We all have heard of animals mirroring us, but what does it really mean? When I heard this for the first times few years ago, I asked around. Some people said “they mimic their owners”. other said “they take on their illnesses” or “they look like their owners”. Ok, those can be all valid responses but I was not satisfied with them.
Well, it took a long time to find an answer, or multiple answers that would satisfy me.
First of all, not all animals will mirror us. Some have such a strong personality that no one will change it. They are the leaders by nature. No matter how you are or what feelings you radiate, these animals will always be themselves. There are also those who might not be the leaders, but entertain themselves happily, the loners. Those ones don’t need any body to be happy.
The animals who mirror their owners are the sensitive ones, those who have a need for company (not necessarily human company), the indecisive ones, those who look up to their peers, and their owners for guidance, protection and fulfilment.
Animals mirror us in many ways as they are highly receptive to their environment and to those they depend on to live. I have also noticed that this mirroring only happens when there is a lack of balance in the owner’s energy. For example, if you are apprehensive about riding your horse, it is likely that, if he falls into the category described above, he will become anxious as well and will demonstrate a variety of behaviour during a ride. He might shy, bolt, be reluctant to move etc. This will not help with your own confidence of course, making you feel more apprehensive about riding. It is like a vicious circle.
If you are over confident, you might end up with a horse who will be a bully or very bold.
When the person’s energy is centred, then the horse will likely react as a normal horse would. He might have his moments of being afraid of something, but it is a normal attitude for a horse. Don’t forget they are prey animals and as such, they are wary and on the look out. It is important to understand the species so not to mistake a reaction as being abnormal. For example, horses’ vision is very special as they cannot focus as we do, so many things are slightly blurry. They cannot see the depth of things, so it is normal for them to be afraid to cross a water stream. It might look like a black hole that can swallow them. Their peripheral vision is different to ours and it is important they are presented to an object on both sides.
A dog who lives with an owner who is always complaining about everything and nothing, might show signs of nervousness or sadness. The owner is not happy, which makes the dog feel unwanted.
On the other hand, you have the animals who will take full advantage of our own mistakes and behaviour. For example, a horse owner who has no confidence in their own riding abilities, might have a horse who will take over to the stage where the horse becomes unruly and a bully to his own owner. The person will then decide to sell the horse and buy another one, to later on discover that the new horse behaves like the previous one, and so on.
When wanting to modify the animal’s behaviour, it is important to look at ours first, which can be very unsettling for us. It takes lots of courage and determination to acknowledge that we need to change before our animals can. It is difficult too because, most of the time, we don’t see our own self clearly. It is much easier for us to blame the horse, the dog, the neighbours and the world than ourselves.
So how can we do it?
First of all, we look at where there is something not working in our relationship with our animals or more exactly which behaviour they demonstrate that we do not like. We ensure that the behaviour is not caused by any environmental or external factors like past or current abuse, housing, feed, species related behaviour, tack, health etc. Then, we ask ourselves the big question: “what is it that I do that makes my horse/dog/cat react that way?”. Lean to know your horse (or dog, or cat), and you will know yourself!
It might take few trials to get an answer! Self-analysis is not something that happens in 10 minutes. It is a journey!
And this journey, you might want to take it with your animal because you will need to show him that you are working on it. Yes, that’s right. You will need to spend time together and work together for both of you to change. There is no need to bring in a trainer to work on your horse or dog and you to work on your own, if you can do it on your own, and come back to your animal and say “look! I’m all good now! What about you?”. It doesn’t work that way. Work together! Why? Because the only way you will know you are changing is by the behaviour of your animal. He is the only one who will mirror you, who will show you how you are, truly, without any pretences. Animals don’t lie. As the change happens gradually within you both, you will become more aware of your own feelings and more understanding of your animal’s reactions. The animal will become more confident in your abilities. Balance will restore progressively.
Next month, I will talk about the fun things you can do together to build on your relationship.