Saying Yes, Meaning No
It was “Kate’s” first Equine Assisted Learning experience and she had little previous contact with horses. During the safety briefing she admitted she was feeling a little uncertain but wanted to use the session to explore a theme in her life: she was saying yes but meaning no.
I invited Kate to explore her personal power and her boundaries (her “yes’ and “no” points) with the herd. She was to meet each horse in a way that felt safe and right for her. Due to her level of uncertainly, I went into the paddock with her.
Coco, a young relatively untrained horse, walked right up to Kate and pushed her head against the side of Kate’s body. I noticed Kate took a few steps back. I asked how she was feeling. Kate said she felt surprised and “attacked” by Coco.
Because this reaction seemed a strong one, I asked Kate if this feeling of being too close or being attacked by others might be showing up in her personal life. She reflected on a situation at home where she felt she was constantly being taking advantage of by someone who was living with her. Kate felt she was constantly giving, and this was leading to resentment. I asked Kate what she imagined would happen if she stood up for herself? She replied she was fearful of hurting the other person or of getting into a conflict if she spoke her truth also reflecting this was a pattern for her in her life.
I invited Kate to try again with Coco and this time to start with The 3 Steps to The Present, get grounded, and then to use her body and her voice to assert herself and be open/curious to see what actually happened. This is the value of equine assisted learning. Lessons are learned by having a real experience of how the other reacts when you experiment with different behaviours and ways of being.
As Kate stepped back into the paddock with the herd, Coco came up to her. This time Kate, took a deep breath out (to calm herself), put up her arm and said a firm “No”. This stopped Coco in her tracks! Coco did not walk away, she just stood calmly looking at Kate, as if asking ‘what’s next?”. I asked Kate what changed? She said she was clearer about what she wanted – what was OK and what was not OK for her in that moment. Having a clear intention, and feeling calm, supported her to be confident to communicate her need for a safer distance between them in a way where Coco listened and responded.
I asked Kate how she felt now and how did she see this as informing her about what she needed to do at home? Kate said that she felt respected and heard by Coco and was feeling confident to go back and begin to speak up more about what her needs were in her human relationships. What a fabulous outcome for Kate to take back and practice with her personal relationships! She had said “No” and meant “No.”