I love horses, don’t you? I mean I REALLY love horses. I love them so much, I have ten of them! Feeding them is the first thing I do in the morning. Checking on them is the last thing I do at night, “just to make sure . . .”
This is a surprise to everyone in my life because I was 53 when I got talked into going for a trail ride and found a passion I didn’t know I had. However, because I found a passion didn’t mean I found knowledge or understanding. I was afraid to go into their “cages,” as I called them. I didn’t know what to feed them or how to clean up after them. I jumped every time they moved too fast. (Well, sometimes I still do that.) I needed to learn how horses “worked”.
Have you ever watched an alpha walk through the herd to food? They walk in a straight line, moving all the other horses out of their way. If the horses in their path don’t move, first they look at them, then they push with their nose, then they pin their ears and if that isn’t enough, the horse in their path gets bit or kicked. Why am I talking about this? I’m a therapist, and most of the young girls/women that come to see me are like the horses that get pushed out of the way. They are sweet, kind, gentle women or young women, that haven’t found their inner “alpha”. Natural horsemanship helped me find my inner alpha–one I didn’t know I didn’t have until I tried to do ground work with a 1,400 pound paint quarter horse. He is my herd’s alpha. Learning to be his alpha and at the same time preserving the relationship and be fair, not abusive or wimpy, not timid or angry, either, was (and continues to be) an amazing journey.
As I continued to spend time just sitting on the fence, observing the horses, I saw how the alpha mare lifted her leg at the mini, but didn’t follow through. Not so much with all the big horses that got in her path. And I thought, “Horses have changed my life so much, how can I help them do that for others?” I found a form of Equine Therapy that fit for me. I became a natural horsemanship instructor. And I found a way to help girls and women who were “too nice” in their life to tap into their inner alpha appropriately. In my experience, people are born timid or aggressive. Appropriate assertiveness is something that has to be learned. Bringing our life up or bringing it down to match the situation is learned through a remarkable process of developing self-discipline and inner confidence. Horses are wonderful partners in helping us learn this skill.
Tristan’s mom came to me saying that her daughter’s first word was “horse”. Tristan’s passion only grew stronger over time, until her parents couldn’t bear to hear one more prayer asking for a horse. That’s when they came looking for me. They couldn’t afford a horse, but they could afford lessons. Tristan was so sweet. She wanted her horse to be her friend. She knew how to feed carrots, but she didn’t know how to keep a horse from getting pushy and mugging her for treats. That turned into her first lesson. As Tristan and I continued to work together, our relationship became strong enough that I could talk to her about her “timidity/inner wimp.” She was a good sport. She didn’t get offended. She learned. Last week I watched her get respect on the ground with her horse and ride a friend’s horse through a little “bucking” episode with a look of fixed determination on her face. I was so proud of her, I cried. She couldn’t stop smiling.
Recently she said, “Jo, I’m feeling timid bridling this horse.” I was proud of her, again. She knew she was timid, she asked for help, and she hung in there with me until she could do the task with confidence. Another time, I watched her get off a horse during the middle of a group class. One of the girls laughed at her for getting off. She blew it off. She had come to respect her own inner voice that said that horse was fixin’ to get out of control, and she cared more about what she thought than what the other girl did. I was proud again. Yesterday, 12-year-old Tristan taught her two little sisters and her mom how to keep a horse out of their space, appropriately matching the horse’s energy to stay the alpha. I’m still smiling. Session after session, I watch the horses help the young girls that come in my barn’s doors find their inner alpha. The girls keep their gentle hearts and their respect for the horse and the partnership while they find their respect for themselves and their girl power as well.
I LOVE horses, don’t you?
-Jolene Green, LCSW, PARELLI Instructor, EAGALA certified