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June 28, 2022 6 Comments
Whoa their Nelly! Don't run away with me.
If horses were a metaphor for life, wouldn't it be great? It seems if that were true, we could use the examples of leadership needed in guiding a horse to become a partner and transfer that information to our human experience.
Imagine a runaway horse. Now imagine a runaway addiction, or any other human problem. Both need to be guided, reined in, controlled, sometimes with tough love, and sometimes with patient love. It doesn't mean the horse should be trapped or imprisoned, it just means it shouldn't run away with you, leaving you in massive danger.
Let's take a look at a few human problems and use the metaphor of horse training to help understand how to lead with grace through those problems.
First things first, "I ain't no psychologist so don't go 'round thinking I is!
This is all just observations from a human who loves leadership training. I'm always open to deeper learning from you and everyone on the planet.
-Using horse training to understand shame!
Have you ever felt shame? I'm not talking about guilt. That's different. Guilt is feeling like your actions are the problem (easy to change). Shame is where you feel like YOU are the problem (not so easy to change). So, play with me here. Answer the question. Have you ever felt shame? Like you are not worthy, like you don't measure up? I lost my niece a year ago to that feeling. She left planet earth because she felt inadequate. In such dire emotions, is there something we can do? Of course, there is! But we have to understand the same thing great horse trainers understand. Grace! When a horse screws something up, the below average horse trainer will often revert to aggressive, angry tactics to force the horse to comply and "never do that thing again." Quite literally shaming the horse. The above average trainer uses grace in those moments. A firm boundary must be set in times of safety but learning that boundaries shouldn't be coupled with fear and intimidation is important. Boundaries should be coupled with grace. The knowledge that it's normal to screw up. Everyone does it. Everyone is inadequate, that all feelings, including this one, will pass, opening the door for new, empowering thoughts and feelings. Had my niece been able to give herself some grace in that moment she would still be here today. It's heavy to think about, but imperative to teach. Heavy emotions require a large amount of grace and understanding.
-How 'bout depression? How would using the metaphor or horse training lend insights in to dealing with depression?
Well. More grace would help, right? But there's more. All the best horse trainers know something special about leadership and guiding a horse to peak performance. First, we dive deep into chemistry. Often there are chemical imbalances in the horses we're working with, so we look for ways to mitigate that with supplements and so on. But one of the most direct methods for changing chemistry in the body is by stimulating the body through healthy exercise and activities. My daughter is fourteen now and going through a "I'd rather sit and look at my phone stage." Her energy can plummet, and her emotions can match it." Is it chemical? Absolutely. Growing requires enormous energy and transitioning from a girl to a woman requires shifting that extraordinary biological makeup. So perhaps, like a horse trainer, ensuring the right balance of nutrients, minerals, oxygen, supplements, etc., will all help keep things moving in the right direction. Plus... perhaps exercise would benefit the issue too. Sure, it sucks to exercise when all you want to do is NOT exercise, but after... you feel sooooo good. The chemistry can change via body movement. I'll never forget Tony Robbins talking about emotions and simply splitting the term in half. "e-motion!" Motion is a big part of emotion. Stop moving and die! So, Keep Moving! Sure, we need to rest, recharge. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about habitually dropping the exercise routine. It's unhealthy. It simply doesn't help any horse and maybe, it's useful to use that metaphor for humans too.
-How 'bout inappropriate behavior like lust or addiction? How could we use horse training to guide such extremely normal human behavior?
Well, once again. How about a little grace? Everyone experiences these things. With horses... and you must know it happens to horses too, boundaries have to be set. Imagine a stallion in training deciding that paying attention to his mother nature calling is more important that paying attention to his rider. Someone's getting hurt, and someone's getting pregnant. It's completely reasonable, therefore, to take the time to set boundaries. Not in the heat of the moment, but long before that moment. One thing equine therapist do for addicts is to simply teach them... to teach the horse... boundaries. Once the horse learns boundaries, the horse is easy to handle and bond with. But it was never about the horse. It was about themselves, guiding a wild animal (very similar to the instinctive human brain) to stay calm and be aware. To take a step back and see where this leads so in the future, we have tools to react differently. When that person, the addict, actually teaches the horse to respect boundaries, to not run away and not step on toes, that human learns the value of boundaries even more. Great horse trainers are always aware of boundaries and their horses are always respectful. It just so happens that most of the best horse trainers I know are also respectful people. They carry themselves differently, with integrity, kindness, keen awareness and more. It's like they used their training and crossed it over into the human world. (I'd be lying if I said they were all that way.) But those trainers that forget to crossover their knowledge, simply did just that. They forgot.
How about joy? Oooooohhhhh! This is a good one! Clearly joy isn't a problem. Joy is the opposite of a problem, but did you know that great horse trainers know how to infuse joy into the horse's experience? They even know how to train joy. Quite literally guiding the horse to that emotion and rewarding the expression of joy. Joy seems so elusive, so circumstantial, but have you ever met someone who is happy almost all the time regardless of pain, or horrible life circumstances? I have. These people are special because they are rare. But what's magical, is they aren't special because it's written in their DNA, they are special because they have literally learned the language of joy and continually practice it. That's right. I said language. Every emotion has a language set with it. And physiology that goes along with it too and focus patterns.
A joyful person tracks and checks their focus patterns, their language patterns and their physiology to ensure they don't become some other emotion. It is practice. Don't confuse lucky with practice. Everyone gets lucky and experiences joy, but anyone can learn to guide the experience too. We do that for our horses. We help change their focus patterns, their physiology through motion, their language patterns (internal thoughts, in their case), all related to an experience. Every good horse trainer knows that a sound horse can jump a jump. But a grumpy horse doesn't want to. With practice guiding those three things (focus pattern, internal dialogue, and physiology) the grumpy horse falls in love with jumping, looking forward to it every day!
So Rome wasn't built in a day. And not all human problems crossover perfectly, naturally, but I've always found it enriching to see how closely our instinct is to the instinct of the horse. It's like mother nature made us the same in so many ways. From that perspective, I find deep meaning in the values of leadership and life enriching activities for our horses and of course, for us too. Because if horses were a metaphor for life, wouldn't it be great?
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