Many types of animals, including humans, mirror each other. Mirroring can include imitating gestures, energy levels, tones and attitudes while engaging with each other. We even mirror the pupil dilations of our friends, which is something we have no conscious control over.
Mirroring is a social behavior and is typically used for bonding. Through imitation we are sending the message that we are alike, are trustworthy and can understand each other. If you’ve ever engaged in mirroring on the dance floor it’s a lot of fun and a great opportunity to learn some new moves.
As you can see in the series of pictures Whimsy and Extra are mirroring each other. They surge off at a gallop at the same time and simultaneously take a small leap. They land at the same time and then immediately launch into a second larger buck. Look at their legs. They each could have bucked in a separate style, but instead they look as if they choreographed it. This is not a coincidence. If you watch horses, they mirror regularly during play, confrontations, rest and even while avoiding potential danger.
That is why when trail riding all the horses have to spook at the mailbox, instead of just the one horse who spotted it.
What does this mean for our interactions with horses?
Horses will mirror us too!
Teddy is matching Brooke’s footfall patterns. He even decides to copy her funny head position. They are both having a great time playing together.
With horses we can use this to build the friendship and we can also use it as a powerful training tool. You can demonstrate how you would like your horse to behave by performing it yourself. Slow down if you want your horse to slow his steps. Raise your knees and your horse will step with more energy.
However, if we aren’t aware of our movement and energetic state this can also be a detriment. When we are distracted or tense our horses will act similarly. They may move with more tension or gawk at things that we are looking at.
If we have self awareness and we recognize the tension present we can deliberately slow our breathing and our movements down. We can bring our energy lower. Soon our horse will calm down too.
With mirroring and matching at the forefront during our interactions we can inspire our horses to carry their bodies more effectively. Horses love movement. They love to learn how to move with greater balance. They instinctively want to carry themselves with more efficiency and power for self preservation.
You can be your horse’s favorite yoga and dance instructor.