In this article, we are going to look at the lessons we can learn from the horse. Horses are strong and powerful animals, who also often have very peaceful, gentle natures. They work collaboratively and interact peacefully with others – humans or animals, and they like to be of service to others. When horses do react negatively to others, it is often through a fear-based response, so they encourage you to recognize and face your fears.
Who controls your reins?
Horses encourage you to ask yourself ‘who is driving your reins?’ Do you allow yourself to be easily led by others? Do you let people steer you in the direction they want you to go, or are you truly able to move yourself in the direction of your choosing?
This is an immensely powerful question to ask yourself as an adult, but an even more powerful lesson to teach your children.
As an adult you may or may not know what you want from life. Some people know from an early age and some may still be soul searching in later years. Regardless of where you are on your journey, a key question to ask is ‘are you are in charge of your own life?’
Are you someone who just can’t say ‘no’ to others and therefore ends up doing things that go against your own wants and needs? If so, how does that make you feel?
If you were able to say ‘no,’ how different would your life be? What would it look like and how would that make you feel?
(Read ‘Stand in Your Own Power with The Tiger’ for more advice around this)
The ability to recognize who you are, what feels right and what you know to be right and wrong are particularly important for children. That’s because children are constantly learning and evolving, shaping themselves into who they want to be, depending on who makes them feel good. If children grow up feeling bad about themselves, the resulting low self-esteem may cause them to seek out those who accept them for who they are, who make them feel good, but then may lead them down a path that can lead to them making bad decisions.
By teaching children to value themselves for who they are, to recognize and accept their strengths and weaknesses and to understand the difference between right and wrong, you will be giving them a great start. On top of that, teaching them to say ‘no’ to things they are uncomfortable with can really help them in later life. See ‘A Mouses Guide to Mighty Kids’ for more on this subject.
Collaboration and Interaction
Horses are amazing. Though they are strong and powerful and at any time can take the bit and bolt, they choose to work collaboratively with others. They serve people by carrying heavy loads, pulling carts, and being ridden out for leisurely rides etc. They will often work cooperatively alongside other horses too and prefer to relax peacefully in the company of other horses.
Collaboration is a key to success (see An Ants Amazing Advice for Awesome Success). However, it has to work for everyone, and the benefits shouldn’t be one-sided. Horses work in service to humans, who take care of their basic needs - food, water, and shelter; in the same way people work in service to others, in return for payment, which enables them to afford food, water and shelter.
However, relationships that are based on mutual respect will be so much more rewarding and fulfilling than relationships that are based on need alone – whether in the workplace or in your private life. To receive respect, it is important to first respect yourself, by staying true to your own beliefs, values and wishes and by putting boundaries in place that you will not allow people to overstep. When you value yourself, you hold the intention that others should value you too, which will then enable you to surround yourself with people who make you feel happy and secure.
You can help your children to value themselves by respecting their wishes as much as possible, discussing why it may not be possible and showing that you value their views and opinions too. By allowing them to see that you also respect and value yourself, you will also help them to see the importance of this. For more information on this see also Helping Your Kids Feel Beary Well.
It is also important to teach children to value and respect the opinions and wishes of other children, even if they don’t necessarily agree with them. Children don’t automatically know that it is ok to disagree sometimes, so teaching and modelling this will go along way to helping them resolve conflict much more quickly, as will teaching them to see things from the perspective of others (See Lesson From The Sparrow – Supporting Kids With Effective Communication, for tips on how to support this).
Horses generally get on very well with others. However, there are the odd occasions when horses do bolt, or kick out at other animals. Often these responses are fear-based.
Humans are the same. We experience a range of emotions for many different reasons, which historically have served a purpose – to keep us safe. Fear is one of them. When your body responds to what it perceives as a threat, it sends a signal to your lower brain, which triggers a fight, flight or freeze response, which historically helped people to survive. These days the threats are very minimal, compared to the days of the cave men and early settlers, however, our body reacts in much the same way to things that make us feel uncomfortable, unsettled, or unsafe.
Whilst your brain is stuck in that lower level, where the fight, flight or freeze response has been triggered, it isn’t possible to rationalize a situation and no-one will be able to reason with you until you have calmed down and are able to connect the higher part of your brain.
As an adult, you have probably learned several ways to calm yourself down by now, so you are less likely to lash out. Children, however, need to be taught how to do this. Help them to recognize and name emotions in themselves and others. Whilst discussing different emotions, teach them some strategies to help them calm down when needed:
e.g., count backwards from 5, stand on one leg, square breathing (breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, then hold for 4), or even just walk away and find a space to be alone for a short while.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so building a bank of strategies whilst the child is calm, is always a good idea, then when they need it, you can empathize, name the emotion, and remind them to use the different strategies to help them calm down.
It is often a good idea, once calm to reflect on what had happened and identify what the trigger was. This will help you and your child to resolve the issue to prevent re-occurrences, but also to accept responsibility for your part in the situation and learn from it.
Accepting responsibility for mistakes, not only helps you learn and move forward, but it also helps to build better relationships with others (see Lessons From The Kangaroo – How To Support Your Emotional Child).
You Control Your Own Destiny
By valuing yourself and putting boundaries in place about what you are willing to accept, you will ensure that you are in charge of your own destiny. By working collaboratively with others, in a relationship that is based on mutual respect, you will achieve so much more, and by understanding your emotions and having a bank of tools to support you in managing them, you will be able to respond to and cope much better with challenging situations. These are all important tools to equip your children with from a young age.
If you would like a resource that will help you to teach these tools to your children, I’d like to invite you to check out LLAMA Meditation. It’s a fun 14-week animal-themed movement and meditation course that helps children, aged 6-11 years, become more in tune with their emotions,
whilst helping them learn to love and value themselves and others. Through meeting different animals each week, your children will be supported to improve their self-esteem, develop a positive mindset, improve relationships with others and feel more confident to solve problems. Click here to find out more.