The Lure of Dominance

Juno - 2 days old
Juno – 2 days old

So was my one-week-old foal delivering a spiritual message and facilitating emotional healing for me; or was he just attacking me for fun, or testing me? Let’s start with a bit of background…

Last August, when Kesia and I had our horses together, Kesia’s horse Amalia had a foal. So I was there for the pregnancy, there for part of the labor, and for a few months afterward. Long enough to remember that little foals – very much like puppies and kittens – have no idea of the ways their body parts can damage humans and they just want to PLAY!!

Now I must also tell you that I have something in me that brings out the bugger in kids, foals, puppies etc. Whether it’s because they instinctively sense I’m up for a bit of spunkiness, or whether they are triggered by the vein of anger that runs through me from past experiences, I’m not sure.

So stay with me as we trace a bit of a journey here through other territories – this is worthwhile because of the horse-as-mirror phenomena. And the better we can understand ourselves; our stories, our default settings, our triggers etc, the quicker we can move forward into healing and even greater relationship with our equines and humans.

This story started one day when a friend was visiting the herd and meeting Juno for the first time. He was only 7 days old so I was quite surprised when he kicked out at her hard, sideways, but about 2 feet from any point of contact. Experienced horsewoman though she is, she was still taken by surprise and she scooted sideways away from him, putting out her hands defensively to say, “No. Don’t come any closer.”

As I watched this I perceived a flame of fear/anger whoosh up her body; from the soles of her feet, up over her head. And I thought, “Oh that looks/feels familiar. She must have been in the victim position as a child.”

In my experience, those of us who grew up with a larger person (parent, sibling, school bully, etc) who repeatedly abused us physically or emotionally, in a way that forced us to be a helpless victim – over and over again – have a rage/fear response that is pretty significant. Now we may have learned to hide or mask our intense reaction – maybe even from ourselves – but kids and animals are not fooled regardless.

Still, I was kinda glad he kicked at her first and not me, as I had thought I would have a few more weeks before I’d have to deal with that! And I was not looking forward to it. Because I had not yet learned how to handle young animals wanting to spar with me. Let me explain…

Vader the Buck Goat

Before Kesia’s foal came along, there was a young unneutered goat on the property named Vader. One day I was filling slow feeders in the barn and he rose up on his hind legs and charged at me. Well, this triggered my 7 years of martial arts training (karate, tae kwon do and kickboxing) and I gave him a front push kick off his horns to send him back away from me.

Vader
Vader

I tell you, if you’ve ever seen a goat react with utter glee, that was Vader as he realized the game had gone to a whole new, delicious level. He charged me over and over again as I blocked his charges with kicks to his horns. Personally I was amazed my aim was so good (I didn’t want to hurt him, so aimed only for the base of his horns) after decades of not training. At the same time feeling a bit panicked as to when he was going to stop as my legs were getting tired!

From then on, whenever Vader saw me arrive, he would scamper with glee to the horse area and attack me as soon as possible. I could NOT get him to stop, no matter what I tried. Eventually, I resortedย  to flipping him by the horns and pinning him on his side until he relaxed (submitted), then I’d let him up. Sometimes I’d have to do this two or three times before he’d finally leave me alone. Sometimes the horses came to my rescue and herded him off.

Then, when Kesia’s foal, Firefly was born, within a few weeks guess what happened? Yep, she would come at me either rearing up and striking with her front legs, or kicking out. I would just scootch away and if Kesia was there she would step in and re-direct Firefly away from me as I hid behind Kesia!

In both instances, I was unable to find a way to stop these attacks, nor was I able to figure out definitively why I triggered such aggression.

And then, my own foal comes along (well, Audelina’s foal – but she’s letting me be Mama #2) and I think, “Oh shit. I’m in for it now.” Keep in mind, this is a colt that I dearly hope to be able to leave a stallion – with just a vasectomy (Section Ligation Release – SLR), so that all his hormone production and stallion behaviours remain intact.

