How Horses Help Us Set and Maintain Boundaries.
Our herd has a clearly defined pecking order of seniority. All four horses understand their place and act accordingly. The pecking order provides them with security and certainty which enables them to relax. When you watch how they relate to each other at feeding and grazing time, you can observe how the horses perform subtle manoeuvres to maintain the order. One of our newer horses, Red, knows his place but being new, tends to push the boundaries with the others. Whilst this can look like play, it’s his way of testing what’s acceptable and what’s not. He’s learning what it means to be a member of the herd.
American psychologist Brene Brown said, “When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.” Boundaries are our way of letting others know what’s acceptable and what’s not. They ensure that people both acknowledge and respect us. Without boundaries there are no rules to guide how we engage with others. People aren’t aware that they may be breaching or even violating our boundaries and therefore continue to do it- unchecked. This can lead to resentment, arguments and even friendship and relationship break ups.
A boundary breach might be a very simple thing. There might be someone in your family who asks invasive questions all the time? The first couple of times they do it- you shrug it off. But if they persist in doing it, then they may be violating your boundaries of what you want to share and what you don’t. Something like this can often lead to upset and argument.
Observing and working with horses through equine therapy, creates an environment to reflect on your personal boundaries. What do you need from other people? What do they need to know about you? What are you ok with and what are you not ok with? How can you communicate this to others?
Author Mandy Hale said “It is necessary and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it”. Like horses, we want to be safe and secure in our relationships with others. We can learn a lot from the horses by observing the way in which they create and maintain their boundaries.