Horses Reflect and React to our Truth.
(But trampled by a horse, really?)
I went on my yearly vacation a week ago and was horrified to see a young man almost trampled underneath a 2,000-pound draft horse.
I heard a man scream out, “Oh shit!” and I turned around. He was on the ground, in between the horse’s four huge hoofs, and as the horse was stomping away, the young man curled himself up in the fetal position, put his arms over his head to protect himself, and then he just kept rolling from side to side trying to keep those huge hoofs from stepping on him. But step on him, they did.
I stood there and did absolutely nothing. As did the horse trainer that I was visiting. It was one of his horses. A two-year-old. We both stood there not moving because we didn’t want to make it worse. You don’t want to further frighten an out-of-control horse.
So, we stood there motionless, hoping it would end soon. The man was being viciously attacked, and the horse just kept trying to stomp all over him. I watched in slow motion. And it seemed to go on forever. Eventually, the horse stopped and moved on. We ran over to the young man on the ground.
I’ve never seen a horse do that to anyone, and I have been around horses my entire life. Evidently, as this horse and the young man (I will call him Steven) were walking out of the field while I was ahead with the trainer, who was leading another one of his draft horses out of the field, the second horse who was following us just suddenly turned, ran over, and knocked Steven down. And then proceeded to do his stomping dance on top on him.
“Oh yeah,” the trainer said after we had helped Steven up and he explained to us how it happened, “that horse is an asshole.”
“Thanks for the warning, Jonathan,” I replied. But the funny thing is, both Steven and I had been petting that horse not five minutes earlier. The horse seemed very friendly, and while Steven has never been around horses, he didn’t display any fear when petting this animal out in the field.
That young man is OK, by the way. Let me just start with that. Fifteen minutes later, Steven was actually up and having his very first riding lesson on the other draft horse that the trainer had brought in from the field. I was there to watch how the trainer teaches military men for their first riding lesson. Yeah, Steven had some big bruises on his hips, but we all know it could have been deadly or at least life-altering. Well, I actually hope it will be life-altering.
Later in the day, as we were all with the trainer sitting inside the tack room and trying to cool down from the heat, I said to Steven, “You know, horses pick up on and will reflect back to you exactly what is going on in your life.” Steven said nothing.
What was going on in this young man’s life? I found this out later. According to the trainer, Steven’s girlfriend was breaking up with him and putting him through hell. Basically, the hits just kept on coming.
She wanted a commitment to get married, and he wasn’t ready and was pushing her away. She was hurt and lashed out. He was getting pummeled daily, and this had been going on for a week now. The thing is, he allowed her to do it.
Why didn’t he stand up for himself or fight back? He felt like he deserved it. Why? Because he understood that he had hurt her with his relationship-sabotaging actions to push her away.
He got scared and wasn’t sure he wanted to move forward with her. So, yeah, he hadn’t been direct and honest with her. His actions to push her away were unkind ways to achieve his agenda. And, therefore, he deserved to get pummeled.
What does this have to do with mental skills for riding? Be careful who you show up as. If you show up as a victim of abuse, like this young man did, your horse will reflect that back to you. He will take charge. He will be the leader. And you will be rendered powerless. These are, after all, 1200+ pound horses that we ride.
Victims are powerless. And powerless people are angry. People can’t lead from a mental state of powerlessness and anger. And horses need the comfort of strong leaders. Horses are prey animals and, as such, they are uncomfortable and sometimes unpredictable around uncertainty, anger, and “bad energy.”
Powerlessness equals uncertainty, and horses need and respect empowered leaders because it gives them the comfort of certainty.
Horses need to know that they can trust you. As does anyone that you are in a relationship with or anyone that you need to lead. If you are not congruent with your words, beliefs, and actions, and if you lack integrity and authenticity, horses will feel that.
Evidently, that young horse didn’t feel comfortable that Steven was someone who could be trusted. The horse could sense Steven’s “inner villain.” Steven’s girlfriend came to the same conclusion; where he should have been direct, instead he chose to be unkind.
Now, what’s really intriguing about this story is that Steven IS a leader. Evidently, he is an amazing leader in some areas of his life. I found out later that he is an Officer in the military, and he is a well-respected and very effective leader.
But when it comes to other areas of his life, he gives up his leadership position. He shows up as the people-pleasing and angry victim; that’s his inner villain. And then his behavior creates that reality again. Why?
Because we will always remain consistent (in our actions) with who we believe ourselves to be. Our inner villain is our constant shadow; the saboteur hiding in the background that is always ready to jump out and strike. All we have to do is invite our villain in to play with our mind!
Steven didn’t buy the “horses reflect back to you” story. He actually corrected me by repeating what the trainer originally said: “No, the horse is an asshole.” But my gut tells me that Steven would not forget that powerful vision and would be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together; that he would see his “story.”
But why does Steven show up as the victim to be walked all over? Why does he create situations that reflect that identity and “story” back to him?
