Sometimes when I’m feeling frustrated and like I’m just not getting anywhere I’ll go and spend some time with animals. I do this because I know I can’t take my anger with me, I do this because I am absolutely not willing to take my frustrations out on them. The only way I got to this point of not being willing to take it out on them, is from having made that mistake before. More than once.
Have you ever had one of those days where everything is going wrong, nothing is working, internet is slow, computer is behaving like a halfwit, people are being the opposite of helpful, you ate too much of the thing you told yourself you’d never eat again..? I know I have. I’m having one of those days right now. I have already eaten so much chocolate that I’m surprised I’m not turning brown.
Well I eventually reached a point where I told myself to get all my shit together and deal with it, because I am tired of feeling this way. So, I went outside and played with dogs, then I spent a few minutes doing some groundwork with Chubb, my horse. Chubb is a chestnut thoroughbred that I have just moved to our new home. He’s naturally stressed and trying to fit in with his new herd mates, so I thought that doing a little bit of something he knows well might make him feel a little bit more confident and maybe even relaxed.
I knew that I could not do any of these things if I was going to be angry, most certainly I could not take my frustrations out on Chubb given his current stressed out state (not that taking frustrations out on an animal is ever acceptable!) But this was even more incentive for me to calm myself and put aside all the petty things I’d been indulging in in my thoughts. And they really are petty things – instead of taking the little events of the day and focusing on solutions, I had been focusing on everything that was wrong and bad – which is exactly what I would have done with Chubb if I had allowed myself to bring my frustration into the paddock with me.
Every time my focus has shifted to what the horse is doing wrong, or how they’re behaving ‘badly’, my session with them would be frustrating, unproductive and sometimes downright unpleasant. Naturally, the horse would meet my frustration with an equal force of disagreement, and the combination of those two negative forces made for a pretty crap time. I had sessions where I’d see what I was doing and change who I was in that moment from “I am frustrated, nothing is working” to “how can I help the horse to understand?” – and the difference was almost tangible. Just that seemingly small shift could be enough to turn an unpleasant dynamic into a productive and positive one.
Don’t underestimate the power of who you are with your horse – you may not be aware of it in the moment, but your horse can see clearly what you are living. If you are living frustration, it will show in your actions, your voice, your approach, your reactions. If you, on the other hand, are living words like support, consideration, patience, calm, stability – then that is what will come through in your presence, and that is what will help determine how your horse will respond to you.