As a hopeful preventative measure, I make sure to move Montaro (herd boss) around in front of Juno, so that he can see that even Montaro listens to me! Although Montaro does what I ask, I can see he is disappointed, and a little disgusted at my display of ‘look how I can make Montaro do what I say, even though it’s for no reason/purpose other than to demonstrate my dominance’. But I am already on the downslide here and I don’t know what else to do, other than thank Montaro for his tolerance and patience.

The very next day, at 8 days old, I’m scratching Juno (which he loves) and he humps up his bum, gives a little hop, then kicks out sideways at me. I move away and he follows me, kicking sideways or backwards, depending on where I’m standing.

juno-kick-ready
Juno – One week old

Of course, I have no idea what to do! I instinctively attempt to push on his bum to move him away from me. This just makes him madder. Then I try to push down on his bum, to stop him from humping up, nope, that pisses him off more too. I notice how as his aggression escalates, my fear escalates, and underneath that fear is a vein of rage.

It used to be a river of rage, but I have done a shit-ton of healing work on myself and I notice that it is now more the dimensions of a skein of gold that runs through rock. As Juno escalates his attacks – and yes, he is strong enough to break my kneecap so the threat is real – my initial fear and “Stop Juno – easy!” turns into, “Yeah, you wanna go? You little bugger, you wanna piece of me?” Followed quickly by this rising tide of anger and the desire to smash him. As he lashes out with one hoof close by my leg the thought flashes, “I wonder if I should grab his hoof the next time he kicks?” And I see myself grabbing onto that hoof and not letting go until he surrenders with spent exhaustion and the resignation that I am stronger and I cannot be beaten and he will respect me forever for I will have crushed him!!

At that moment Audelina leaves her hay and calmly walks right in between the two of us. Like a good mama separating her two scrapping kids before someone gets hurt. She says gently and with kindness, “You’ve both lost it. I’m stepping in before someone gets hurt. Both of you take a break.”

“Oh thank you Aude!” I huff and puff and gratefully step back to face my shame. The sheer speed with which I default to dominance, still, after decades of healing the child who was beaten and wondered each time whether today would be a good day to die, astounds me.

I am still, after all this time, only a hair-trigger away from, “I’m gonna smash you and crush you so you can never hurt me!”

Likewise, I believe inside every bully, every convict, and every gang member crouches a small, weak child who was pulverized and utterly helpless to stop the obliteration of mind, body and spirit.

I head off to the welcome release of chores waiting to be done. And by the time I’ve flowed out the residual anger, fear and pain into physical labor, the horses are in the big barn meditating. I feel ready to join them.

meditate-juno

After an hour of meditating together, I still don’t have any answers. For how to manage his attacks, or my anger, or how to keep us both safe. But one thing is clear to me and that is that I need to apologize to Juno. He rises from his sleep and comes over the slow feeder I’m sitting on. I tell him I’m sorry, that I totally screwed up, and that I don’t know how to handle it the next time it happens either, but I’m committed to whatever it takes to learn/shift/heal whatever I need to.

juno-peek

And as I’m apologizing, he comes round the side of the feeder and gently places the side of his head against my palm, then moves my hand to cup his eye – the most fragile, vulnerable part of his body – and gently rubs his eye against my palm. I receive his message with an open, grateful heart. I feel he is saying, “I completely forgive you. I trust you with the most vulnerable parts of me.”

I figure that’s a real good note to end the day on. I feel spent and ready to go home, have a shower, eat, a change of gears and sleep on it all.

I load the dogs and a few things into my truck parked outside the paddock gate and as I’m climbing into the cab, I notice that Juno has left his mama and has come over to stare entreatingly at me. The intensity of his gaze stops me in my tracks – so of course I take a photo! I tell him goodbye again, but he does not stop his magnetic gaze. I try to tell him that I’m too tired for anything more, but I love him and I’ll see him tomorrow.

juno-truck

Then he motions me with the language we have already developed for, “Come scratch me here”. Then gazes at me intently. How can I abandon such focused intent? So I agree to a few more minutes and climb down from the truck.

