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Updated: Jan 28, 2022

Social Skills with Horses, from A to Z … B is for Boundaries!

Some boundaries are visible… like fences and yellow lines in the road. They define one space from another . . where your yard ends and another's starts … where you have to keep your own car so as not to get in the way of other drivers on the road.

Other boundaries are not so visible… such as a preference over timing, space or personal freedoms. When boundaries are expressed and respected, a relationship has a chance to foster respect and caring. When unexpressed or ignored anger and resentment are given fertile ground.

We have much to learn from horses when it comes to boundaries! Horses are curious creatures… one might walk right up to you (all 1,000 pounds in tow), and stick its nose right into you! Unless you tell them otherwise. You might find yourself a weeee bit cramped and in need of an escape in order to regain your “own ground.” If you yourself were in this “spot” what would you do? A) back up and find someplace else to stand? B) Freeze in fear (while you’re thinking “ahhhhh!” Or C) Notice the horse heading your way and make some sort of a gesture or effort that says “whoa —- that’s close enough!”

Which scenario resonates most for you, Reader? And how does that relate to how you manage relationships in your world at work? School? Home?

What might the horse in this story represent? Let’s take an imaginary index card. Write down the name of a value, or something else of yours that you want to protect. Now imagine you’re out in the field amongst the horses. We’ve put a hula hoop on the ground and you and your value step into it. The object of the game is to remain in your hula hoop (“your rightful place”) with your value protected.

If and when the horse heads in your direction you must indicate in some way that you, your value and your hula hoop will not be moved, or altered, or given away, to the horse. Your goal is to stand your ground!

Caveats : You may use your voice and/or body / energy to signal the horse but there is no touching of the horse allowed.

Questions? Okay then! Let the HorsePlay begin.

If you were here in the field with us… what do you imagine would happen?

What was it like standing there with your value? On a scale of 1-10 how comfortable were you when the horse was at a distance? How did that change as the horse came closer? (Assuming it did… again.. they’re very curious!) In what way did you protect your space and your value? How did the horse respond? Does the horse appear to be accepting? Upset? Does the horse remind you of anyone you know? What about this activity was most easy ? What was most difficult? What skills / strengths strategies did you use ? How can you use these skills in your real world? Today and this week, make note of boundaries that you see and don’t see. Think of something that’s important to you …. and your Imaginary hula hoop. imagine that the way in which you expressed your boundaries to the horse is a tool you can keep in your tool box and bring out any time.

Next time we’ll tak about, and play with, the horse’s boundaries!

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