Setting boundaries is a hot topic among horse people. I’ve heard the trainers at the barn tell their students that they need to establish firm, fair, consistent boundaries with their horses. It’s absolutely necessary when you’re dealing with an animal who’s five to ten times your size.
We horses like having boundaries. It’s true. One of the first things we herd animals learn from our mothers and herd mates is where we stand in the group. We feel safest knowing where we fit in.
People aren’t so lucky. I’ve noticed that people push on other people a great deal. While watching people at horse shows, I’ve seen husbands berate their wives for spending too much time/money/attention on their horses. I’ve seen trainers growl and snap at their students. I’ve seen parents berate their kids for doing normal kid kinds of things. It makes me sad.
Is there someone in your life who pushes your boundaries? Does it make you sad or mad? Are unreasonable demands being put on you by a spouse/parent/boss? Is someone trying to control you through fear, shame, guilt, or intimidation?
It’s easy for me to tell you to establish boundaries and don’t let anyone cross them. I’m a horse and my fellow horses accept and respect this concept, so it IS easy for us. But the reality is, it’s not so easy for humans to do this with each other. Humans are much more devious in the ways they establish control. Humans are terribly manipulative, often without even realizing it.
I’ve observed that the people who are most effective in maintaining boundaries are the ones who DON’T have the need to be right, or make others agree. The people who don’t try to change what others think, but rather stand firm in their own truth, are the ones who are most effective in all their human relationships. They teach others how to treat them by how they treat themselves. They don’t try to control the people around them, they simply control their own minds. If someone pushes on them, they politely either state their truth or intention with gentle firmness, or they disengage all together.
Arguing doesn’t work very well with people. Your minds are rarely changed by an attack. You can’t kick each other into submission like a horse can, so the most effective humans are the ones who can listen well, consider what they hear with a clear mind, respond if necessary from a place of strength, and still calmly remain in their own truth.
Do you have the ability to agree to disagree with someone close to you? How do you maintain your inner balance when being challenged? If you’re not sure, I suggest that you pay attention to how you establish your boundaries with your horse. Are you able to apply that ability to people too?
When you go to the barn today, notice how you’ve established your place in the “herd.” Your horse may hold the secret to helping you with this issue.