This past week, I found myself repeating something I say often to my adolescent clients. What I said was, “Do you want to just try to force the horse to do something, or do you want to learn about horses and how to communicate with them? It’s up to you, which would you prefer?”
The very first I uttered those words, I had no idea that in the future I would be choosing to say them over and over again. Instead, I was once again hearing from a particular client that “she knows”. I heard that from her every time that I told her something about horses. When I first started working with her, I would offer her reasons and explanations. Things that I would have loved to have been taught when I was being introduced to the world of horses. There I was projecting…. Finally, I stopped doing that, and only gave her instruction where safety was an issue.
In all honesty, it wasn’t an eloquent gesture that first time. It was more of an exasperated statement as I was watching her completely ignore all the signals the horse was giving her and try to force the horse to comply with her agenda. She wanted the horse to walk over ground poles, and he let it be known that he had no interest in doing that. After I asked her, however, everything changed.
The change was for the better, in my opinion. This client got quiet for a moment, and then told me that she wanted to learn about horses and how to communicate with them. She said that she was tired of force, actually, she had enough of it in other areas of her life. She had a breakthrough, and became a much better listener to both horses and humans.
Not only did I feel that I had stumbled upon a great tool to use for counseling, I found that asking myself that question, or a version of it, helped my own work with horses. (And, with my daughter, too, if truth be told.) Usually, what has happened when I need to ask myself the question is I’ve forgotten to be curious. When I’m starting to get frustrated, it’s always in my best interest to take a small step back and ask questions about “how” and “why”. This curiosity usually helps me remember that I’m dealing with another living being, and be more conscientious and compassionate to both my horse and myself. And, that is what I would prefer,