Horses make learning easy – can you set a boundary and mean it?

Even when we know something needs to change in our lives, and we want to make that change, actually doing it (or embodying it) is not always easy.

I chose to use Equine Facilitated Learning to describe what I do rather than some of the other ways (e.g. Equine Assisted Coaching) because it includes the word ‘facilitated’. The word ‘facilitate’ traces back to the Latin adjective ‘facilis’ meaning ‘easy’. Other descendants of ‘facilis’ in English include ‘facile’ (easy to do). ‘Facilis’ in turn comes from ‘facere’, a Latin verb, meaning ‘to make or do’. So, facilitate means ‘to make easier’ and I truly believe that in the work that I do horses make learning easy.

One of the most common lessons that we can learn from horses is how to set clear, consistent and authentic boundaries. Horses simply know when we don’t mean it!

I have an example that I would like to share with you:

Sarah came to one of my Discovery Days. She is an equine assisted learning facilitator (who works more along the lines of therapeutic horsemanship). She had been interested in exploring more spiritual/connected ways of working for a while and wanted to experience the Eponaquest/Medicine Horse Way methodology. She had recently experienced some changes in her life and on reflection noticed issues around relationships and boundaries.

Here is an excerpt from Sarah’s testimonial:

“The learning from the boundary work was HUGE. I chose Jack because it I felt he might challenge me. It was an instinct.

Before I went in the field the thing I was most worried about was the boundary setting. I also knew that boundaries were an issue for me. When Jack showed interest in approaching I was part delighted to say hello to him, but also determined (or so I thought) to hold my space. I knew it was a test for me!

Jack approached, and I drew my boundary line. But as I did it I realised it was half-hearted. He looked at me and asked the question – did you mean that? In a split second I doubted myself, did I mean that? “Aw, you’re lovely, maybe you can come and say hello”. Then he was too close to re-set and before I knew what was going on he was in my space and licking my knee! Ordinarily I wouldn’t have minded, but I was left feeling like I hadn’t invited that, and I’d tried but failed to set my boundary. I knew what I wanted to do but momentarily I was swayed into thinking that what he wanted to do was ‘better’ or ‘more fun’, that maybe his plan was better than mine.

Of course, ultimately, he was simply reflecting to me what I do in life ALL THE TIME! Especially in relationships. In a split-second Jack summed up for me how I bend my boundaries, just a little to accommodate others, because I think their idea is probably better than mine and all of a sudden, I’m in their plan, not mine, feeling overwhelmed.

But the biggest lesson Jack taught me today is that it’s nothing to do with the other person. Jack didn’t deliberately barge through my boundary and walk over me, he simply asked the question and I didn’t give a clear, authentic response. I hesitated, questioned back and went ‘ok then’, so he did what I wanted.

This is huge for me because the learning is that I need to take responsibility for setting my boundaries! The other person can only know my boundaries if I know them first and communicate them effectively. If someone crosses my boundary it’s likely my fault, not theirs, I just haven’t been clear! Wow! Big learning.

I’ve been pondering boundaries for the past couple of years. Nothing has shown me more clearly than this what I can do to resolve my boundary issues. Now I need to practice living it! Thank you, Rosie and Jack.”

So, remember that if you want to set a boundary, first you need to know your boundary and then communicate it clearly and whole-heartedly.

If you are interested to find out how horses make learning easy or you want to explore what horses can teach you about personal space and setting clear boundaries then do get in touch.

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