As you develop a sense of responsibility for your feelings, needs, actions, and experience, you can begin to remember how valuable you are. You have to listen to yourself, rather than blindly react to external stimuli, in order to really know yourself and develop a true sense of self-worth. It is only through self-worth that you can give and receive love. You cannot give that which you do not have, and you cannot accept love if you feel unworthy. It is only through self-worth that you can act in a selfless manner. If you do not feel worthy, you will act selfishly in an attempt to gain worth from outside yourself.
When you respect yourself, you can command respect. With a sense of worth, you can empathize with your horse because you do not feel threatened. You can find your voice to establish boundaries and state your needs. Just because you have extended responsibility to your horse does not mean that you no longer create boundaries around behavior. It does mean that you no longer make demands with consequences and instead make requests with understanding and empathy.
For safety reasons, there are black and white boundaries that must be set in stone. The horse cannot act in an aggressive manner. Within those boundaries, you are free to state your requests based on your needs and the horse is free to do the same. Within those boundaries, the horse is free to respond authentically to your requests and you are free to do the same. When you act in a selfless manner, based on your sense of self-worth, you can develop a conversation with the horse to encourage him to choose to work with you rather than selfishly demanding compliance. Your horse has his own desires, needs, and feelings. You have no inherent right to make demands that infringe on his autonomy and authenticity.
When we work with horses there is an expectation that they do as we say or it is a sign that they are dominating us. I have heard things like, “you have to be the dominant horse” or you must “push or be pushed.” Why? Why is that our model of training? What would happen if you didn’t push? What would happen if you respected your horse’s will to say no and choose something different? What would happen if you chose to look at a perceived disobedience as your horse’s right to react to his circumstances in an authentic manner?
Do you fear that you would lose all control?
Do you fear that you would not be able to gain respect?
Do you fear that you would not be able to interest your horse in collaborating without domination?
Do you fear that your horse will take advantage of you?
Do you fear that you will no longer be able to ride, compete, or do the other things you enjoy with your horse?
All desire for your horse to be denied choice is based on the ego and fear. We are afraid that we will lose something – control, value, safety, dependability, autonomy. Why are we allowed to takes those things from our horses in the name of meeting our own needs? What would happen if you shifted, through your own sense of self-worth, into a state of joyfully giving these things to your horse? To receive you must give. You cannot take emotional freedom from your horse – you must extend emotional freedom to receive emotional freedom. To willingly extend and willingly receive it, you must first remember that you are worthy.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
This post is part of a year-long series of heart reflections based on the book Soulful Horsemanship, A Path to Emotional Freedom for the Horse and Human. Soulful Horsemanship is a spiritual approach to working with horses with the goal of developing empowerment, authenticity, and inner peace for the horse and human alike. The entire collection of heart opening essays is available as a book – check it out.