Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Horses and dogs - and probably most living things - can teach us about boundaries. My dog Clifford, a beautiful, joyful, large-headed, 9 year-old Lab thinks that everyone loves him. He knows this because when he butts them with his head, they invariably pat him. When they stop, he butts them again and they resume patting. Makes sense that he would think they love him. In reality, they might love him more if he wasn't so darned demanding! Are people just being polite? Why do they let him do that? Horses can also push our boundaries physically - and emotionally. We sometimes need to get angry in order to say, "Hey! that's too much!" Conversely, we as humans often push the boundaries of animals. Diva, my horse, is a perfect example. I thought the pinning of the ears and narking were her attempts to be rude to me. In fact, she is telling me, "Hey, that's too much!" I have learned that she has a bubble and I am one of the honoured ones allowed into her bubble but only if I'm polite about it. It's not rudeness. It's her comfort zone. How long has she been misunderstood? Now, she is soft and friendly and much more compliant.

Boundaries are what keep us safe. They are not rigid. Potentially, they are movable as our comfort level changes. They need to be honoured. They challenge us to be clear and to listen.

And so, the negotiation of boundaries can be like a dance where one approaches, then listens. The other responds. And so on it goes. If you've read any of Linda Kohanov's writings on boundaries and horses, you will be enlightened on this most beautiful and yet challenging of concepts.