hmmm such a difficult subject to put in words
Let me try, as I often come upon people who could use help in this department and I would like to get better at communicating this (the little that I know of the subject)
Let me begin with observations from the herd.
The most powerful horses - (sometimes called dominant, but that's not the full story, power is leadership, not just being bossy) - they show emotion in a very different way. It's the weak that make their gestures big - huge charges, showing teeth, kicking, squealing etc. The leaders watch on, unconcerned, but aware. However, should another horse physically hurt them (or close) they will react. It seems to depend on circumstance - when the other horse gets chased into the leader, there is hardly any repercussions - just a mean face. But when the challenger comes of his own free will, look out...
The other part is foals and young horses. Apart from the foal getting the herd status of it's dam, there are interesting things to see. For example - the young horse - up to about the age of 8 months for the most part, gets away with anything. The rambunctious youngster runs up and bites a horse etc. This is met with a "so-so" disapproval from the big horse - mostly it's just ignored. As the young horse matures, things change and they get treated with the same rules.
So here's my interpretation (also very much influenced by Klaus Hempfling):
As a leader, we are grounded, calm and accepting the horse as he is in the moment. We are present in this time and space - almost regardless of the horse. We just happen to share this space and may do something together, but our attention is not "fixed" on the horse. That is what the follower does - ever notice a pair of horses? one seems to go wherever it wants, the other (weaker one) pays attention and follows. This is not slavery or submission or anything like that, it's being a horse. Ever had the experience of having a good leader yourself? Like a teacher, or a person who seemed like they can have your trust/confidence? you will be aware of them, and gladly follow, for you will feel safe and interested around them.... but their attention is not fixed on you in an "x-ray vision, not seeing anything else" kind of way. That would be very strange and frightening I think.
The other part is: ignore the extreme weakness. Sometimes horses show this as aggression, but it seems to be coming from a different place. Such as desperation or confusion. Horses very rarely show true aggression towards humans, I think. Because I don't think we would survive it
The emotions are so tough! For we all want this connection so badly! Alas, it is only when we stop "needing" it that it becomes possible. And you can't fake that. We need to be ok with ourselves before encountering the horse. We need to stop trying to get the horse to fill a void in our lives. For he is a horse, an animal closer to a deer then a dog. It is only recently that I began to understand the true nature of the horse, and so began to see them for who they are.
We will always feel emotions, but like others here have said, it's about what you do with them
. When you are a little bit unconcerned with the horse, it puts things into perspective. It is then easier to remain grounded and loving and supportive... however, it's a difficult path for me....
One of the "markers" on this path is my reaction to a "bad" session. I often fail to be neutral about it and feel depressed and like a failure. I think it's the "bad" sessions that tell you more about your progress then the good ones...