Why is it that she still gets nervous when I brush her? I bought her in July; it’s now December. It’s been six months and she still gets nervous. She stands there tied to the stall door perfectly still, and I am brushing away in rhythmic strokes. The only sound I can hear is the wind howling outside, the snoring of my dog, over there, curled up by the tack room door, and the flapping of my horse’s lips.
She still does that, the flapping of the bottom lip. I noticed she does it when she is nervous. The more nervous she gets, the faster and louder that bottom lip flops up to meet the top lip. It makes a flop, flop, flop noise, like when you walk around town in your flip-flops on a hot summer day. But it is bitter cold today, and the “flip-flop” sound is coming from my horse’s lips.
She clamps her tail down tight when I go to brush around her butt. I get it; it’s a sensitive area. Maybe somebody hit her or maybe something poked her there in the past. I keep brushing, and I notice that the flop-flop gets louder and faster when I get to her sensitive areas, the areas between her legs, under her tail, and around her ears. It’s quite disconcerting, because I stroke and brush gently, taking my time not to rush. I wonder about her past. I’m thinking about contacting an animal communicator. I’ve read about them lately. Wouldn’t it be nice to talk to my horse through someone else and tell her how much I care, how happy I am to have found her, to let her know that she is a dream come true, and to ask her what she wants from me. All I want is for her to trust me, to know how much she means to me, and that I would never hurt her. I’m not like everybody else in her past. I understand her feelings and her sensitivity.
In retrospect, I now know that I was NOT unlike the rest of them. I wanted to be a horse owner. I wanted to have, to own, to possess a horse. And I wanted her to want to be owned by me. I wanted to ride into the sunset. I wanted a peaceful and emotionally satisfying bond with a horse.
What I didn’t know, what I did not understand, was that “peaceful and emotionally satisfying” do not go hand in hand with owning or possessing? Emotional satisfaction comes from trusting others. Peace comes from trusting yourself. So how do you establish trust?
I was on the right path. I wanted to be with this misunderstood horse. I made sure to carve time out of my schedule to be with her. Every week I spent at least several hours with her. I fed her in the mornings, and in the afternoons I walked out into the pasture just to say hello and stroke her back. I fed her again at night, and a lot of times I would brush her. When I wasn’t with her I spent hours reading books and magazines about horses, their vices, their problems, and how to fix them. I was educating myself in finding Band-Aids for my horse’s problems. I was searching for tools, techniques, and ideas to cover up her insecurities, her spookiness, her barn sourness, her herdboundness, and her other “unresolved issues.” It was a big undertaking and a painstakingly long process. I kept reading. I kept watching videos. I audited clinics. I met specialized trainers and horsemanship gurus and I participated in clinics. With each connection, I was inching my way closer to my dream of riding peacefully into the sunset.
You have to understand that I was inching my way. I was not leaping or sprinting or diving toward my goal. I was inching. There is a lot of frustration in inching your way forward. You can only inch forward and not be discouraged and not give up if you are truly passionate about something. I was passionate about finding answers.
It always comes back to trust, doesn’t it? And trust takes time.
Instead of reading about how to fix her issues, I should have put the time into developing trust. Trust is a process, not a promise. Trust requires time. Trust requires patience. Trust requires consistency. But most of all, trust requires empathy. All the time I spent reading books I should’ve spent reading those books in her presence. I could’ve sat on her back and read. I could have leaned against her and read. I could have sat on a blanket out in the pasture and read. When it’s all said and done, I could’ve spent more time with her; not teaching, not training, not implementing all the things that I had read about, but just being with her and giving my time to her.
How often do we long for somebody’s time and attention?
How often do we just want to connect, to sit and chat?
When I think back about friendships and fun times, about connections that meant something, about teachers, mentors, and coaches, I remember those who spent time with me. It was the time they spent with me that started the trust process.
I run into this in my personal coaching business. I think people should trust me because I care about their situation. I often forget that trust takes time. They don’t know me. They don’t know how much I care because we haven’t spent enough time together. Knowing that has changed how I handle horses and how I treat people.
I make time for my horses and the people in my life. Time. Time without any return on my investment. Time spent brushing my horses just because. Time chatting on Facebook with a friend, although I should finish a proposal. Time spent sitting on my horse bareback and
bridleless, just for the fun of it. Time Skyping with my mum for an hour, just because we haven’t talked in a couple of days. Time spent leaning against the fence watching the beauty of my horses eating grass. Time writing a note to a former client just because I thought of her. Time spent scrubbing out a water tank and splashing my horses with water because it’s a game. Time spent going for a walk with a neighbor because she asked me if I would. Time spent reading my mail while leaning against my horse’s side because it’s the only time I have today to be with her.
Horses have touched my life in unique ways. Sky taught me that trust is a process, not a promise. She was only in my life for three years, and in that time she never trusted me completely, but she gave me a foal that started my journey into conscious self-discovery. I soon realized that trust is the foundation for everything.