Confrontation: Some people seem to attract and spread drama wherever they go, others avoid confrontation like the plague.

I like to think many things are not good or bad, but what we make of it. When I started training, I think I was overly confrontational with my horses. Then, for a while, I avoided it like the plague. Both situations created unbalanced, unhappy horses.

Confrontation is part of life, but we can do it peacefully. If I have a horse kicking at me, pawing at me, or pushing on me, a confrontation is inevitable in some way if we’re going to get through that spot. But it doesn’t have to be emotional on my end- it isn’t personal, and if I look at it as an opportunity to help my horse, it can actually be a really great moment for us to get together. Sometimes problem horses end up being the best saddle horses for this reason- so many opportunities to create a better relationship, better understanding, and better basics.

Confrontation with people is such an art form, and far more complicated. It’s bound to happen. It can’t be avoided (or at least shouldn’t be, for a healthy life). You don’t have to go picking fights, but communication is everything. People don’t often read each other’s body language and respond, and we carry lots of ideas, notions, and baggage into the situation that make things far muddier. Was that person rude or am I just overly sensitive to criticism?

A funny example of this importance of communication: one night my husband asked me to hand him a pen while sitting at the kitchen counter. I handed it to him, and we went about our business. Then he asked me for a book, and I handed it to him, and went on about our business. Some time passed and he asked, “are you ok?” I looked at him quizzically, “of course, why?”
“Both times I asked you to hand me something I had my hand open, and you put the thing next to my hand, not in it. Did I upset you?”

I explained that I hadn’t meant to do that, that I had a splitting headache and hadn’t even noticed. We both laughed, I got some ibuprofen, and life was good.

But imagine if he didn’t ask me, and went on all night thinking I was upset. I would have noticed him acting funny, and maybe gotten anxious, and started avoiding him, or acting different in some way. The two of us could have easily reacted based on our past experiences: him behaving from knowing his partners are always mad at him, me behaving like my partners are always cold and detached. Then our entire night would have been uncomfortable and it would have all been avoidable with a simple conversation.

Horses can teach us to be better communicators. They can teach us to keep our emotions balanced when having these conversations. They can teach us to read expression better, to not seek out or avoid conflict but to deal with them in a healthy way when they come up.

This is the journey horses have taken me on: improving my life through deepened understanding of myself, and for that I am very grateful. I am by no means good at any of this, but thanks to horses, I’m trying to become aware. Because how we are in our day to day lives will show up with horses – guaranteed.

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