come-scratch

As I walk up to the gate – feeling like I have zero energy left for another scratching session with the tension/fear of whether he’s going to try to kick me, or not – I realize what he is saying. He is asking me to scratch him, through the gate. I spend the next five minutes working over all his ticklish, jumpy spots – including his hind legs – with the bars of the gate keeping us both safe. I feel him saying, “See, even if you scratch my hock and it’s almost a reflex for me to kick out, my leg will just thunk the side of the bar – which won’t hurt me and won’t hurt you. So now I can relax too, knowing I’m not going to hurt you, and I have the space to train myself not to be so jumpy.”

gate-safe

Here he has just presented me a with a solution whereby we can stay in relationship, maintain closeness, touch each other – yet both remain perfectly safe. I am overcome, yet again, by the privilege of being in relationship with such spiritual masters as these horses – even the newborn has huge wisdom to share with me.

But guess what? This story is not over yet!

Kick-Dancing With Anger

Two days later, Kesia arrives to meet Juno and trim the horses’ hooves. I tell her what’s been happening – everything I’ve just told you above. We weave in and out of each other’s space as the afternoon wears on. And then I look over and see that Juno has just humped up his butt and kicked out at Kesia.

I drop my manure fork and walk over for a closer look – but far enough away that my energy/being doesn’t enter their dynamic. Kesia is a 3rd Dan (third degree black belt) instructor of Ki Aikido. She has spent most of her life learning how to take an attacker’s aggressive energy and flow, or re-direct it, away from herself, so that she remains safe. Other martial arts (like the styles I studied) involve combat – you stop/block the other’s attack and then counter-attack.

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Kesia at her dojo

In Ki Aikido the goal is to be a peacemaker, to hold the energy and space of love and just flow nasty shit around and away from you – remaining peaceful, centered, and grounded throughout. There is no judgment, no outrage, no sense of violation at the other’s actions. Like yin and yang, light and dark, fast and slow, it all simply IS. There is no charge or anger at ‘being attacked’. It is just energy coming toward you of a certain quality and speed and so you simply meet it, align with it’s flow/thrust and re-direct it; to the side, beyond you, or drop it to the ground.

I saw Kesia’s body instinctively move into Aikido stance. Like me, and my horsewoman friend, she too had both arms outstretched towards Juno. One was placed lightly against his shoulder, the other against his rump. But that’s where the similarities ended.

When Juno swung his rump into Kesia, she smoothly backstepped in a circular motion – so instead of moving straight back, she moved back and over to one side (less steps, less distance travelled, less effort expended), so that Juno was swinging his rump in a circle. Likewise if he tried to swing his shoulder into her; she stepped back and around. As they moved back and forth, left and right, but always in rounded, circular patterns, it looked as though they were dancing. Juno was irate and Kesia had a little smile on her face – her body was relaxed, loose and peaceful.

Occasionally, when he kicked out sideways hard (his leg being longer than the reach of her arm), her hands left his body as she scootched quickly backwards – but her arms remained outstretched in the same position. She maintained an energetic boundary of desired space between them, even as she leaped physically out of the way. Kesia did not try to move Juno away from her, or to keep him contained – as I had done – she allowed him to direct the movement and she followed his lead.

This is in direct opposition to the horsemanship principle of “never let a horse move your feet – or he will think he’s the boss”. But again, that is a principle based on human dominance and it is accomplished using some form of pressure (resistance or push). And yet, although Kesia was moving her feet a lot, and in the direction Juno was dictating by his lashes, at no point did it look like Juno was “winning” or that Kesia was the submissive party.

On the contrary, Kesia was fully engaged, fully present and certainly appeared more in control than Juno was. So although he was “moving her feet” it was due to her choice, not fear or submission to his dominance. And so it changed the dynamic from a pecking order win-lose situation, to a fully engaged, respectful dance. Kesia was offering Juno a new way to be or engage with the behaviour/desire/need he was bringing her.

I watched Juno try his hardest to spar, but not meet any resistance, only flowing re-direction – always in the flow or direction of his kick. It’s similar to when you have a toddler who insists on banging your jewellery box to make noise – you don’t thwart the desire, you give him a pot and wooden spoon to bang with – you simply re-direct the desire to something safer. Or a puppy who is chewing your shoe. You recognize that the puppy needs that behaviour and you re-direct him to a bone. His drive/desire is met, and everyone/everything is safe.

