Updated: Mar 17, 2022
Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a relationship:
Within this relationship you have no voice...Maybe it’s your first one, or maybe the 10th one.
Unbeknownst to you, the relationship you have known has ended and a new one has just begun. You meet and immediately you are told where you will live, when and what you will eat, where and how you will work, how you will exercise and who you will be friends with... if anyone.
When you try and express that you are fearful of the change and overwhelmed by the uncertainty, confused about the new life, and worried no one will ever hear you, you are met with more directions. Directions that are repeated over and over, sometimes shouted, sometimes conflicting... with no time to process or understand. You are immediately chastised, or in some cases worse, if you hesitate or refuse in your confusion.
Imagine living like this day after day. Walking on eggshells, not knowing what your partner will be like that day, or if you will even see them. Often, they use you as a means to feel better, dumping all the stress from their job and life on you, projecting all their insecurities and short comings right into you, blaming every misunderstanding on you for not being a better listener. Calling you a jerk, stubborn, lazy, and even calling you stupid. Sometimes even jerking roughly on your arm or clothing (or even worse) while shouting that you should know better.
How do you cope with this?
Do you shut down and stop trying?
Do you try to do everything and anything you’ve done before that has appeased them in the past?
Do you panic and try and run away?
Do you lash out in desperation?
Are you frozen in fear and anxiety, so much so that you are triggered by what seems to be “nothing” and “out of nowhere”?
None of this is anywhere near a healthy partnership; many would even consider it to be downright abusive, and yet it’s where we expect our horses to live every day.
We must recognize that they have no choice in this situation. Horses do not get to choose their partner, their friends, their teacher, their discipline, their living situation, or even their diet. It’s time for us to acknowledge this disparity and to take responsibility for our side of the relationship. The least we can do is practice a little patience, grace, and empathy; and to manage our own emotions, so they don’t have to navigate that energy.
Horses, like humans, are wired for connection. We need to learn to quiet the noise inside, get present, and listen. These animals are sentient beings and a gift to those who value what they offer so freely. Their behaviors and desperate attempts to communicate are a clear mirror to what is happening for us internally. They do not judge; they forgive constantly and work tirelessly for connection. For those of us willing to look deep inside ourselves and take responsibility for what we bring to our relationship, horses can support us in our growth, hold us accountable to being a partner worth having, and teach us the virtues we are here to embody.
Virtues like humility, compassion, honesty, respect, gratitude, patience, and focus.