Vox Pop

Contact and Boundaries

Jane came to the workshop holding a lot of apprehension about working with the horses. She had some unfortunate experiences with them in the past, including a small half wild pony her father got for her as a child, a match not made in heaven. Her experiences did not just relate to the equines idiosyncrasies but a lack of trust for interactions with adults who endangered her when she was on horseback by their thoughtless actions. The main reason Jane came, however, was to investigate some blocks she was having in setting up her latest business. With two very successful family businesses behind her she was now branching out as a Soloprenuer. The system dynamics of the family businesses , as well as the actual family system were impacting on the new business in a confusing way. Setting clear boundaries between past and present and family and business was proving difficult.

Jane chose to work with Dior, a horse who is very soft and loving but very sensitive and aware of what is going on around him. Horses in general have a very wide outer zone of awareness (the external environment read through their senses) and some, like Dior, are particularly wary of things happening even in the far distance. The first part of the day was spent in building trust between Jane and Dior including time spent grooming him to establish good contact and awareness of each other. As Jane gained in her confidence she was able to move around Dior more, even moving towards his hind quarters which had at first worried her due to being told so often not to go near the back of a horse (sound advice if you do not know the horse well). As she tried to move to brush his hips however he kept moving back so she remained placed at his shoulder. “Doesn’t he like me going there?” Jane asked. The observers response was for Jane to look at what she was doing with her lead rope. She had quite a short hold on the rope and each time she moved towards the back of the horse she was putting a bit of pressure on his halter and he was stepping back with her. As soon as she gave him a bit more room he stood contentedly as she brushed his hind quarters. As the day progressed and they worked on setting boundaries and creating contact the questions kept coming from Jane when Dior did not do what she asked or if he did something unexpected about him “not liking” what she was doing. In each instance she was asked to take her awareness outside of the personal interaction and look at what else was going on in the system. Sometimes another horse had moved too close and he had moved out of the way, or someone has walked past with a flapping coat that had drawn his attention. Jane and Dior ended the day with a session in the round yard, asking him to move a way and then to follow her around and they looked like a partnership that had been together for much longer than a day as they communicated beautifully.

Asked to describe what had changed for her between the beginning of the day and the end Jane brought up a couple of significant learnings. The first obvious one was the pleasure she had got after getting past her fear of the horses. How sometimes the fears we have made up stories about in our minds can get in the way of what our bodies and souls long to do. As a small child she had always loved horses but her early experiences meant she had put that aside, but now she was able to experience the joy of just being with them. This is a lesson she will take into other areas of her life. What stories can she move past to follow the yearning that has been blocked. Secondly Jane realised she needed to take a broader perspective of situations rather than making it all about her. To look at what else is active in a system and neither blame herself nor put blame on someone else for reacting to her in a way contrary to her desire. “It’s not always about me!” She felt what it was like with Dior to create clear boundaries whilst still staying in contact. She discovered it was not endangering but actually building relationship to be firm when it was required and then fluidly move back into partnership.