As their dance continued I watched Juno transition from bugger, to mad, to annoyed, to puzzled, to ‘oh, okay’.ย  And then they went back to cuddling and scratching. The next time I looked over, he was allowing Kesia to pick up and hold each of his four hooves – poof, just like that!

Kesia and Juno sharing a quiet moment after their dance
Kesia and Juno sharing a quiet moment after their dance

Kesia gave me a live demonstration of the answer to my dilemma of what to do? when Juno came at me. What was most transformative for me was not just the physical solution of how to move my body to re-direct to flow with his attacks, but to be able to witness the energetic space that Kesia inhabited throughout. Kesia elaborates:

“Before our spontaneous aikido session, I didn’t feel much connection with Juno, just mutual curiosity as well as some very appropriate caution. After our little dance, I suddenly felt him open to me and I to him. Our wariness of each other disappeared and we both felt safe to really enjoy and relax in each other’s presence. I felt no more aggression from him and no more warning bells in me. We just settled into love. That said, I will not assume the next time I see him that we can start from that place of peace without further conversation!”

Visceral Resilience

Witnessing someone not move into fear. Not be triggered into anger, but remain in tolerance, resilience and acceptance is very powerful. The more I learn and experience of life, the more I realize that the key to a truly vibrant life (across all facets; work, relationship, challenges, health, growth) is resilience. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, how fearful you are, or how courageous. The factor that determines whether you rise again, without being diminished (physically, emotionally, spiritually), is resilience – and that is a choice. It is a space, a belief, a declaration we choose to inhabit, or not.

Now you might be wondering, what happens with people who come to visit Juno who are not martial artists? What about kids or people who do not have the strength or mobility to dance with him, or who are not willing to leave their visceral fear response and move into resilience?

Well, since then, I’ve had a 60 pound young girl out to visit, a young woman, a middle-aged woman, an elderly woman, and a middle-aged man. Here’s what I’ve observed: If you have no trigger in you, Juno will not engage you in the dance. Let me give you two examples.

With the young girl, he gave a little hump and 2-inch kick and she said, “No Juno” put her hand out and moved away. I told her, “If you’re scared of him, just be honest, own your feelings and let him know. And if he keeps bugging you, then walk away.” She walked a few steps away and he came up to her again, but no more aggression. I watched this happen several times over the next few days. This girl is loved and secure – she does not have a rage in her that needs to be brought into the light.

juno-megan

The man who came out when Juno was 2 weeks old also had a childhood of beatings and humiliation – from his father and boys at school. He too has done a lot of personal healing, but the rage is still in him. He’s not a martial artist, but I mimed out the dance-with-kicking-horse technique I learned from Kesia the week prior. And I stuck close by him because, even though he said, “I have no anger today, I’m in a soft and loving place.” I knew that Juno would not respond to his conscious reality, but would be triggered by his unconscious reality.

Sure enough, after about a half hour came the first hump-kick. I coached this man from the sidelines, instructing him how to move his body, where to position his limbs, and encouraged him to access the energetic space of flexibility and resilience. So they kick-danced for a short while and then Juno left to nibble at grass. The man sat on the grass for while – exhausted? contemplative? I don’t know, I felt I should leave him to his process.

And me and Juno? Well, of course, soon after Kesia left, Juno brought me the opportunity to practice. I was amazed that I was able to stay in that place of acceptance and resilience, and yes, even love –ย  the very first time he challenged me. If that sounds pie-insky to you, you also need to know that months earlier, before I even knew Audelina was pregnant, Montaro had taught me (and then drilled into me) an energy technique that enabled me hold myself together in the face of even intense fear – you can learn that energy technique here.

So our first kick-dance petered out pretty quickly and although I’m always ready to dance again, Juno has not initiated again. Even when I had to use force to push him away from a spot in the fence where he wanted to scratch that was dangerous, I was really surprised that he did not respond with anger. Perhaps he felt my concern for his wellbeing was a justified reason for being dominant and pushy? Regardless, I am already using this new way of being with our 3-month-old Maine Coon kitten – who launches himself at my ankles, or tries to climb my thighs with his claws, and it works just as well with him.