Some people can’t get their needs met in a fair, kind, and direct manner. They’re not able to say, “No,” or “I matter,” or “I have needs,” or even “I’m not ready to commit” because that feels selfish or because they are afraid of the other person’s reactions. Some people just can’t set boundaries.
The first thing I work on with riders is their identity and their story. Who you show up as is how well or poorly you will ride because, again, horses need confident leaders that they can trust.
Do you show up as a leader? Or do you volunteer to show up as the follower or a victim? Are you authentic and trustworthy? Do you care about others, or are you self-centered?
What is going on in your life today? If you’re having a tough day or you are not healed from past traumas, if you’re having issues in other areas of your life like your relationships, your horse will feel it and react to it.
Have you recently lost a parent or a friend and feeling that the rug has been pulled out from under you? Are you moving on to a new horse and saying good-bye to your beloved horse that you grew up with? Are you moving on to a new age division and saying good-by to your junior years?
We enter the ring thinking that we are ready to speed around a Grand Prix course, but deep in our souls, we may be in grief. We WANT to focus more on the joy of moving forward, but maybe we are unconsciously stuck in the brain fog attached to the pain of the loss.
We can’t focus on the sadness of loss and the joy of moving forward at the same time, so our brain Will make a choice for us unless we consciously direct it otherwise.
And guess what? Our horses feel it. They will reflect back to you that heartache and sorrow. That “ending” and emptiness in your life … it will play out in the ring exactly as you have coded your brain with your thoughts and feelings.
Think about it … if you enter the show ring with a “heavy heart,” if you can’t “lift” your own emotional state, how are you going to successfully “lift” your horse over a risky course of jumps at record speeds?
How can you adjust and ride off your gut if your split second decision making skills are being generated from a gut glued to an unresourceful state of mind? Your emotional truth is short circuiting your brain.
How do get around that? Change your state BEFORE you get around a horse. But it has to be a major shift deep down inside.
Going back to the young man in this story, if you have a victim story and a victim mindset hiding somewhere in your “closet,” you need to work on changing your story and changing your mindset. Choose different beliefs. Choose different self-talk. Choose to show up as a different identity.
And learn to say what you mean and to set boundaries. No more mixed messages!
Maybe you ARE a leader in some areas of your life, but fish out the areas where you are NOT a leader. Fish out the victim story that you are playing out in other areas of your life. See where you are sabotaging your relationships or your life. See where you are welcoming controlling or manipulating bullies into your life to walk all over you.
For example, do the other riders try to “psych” you out at the horse shows? Do they innocently remind you of that bad round or fall you had in the past? Do they push ahead of you in line to go into the show ring?
Do your trainers walk all over you or act disrespectfully towards you? Do you attract bullies in other areas of our life? What about where you work? What about your siblings, your spouse, or your parents?
If your story is that you are an abused victim (who then gets angry and ends up abusing others) or a “wimpy people pleaser” (who is trying to manage everyone’s impression that you are nice and bend-over-backwards-flexible), then others will mirror that back to you. They will not respect you.
So, the bottom line is, it IS your fault that some people are treating you poorly and you WILL keep getting walked on. We are always teaching others how to treat us.
But they are not reflecting it back TO you, but rather FOR you. That horse did that young man a favor by attacking him. (Hey, some of us just need a powerful visual before we can really “see” it, right?) That horse reflected back to Steven that he was showing up in relationships in a way that would render him the “stomped on victim” who unconsciously created situations where he deserved to be punished.
This is why I work on a person’s complete lifestyle and NOT just their riding. It all ties in together. You need to “unpack” ALL areas of your life. Even your closets and attics. And then we redesign and repackage it all up again. You need to be “that new identity” consistently before people will start respecting you and treating you the way that you REALLY deserve to be treated.
Once my clients show up for their horses as the leader who truly understands and will respect their horses, once they experience how empowering that identity and mindset is, then we work on showing up in their careers and all their relationships as centered, empowered people who will not let other people walk all over them.
Choose more empowering stories and beliefs and show up in life with a more powerful identity.
You may be fooling yourself or others at first, but a horse will reflect and react your truth. And, eventually, so will everyone else.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nancy Dye is an equestrian breakthrough mindset coach and resilience trainer helping people to transform the quality of their lifestyles.
Nancy is certified as a strategic interventionist from the official coach training program of Tony Robbins and has over 30 years as a change agent; shifting people into peak performance.
Nancy specializes in solving the puzzle of why people are not performing at their best and customizing the right strategy for “jumping over” adversity. She handles all areas of a rider’s lifestyle to include relationships, career, addictions, weight loss, health and transitioning through life stages.
With a past career in corporate sales and as a luxury lifestyle Realtor, Nancy has been coached by some of the top high-performance sales trainers in the corporate world, as well as by some of the most elite coaches in the world of sports. Nancy redesigns the inner lives of athletes, executives, entrepreneurs, and elite military and veterans.
Nancy is married to Jack Miles, a former Olympian gymnast who is inducted into four athletic Hall of Fames. For one-on-one coaching or information on her workshops or riding clinics, Nancy can be reached at NancyDyeResults@gmail.com.