It didn't take me long in this industry to recognize that many of us use our time with our horses to fill some type of wound from our past or present. Time with your horse can feel like balm for a weary soul.
But the danger of using your horse to fill voids in your life or cover up broken pieces of yourself is that when the dream of how that horse should act or what your experience with them will be like, crashes into the reality that this is another living being with good days and bad days - things get raw fast.
Have you ever gone to the barn and thought I "just" want to have a nice ride today. In your mind you deserve this ride. You have been putting up with so much crap lately and this is your one place of solace. The energy you are bringing to the session feels defeated and you hope that your horse will lift you up. And on occasion this can be true. But more often than not, that low-level of energy you are showing up with instantly triggers alarm bells in your horse that their leader is not radiating strong leadership that will keep them safe. And before you even reach the cross ties your horse's autonomic nervous system (the carrier of flight or fight reactions through the body) has fired. You are now likely to encounter an insecure horse or one that decides no one else is steering the ship and takes over.
How you show up for your horse matters and the humanizing meaning that you assign to their behavior is a fantasy inside your own mind.
"My horse kicked me and that means he doesn't like me."
"My horse bit me and that means he doesn't love me."
"My horse won't let me catch him and that means he rejects me."
All of these phrases are a product of a lifetime of your battle scars. They are all about your brain trying to rationalize and draw parallels between your present and past. They are not coming from a place of reason and are not based in truth - they are based on your perception. And perception and truth are not always the same thing.
If your horse kicked you it means he felt the need to defend his space, food, another horse etc... It could also mean he is in pain and is guarding himself from discomfort. When we humanize the reaction and tie it to our past trauma we completely miss what the horse was trying to tell us.
Horses have a direct way of reflecting our scars back to us if we let them. But when we feel triggered by a horses reaction we need to take the feedback and work on ourselves away from the barn. This is where journaling, seeking life coaching or therapy can be great tools for gaining more insight and facing past wounds so they don't keep popping up and disrupting your present.
When you are able to take your horse's reactions at face value, understanding horse behavior patterns and see them from their point of view - nothing is personal. It is all just feedback. Being able to accept the feedback with grace and dignity and work to shift your reactions to responses is one of the greatest lessons a horse can teach us. Learn well.