The really interesting thing is that Kesia has no rage-trigger in her. So I think that Juno knew she was the one who could solve our problem. Who could teach me through witnessing their interaction, and thus give me the answer to my question of how to manage his attacks, and my anger, and how to keep us both safe.

I’m not saying Juno will never kick out at someone again – for any variety of reasons – as he grows, his hormones kick in, or he makes developmental leaps, etc. I am simply sharing our story and honoring him gratefully for the teaching and wisdom shared thus far. For showing me that even when being attacked, there IS a way to both protect myself and stay in love – or at least tolerance and resilience. That there is a state of being I can access that exists beyond the polarized extremes of rage or victim

And as I access this new state – physically, emotionally and viscerally – I am changing my embedded cellular response to violence. I am given the opportunity each time to respond differently and to feel differently.
Empowered vs. victim.
Compassionate vs. abused.
Resourceful vs. helpless.
It’s pretty cool – thank you Juno. And Aude. And Montaro. And Kesia ๐Ÿ™‚

juno-me-aude-love
Juno, Audelina & Me

 

Jini Patel Thompson is a natural health writer and Freedomite. She began riding at age 2 in Kenya, and got her first horse at age 8 in Alberta, and so continues a life-long journey and love affair with these amazing creatures.
The Lure of Dominance

22 thoughts on “The Lure of Dominance

  • August 12, 2016 at 10:59 pm
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    What an inspiration you are Jini. So many times you’ve triggered a “light bulb” moment for me; pertaining to interactions with horses and humans. You’re an incredible writer, story teller and truly a very gifted spiritual teacher. I cannot express how much this story has impacted me to my core. You are such a brave little warrior by so openly writing about your feelings. I will humbly look forward to your future teachings… Tell Montaro I love him and that I think his baby is miraculous. Sandi.

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    • August 13, 2016 at 9:57 am
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      Awwww that’s awesome Sandi! And thank you very much for your lovely words. I will indeed pass on your message to Montaro (although I think he’s already heard you). After reading how difficult it is for Belgians to conceive and birth I think their one-night-wonder is doubly miraculous! It’s truly humbling to exist with such masters of Ki/energy and wholeness – and just a wee bit of a challenge ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Reply
  • August 13, 2016 at 3:33 am
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    Thank you for this article!
    ” I am stronger and I cannot be beaten and he will respect me forever for I will have crushed him” is exactly what I feel often with my horse or my dog! This anger and frustration (and agression!) comes and it’s just so strong inside! It’s fascinating, because one of my horses and my dog are triggering this anger very easily and quite often in me. I’m sure there is a message for me – hm… As a child I was always hearing that I’m not good enough, I was doing everything wrong etc. And I was ALWAYS not feeling safe – we had (and still have) financial problems, it’s like worrying forever whether me or my animals will survive another month. I hate that feeling and it makes me angry because I can’t find the solution to finally rest and feel safe.
    I feel the same with my animals – I feel like a failure because my very challenging dog (he is agressive towards other dogs and he weighs more than me!) is calm and a ‘good boy’ when with behaviourist (we had lessons with 4 or 5 of dog specialist, and every one of them was succesfull BUT me!). My horse Farys – he is calm and responsive when handled with someone else, with me – he is often noughty, parelli would say “dominant”, using his body against me, oh, and he is NOT calm and relaxed, like he can not be relaxed in my pressence, like he doesn’t feel safe. Okay… So they make me feel like “I’m not good enough’ (sounds familliar!), others are better than me, I can’t manage etc. And I don’t feel safe. So when the problem comes my anger is trying to give me “strength” to control the situation but even if it helps in that moment, it always makes me feel guilty, sad and miserable… It doesn’t solve anything, only makes my animals trust me less and make me feel bad about myself.

