Buddy freezes, his generously sized ears straining towards the line of Canadian geese, strut-waddling just outside the back arena fence; the scary side, with tiny fox prints in the screenings each morning.
It doesn’t matter that we’ve had Canadian geese at the ranch the whole time we’ve been here.
It doesn’t matter that he sees them every day.
Large birds are not in his contract. That includes the crane who lives in our pond, especially when he’s flying low and silent across the outdoor ring.
No one ever accused Buddy of bravery, and that’s alright, he’s a horse. Survival is a more effective strategy for him.
My body relaxes into a chuckle as I turn away from the geese, allowing him to get un-stuck. We retreat towards the other side of the arena, beginning a new conversation. Playing with his ‘bubble’, we move closer and then farther from the birds, slowly expanding his comfort zone until he is able to move throughout the space with confidence; my ideas of our training schedule taking a back burner to his need in that moment.
As well they should.
I ditch my agenda in favor of meeting Buddy where he is, because, he’s not wrong.
That’s been a mantra of sorts, as I work with our herd of mostly rescued horses. They’re not wrong.
Their feelings aren’t wrong.
Their fears aren’t wrong.
Their needs aren’t wrong.
Sit with that one a moment, if you will. It has powerful ramifications.
And please don’t mistake this for some soft-sided ‘anything goes’ way of living. It’s not. We live in a real world, where our choices have real consequences. This, for me, is about living in a way that matters more.
Notice that when Buddy shared his fear about the geese, we didn’t leave and go back to the paddock. We worked through it together, allowing him to overcome it, as much as he was able that day, including it in our training time. That is the difference. We worked together, starting from where he is, because he’s not wrong. Our time becomes an investment in our relationship, a building of trust, growing us both. In working with his reality, meeting him where he is, we build partnership.
This is a choice. Will I hear my horse’s side of the conversation, or will I monologue right over top of him, and then wonder why he’s not too excited about spending time with me?
You see, here’s the real point… this isn’t just about him. This is about us. This has way more to do with how we live our lives, than it does about how we interact with our horses. They give us an opportunity to notice our behavior, our orientation, and make a change.
If we are willing to notice what’s happening with them, to honor where they are, and to change how we approach them; it not only changes our relationship with our horses, it changes our relationship with ourselves and with our world.
I stumbled on this years ago, when I became a mom, and realized that somehow in parenting my boys, I was given a chance to change some wiring deep inside me. When I met my boys where they were, working with them from there, I also affirmed that my starting places were valid, and began working with myself rather than working against myself. It changed my entire outlook. I called it a win-win.
Of course the opposite is true, too. What I judge or lose patience with in others, lands home for me first. Then my head becomes a miserable place to live. So I try to stay on the other side of that equation. With fewer years in front of me than are behind, I don’t want to dig my holes any deeper.
This doesn’t happen by going with the flow. We live in a world driven by performance. We’re weaned on it, indoctrinated in it, and have a hard time even seeing that it’s only one way of being (and not a particularly good one, in my opinion). In service of performance, we learn to shut down how we feel, what we need, and to push through our fears; not overcome them, but subvert them, only to find them coming out sideways, eroding the peace in our lives.
What if… we too aren’t wrong?
What if our feelings aren’t wrong?
What if our fears aren’t wrong?
What if our needs aren’t wrong?
What if performance wasn’t the measuring stick of worth, but rather, worth was something we are imbued with?
What if, by listening to what’s going on inside, we were able to live more powerfully, more effectively, and more joyfully?
I have this crazy goal… to treat myself the way I treat my horses. To honor my starting points, to hear the conversation that I’m having on the inside, and to work with myself from where I am, without impatience or judgment. I want to be that person in my own life, because as I grow into that, I’m able to bring who I am to the world in a way that is more meaningful to me than just about anything I can think of.
Now that my boys are flown and grown, horses are the ones who most often show me where I am. They bring me face to face with my point of view. They reveal to me what lens I’m looking out of, each moment I’m working with them. With no need to cover for me, horses are honest. I appreciate that about them. Not that it’s always easy to hear what they have to say, but if I’m willing to listen, it’s ALWAYS worthwhile.
Think about it. What if they’re not wrong?
And more importantly… what if you’re not wrong?
Thank you, Elizabeth ! I resonate with your essay !!