From the Horse’s Mouth

One of my biggest love (aside from my kids) are horses. I looovve horses . I’m one of those people who, until quite recently, would hug and kiss them and generally speaking, treat them like oversize dogs. However, taking regular western riding lessons has taught me a thing or two.

In my defense, I must admit that I am still working on personal boundaries. Molested by care takers before the age of 3, I grew up with a really confused sense of physical identity. I would either trust people right of the bat or hide behind a 10 feet wall. And as you might have guessed, both behavior produced less than stellar results. Over the years, I have learned to recognize triggers, control urges and learn new skills but that’s another article all together… back to the horses.

What I realized a few months ago is that horses were triggering the same boundary responses that used to rule my life. If Marley (the mare I ride) was calm and cooperative, I would be all lovey dovey and if she was in a bad mood, I would become defensive, bordering on angry. The funny thing was that no matter how hard I tried to adjust my mood or control my behavior, she persisted with the horrible “attitude” (if you think PMSing women are bad, go hang out with mares!).

As a matter of fact, her mood kept getting worse and worse until I became anxious apprehensive. I have only been around horses for the past year and a half, and my composure tends to fly out the window when they try to bite me! So there we were, me trying to brush her before tacking up, her trying to take a chunk out of me every time I looked the other way.

Now it’s not the first time that life tries to teach me a lesson, you just have to take a look at my relationship history to see a pattern, but once again, I wasn’t getting it. But this time I was determined to figure it out. You see, I really love horses and not being able to “get it” was breaking my heart. So I did what I always do when I get stuck. I asked for guidance: “What can I do differently?” The answer I got was short and sweet: “give her some space”. That stopped me in my tracks. I mean, I read a lot about horses but somehow I hadn’t been able to reconcile academic knowledge and real life. She just needed me to respect her personal space. Or at the very least work with her moods to earn the right to be in her space.

Well, that was a brand new concept for me. Up to that point I had just assumed that she was being bratty or trying to challenge my authority. It wasn’t until I started to work with her, being firm when she over stepped her boundaries and comforting when she was being anxious that I started to regain her trust and cooperation. Marley has taught me that I don’t need to get mad or anxious when someone reacts in a way that doesn’t match my expectations. I just need to give them some space, be supportive and assert my own needs in a concise manner.

In a way, horses are helping me understand the rules of healthy personal boundaries and for that I love them even more.

Much love: Sandrine

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