what I refer to in my method as beingness – we become one, aligned energetically in heart, mind and movement.

Becoming one with horses means we share the same energetic frequencies. We achieve this by developing our energy system into a tuning fork.

Horses are natural tuning forks. They perceive and understand their environment through a very sophisticated nervous system and advanced sensory processing.

Holistic Horsemanship uses Heart Cohearance and Chi Energy

This is a somatic experience for them. How the energy frequency resonates within their body gives them information about what they are experiencing through their senses – what they see, hear, smell, and feel. This is how they tune in, attune, to their surroundings, including what they feel within and from us.

We too have the capacity to become tuning forks. By understanding how our Chakra system and Chi energy work, we can attune, tune into ourselves, connect to our surroundings, receive, and communicate clearly.

Aligning our Chi energy with our horses is like the “Avatar Connection.”  We connect with each other without words, just by heart and thoughts. 

This is where the magic begins!

Only when we connect deeply through energy are we truly connected to our horse, in heart, mind and body. This is how we become one with our horse, merging the being and the doing. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

I promise I can teach you how to achieve it all with your horse and in a way that feels great for you both. Join my free miniseries below to begin, or see the full program here.


You are personally invited to join my free 7-Day Holistic Horsemanship Mastery Miniseries where you can experience my groundbreaking and transformational training method for yourself!

Free Holistic Horsemanship Mastery Mini-Series

Sign up here!


Join our FREE 7-Day Holistic Horsemanship Mastery Miniseries to learn why people are saying, "Tao is the way to all things possible with horses,” and the most holistic, empathetic, and effective path to training, re-training, and rehabilitating horses.

If you’ve been searching for a deeper way to be with horses, a better way to train horses and in a connected and safe riding partnership, the Tao of Horsemanship Academy is for you!

With a comprehensive website of holistic horsemanship information, as well as free resources, support and a complete online learning program, you can immerse yourself in the world of consensual partnership with your horse and love the journey as you learn together.

May you always be one with your horse,

Caroline Beste

Founder, Tao of Horsemanship


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