    I will think about this what you wrote here Jini – what lesson my dear animals are trying to teach me, what SOLUTION is in there? They are telling me this over and over, “kicking” me like Juno – and i was blind to see the message.

    Much love, thank you for sharing this powerfull story!

    Reply
    • August 13, 2016 at 9:50 am
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      It’s so fascinating isn’t it Zuza? And thank you so much for sharing your experiences too. I look at it like this: You don’t feel safe at your core, so your animals re-create this emotional state in the physical world. It’s a way of holding a big, fat mirror up to you saying, “THIS is what you’re really feeling/being. Which makes me respond like this.” So now your hidden reality is out in the open. Now you can work with it, you can move into healing.

      Not feeling safe is at the core of most auto-immune conditions too. I’ve worked with this concept for a long time in my own healing journey and with my health readers and here’s something that can help shift things at the cellular level:

      http://blog.listentoyourgut.com/how-to-increase-feelings-of-safety-resilience/

      I encourage you to do this tapping video this week, and then next week try the technique I’m going to share (what Montaro taught me to do) and I would LOVE to hear how it all goes for you…

      Reply
  • August 13, 2016 at 1:37 pm
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    What Sandi said ^^^ … plus …. Soooo enjoyed reading about your interactions with Juno and what you are both learning from it. What an incredible journey we’re on with our beloved equine families! More than anything else the horses in my life have helped me by gently (usually…not always!) insisting that I be fully present when I am with them. So one of my thoughts when reading this was, “When Juno kicks out he is certainly making sure she stays fully present!”

    Reply
    • August 13, 2016 at 6:02 pm
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      Thanks K and yes there’s nothing like a bit of danger to make you snap to! No matter how tired, fuzzy-headed, or exhausted you are, suddenly you’re RIGHT THERE ๐Ÿ™‚ Where are you now – are you still in Spain?

      Reply
      • August 14, 2016 at 7:46 am
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        I live in California, just outside Santa Barbara. My horse family is Galicia (grey Andalusian), Grace (Palomino Arab/QH) and Gitano (super cute grey miniature). All I need is a Palomino miniature to have two and two!

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        • August 14, 2016 at 10:17 am
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          We were looking to buy land around Santa Barbara/SLO last year, but couldn’t make it happen. Love the oak trees and rolling hills in that area! Do you find the water issue much of a problem? Or is the media making it out to be worse than it is? So what happened with Buena Chica – is that a horse you purchased in Spain for the trip? Guess that would make sense, rather than flying your own there and back!

          Reply
          • August 16, 2016 at 2:44 pm
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            Hi Jini….I’d love to continue this exchange by email. Mine is XX (maybe don’t approve this reply/post with my email address!) so drop me a line with your email & I’ll respond.

          • August 17, 2016 at 8:03 pm
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            Emailed you yesterday – did you get it? If not, maybe check your Spam folder…

  • August 13, 2016 at 6:05 pm
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    Beautiful , the art of applying wisely, ellegantly and compassionately whatยดs been learned at the dojo…

    Thanks Jini, for sharing this, it empowers the sense of SAMADHI potential in our lives, in other words to be able to be IN THE EXPERIENCE OF THE DIVINE… the story, your witnessing and the photo of Kesia and Juno in peace after the “dance”, are simply touching and magnific!

    NAMASTE.

    Reply
    • August 13, 2016 at 10:59 pm
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      Yes – I too found the picture of Kesia and Juno incredibly moving and powerful – it says as much as two paragraphs of words could! You will have to come and do Capoeira with my horses sometime – that would be so cool!

      Reply
  • August 15, 2016 at 6:56 am
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    So much yes ๐Ÿ™‚ Controlling only ourselves and our own reactions leads to the most beautiful relationships possible, where you can leave all the old notions of violence and dominance behind, and where peace and cooperation just happen naturally.

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    • August 15, 2016 at 1:59 pm
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      Very true. Although even within the herd, things are not always ‘peaceful’. There is natural jockeying for where they stand, or which slow feeder they want to eat at. The older ones spend quite a bit of time disciplining the youngest ones. But that could be because they’re in a domestic situation and not free-roaming on 600 acres. Equine ethologist Lucy Rees observed that it requires 100 acres per horse to be self-sustaining – i.e. no competition for resources doled out by the human.

