Horses are inherently dubious about new things and they often react to this doubt with flight, fright, or (when those options do not work) fight. Over the centuries, this trait has likely kept them out of the trouble Mother Nature can present. When in doubt, run it out. However, when entering into the human world as our companions, we are challenged with changing this thought process. Helping a horse calm down about something as simple as a plastic bag, really offers humans insights as to how to project calm in situations. This leads to the question - how do you react to intense stress? Do you project calm or storm?
My old horse, Taxi, has not always been a friend of trailer loading. I am also not a big fan, to tell the truth. But, I have noticed vast differences between what emotion I project and how a horse views the trailer. I want them to learn the trailer is a place of comfort and it means we are going on an adventure.
If I am loading a nervous horse and I add to the nervous situation, it is harder for calm to emerge. Does that mean I suppress being nervous? Actually no. I usually show the horse how I am calming down and moving away from nerves into another emotion. I breathe, take things slower, and sometimes, I ask other people who are lookie-loos who want to see drama to actually leave.
If I want a horse to believe they are safe in the trailer, I truly have to believe that for myself. I have seen others project anger, dominance, intimidation, and even inflict pain when trying to get a horse to load. This only projects insecurity and no one is ever going to find comfort in that.
These same skills actually work in the human world. My son, for instance, is going to daycare. This is a new situation and he is very insecure when we drop him off. The same skills it takes for me to calm nervous horses, I utilize for helping him feel confident in his surroundings. Daycare is fun, full of friends, and toys, it means he is going to play and learn. Even when he is crying, I can show him how I calm down and feel safe. Pretty soon, he feels what I do and begins to gain confidence.
The "feel" is the key. I don't use too many words to explain the situation. If I told my son, "It's ok" but inside am feeling "run for it" then he would never believe what I say. This is the exact scenario horses observe. What you project is the outcome you will get. I want everyone to be successful and confident, so this projection goes a long way. In the storm, you will find that being lightening and thunder may only lead to disaster. Try being the rainbow.