Updated: Oct 25
Create connection, Communication and Healthy Relationships in Holistic Horsemanship using the proven science of HeartMath.
In Latin coherence simply means “sticking together”. This means when something has coherence, all its parts fit together well. Coherence also implies harmonious order, connectedness, stability, and efficiency.
Heart coherence is the scientific study of the heart’s electromagnetic field, frequency, and heart rate, called HRV, heart rate variability.
Watch this incredible video from the holistic horsemanship HeartMath Institute "Connecting Hearts: Understanding the Research of the Symbiotic Relationship Between Horses and Humans" to gain a better understanding of the science behind HeartMath.
When the heart rate is coherent it is in a low, steady frequency and releasing the feel-good hormones Dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin. These hormones are responsible for producing feelings of well-being, relaxation, and improved cognitive function. This state is also connected to our parasympathetic nervous system of rest and digest.
We’ve all experienced heart coherency. If you’re feeling anxious and stressed, and you take a few deep breaths to calm yourself, and it works, you are in heart coherence. This works because deep, controlled breathing synchronizes with your heartbeat cycles, naturally putting you back into a regulated, synchronized heart rhythm.
The opposite is true when we are stressed. Most of us hold our breath and clench our muscles. This subconscious tension makes our heart rate rise, beat faster. If we don’t remedy this quickly, we will feel the effects of our sympathetic nervous system sliding into freeze, fight, or flight.
This is the same for horses. The biggest difference is in the size of their heart, and their heart’s electromagnetic field, frequency, and heart rate. A horse’s electromagnetic field projected by their heart is five times larger than that of a humans.
“Our findings are consistent with the idea that information related to our physiology and emotions is contained in the frequencies of vibration of our heart biofield.”
Ann Baldwin, Ph.D, Equine Facilitated Learning, HeartMath Institute
While this sounds like it would take longer for a horse to resume heart coherency, they actually recover more quickly and adapt easier to stress than we do. Their highly sophisticated nervous system functions faster on a physiological level, allowing them to synchronize and balance their nervous system more easily and quickly.
That’s if our horse feels safe and is self-regulated. If a horse does not feel safe and is not self-regulated it is triggered into its sympathetic nervous system of freezing, fight or flight. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all experienced a horse that isn’t self-regulated.
Understanding the science of heart coherence is how we develop deep and mutually beneficial connections on a physiological level with our horses.
The power of heart coherence lies in its ability to go deeper than any other level of connection possible between horse and human.
Have you ever been in “a state of flow?”
In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
The science of this is simple. When we are engaged in an activity that is rhythmic or a thought and feeling that is positive, we release the feel-good hormones of endorphin, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.
Maybe you’ve felt the flow state, or zone, during a yoga or meditation class, perhaps while running, working out, singing, playing an instrument, painting, writing, walking in nature. In any event, whenever you’ve felt this state of being, you’ve been in the flow state where your heart, mind, and body are at one (in sync) creating a deep state of relaxation and feeling of connection with yourself and the world around you – including your horse.
When we feel this connection, not only within ourselves but to our environment, we are in coherence.
We have many ways of creating a connection with our horses. From sitting quietly to taking them on a walk, from liberty and play to grooming and handling. The list is endless when you think of all the moments, and ways, we can connect.
But do you know what happens when you are in this state of being, flow state, with your horse? Can you maintain this level of flow in everything you do together, anytime, and anywhere?
Remember that coherence is about energy and the amount of frequency that energy produces. An example would be when you are angry, your heart sends uncoherent signals whose frequency is low and irregular, and when you feel happy and relaxed, you produce higher, stronger, and more regular frequencies. Again, this is the same for horses.
The key to creating, and maintaining, heart coherency connection with your horse is practice. Practice until coherency becomes your default zone.
Default zone means when you and your horse are feeling incoherent, incongruent, you are both practiced enough in coherency that you automatically revert to doing things that bring you back to a coherent frequency so you can align and synchronize together. This is similar to creating a habit.
See The Power of Heart Coherence Part II where I will give you a few exercises and practices to do with your horse that will strengthen your heart coherence, connection, communication, and partnership.
May you always be one with your horse,