      Reply
  • August 19, 2016 at 7:38 am
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    I don’t have the words to express my deep gratitude to you for sharing this beautiful experience with us. I am overwhelmed with many layers of emotions. For now all I can offer is my heartfelt THANK YOU with tears of joy & hope running down my face.
    Universal blessings to all; especially all the animals that bless us every minute of every day. My animals humble & honor me every day…………..I am blessed.

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    • August 19, 2016 at 5:52 pm
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      Just beautiful Paulette and yes, we are all very blessed by these amazing creatures ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • August 21, 2016 at 8:23 pm
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    Hi Jini,
    Thanks for your brilliant and refreshing method of teaching about horses through story. Your method of personal and authentic sharing reaches in and helps me understand the equine/human connection on all levels-mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. Many Thanks!

    Reply
    • August 22, 2016 at 1:06 am
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      Awesome Joan, I’m so pleased, and you’re very welcome! I ADORE stories – even the short stories people write in many of the blog comments on this site communicate so much and give me a real glimpse into their life or experience. I look forward to hearing your stories too!

      Reply
  • August 31, 2016 at 8:08 am
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    Very interesting. In my facilitated work with inmates I notice similar situations, where rage and aggression is a common response. My understanding of Affective Neuroscience, Panksepp’s mammalian emotions, it seems the RAGE neurocircuit is commonly triggered by issues with boundaries or threatened social attachments. The questions become, how do we become more aware of where our boundaries are, and how do we communicate them in a way that doesn’t harm the relationship?

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    • September 3, 2016 at 6:25 pm
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      Hi A, I found a very useful tool for mapping boundaries when experimenting with tools to use with my kids. One of my sons in particular is highly sensitive and a particularly powerful mirror/trigger for me.

      So here’s the tool: You map out a scale of your anger. Where 1 is calm and 10 is volcano. And you figure out where/when you start feeling pressured or trapped. For me it is around 3-4. You don’t let it get to where you actually feel trapped, frantic, or powerless – that is too late and you are then on a fast downhill slide to anger –> rage by then.

      So when you first start to feel that agitated, trapped, powerless, frustrated state, THAT is when you put down the boundary. A boundary could involve you walking away, or locking yourself in a room and putting headphones on so you can’t hear the person yelling at you. Or getting in the car and driving away. The boundary is appropriate to the relentlessness of the person threatening you and whether they can respect a milder boundary or not.

      You avoid harming the relationship by explaining this to people in advance and owning the fact that it is not necessarily their behaviour that needs to change. You are owning the fact that you have these triggers and your actions are designed to protect both of you from your wrath!

      I would say, for example, “Okay, I’m hitting that trapped, frustrated feeling, so I’m going to leave now. We can try discussing this again later.” When my kids were toddlers and I couldn’t lock myself away, or leave the house, I would lock them in a safe room and I would tell them, “I’m right outside the door here and I’ll let you out when you’re ready to be decent.” I would then sit down outside the bedroom door, listening to the child rage and have their catharsis, or, with another child they might yell a bit and then settle down to a nice game or puzzle. It depends on how much anger each child has! I would wait for the energy to shift – I could feel this. Then I would say, “Are you ready to come out and be decent?” They would say, “Yes mum” so I would unlock the door and we would have a lovely hug and connection, then usually we could talk about the issue without them escalating to abuse.

      In my experience, if you have been abused as a child, it does no good to say, “I’ll never do that to my kids!” That’s just setting yourself up to pound on your kids because you have no game plan or awareness of your own rage. OR, you may disengage/dissociate completely – lights are on, nobody’s home parent. Neither will give your kids what they need.

      Hope that helps!

      Reply
  • April 17, 2017 at 2:42 am
    Permalink

    Thank you so much for writing this. So many practical insights, thank you!!! Love from The Netherlands, Europe

    Reply
    • April 18, 2017 at 11:40 pm
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      You’re welcome Annemarie and nice to see you here!

      Reply

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