By April Ray-Peterson
A while back a good friend sent me the following: “You need to start loving yourself enough to stop letting people walk all over you.” And I’ve saved it on my phone ever since.
Admittedly, I haven’t quite made it there yet. I am struggling, but I am trying. What she told me doesn’t just apply to the people in my life, it applies directly to my relationship with my horse.
To say my connection with Fire is a complicated one would be an understatement. She is truly a dream come true for me. I fantasized about her before I even knew she existed. I’ve worked hard and continue to work hard to keep her and help her reach her full potential and be an overall happy and healthy horse.
After getting run over, we didn’t go anywhere without a chain, lunge line, and whip.
And sometimes, she walks all over me. Literally. At our first “away” horse show this year, she actually ran me over. If that wasn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what is. I was lucky that I didn’t get hurt too badly and to have supportive friends, a helpful coach, and an actual cowboy to help point me and my wild horse in the right direction.
While I have always found it easy to create boundaries with other people’s horses, there is something tricky about doing so with your own – especially when you have a lot of emotion invested, in addition to all the money, blood, sweat, and actual tears. Add to that complication the fact that during our first few months together, Fire was rehabbing from surgery, a situation that didn’t allow me to discipline her the way I would have liked, or to really solidify her ground manners. Sometimes it was merely about survival, but also about protecting her hocks. Essentially, she got away with murder at times because I just wanted her to stay safe and all in one piece.
It took getting pancaked this past summer for me to wake up and put my foot down – in a firm but fair way, of course. I think I will always have to stay on top of her, and this is so far outside of my nature. I just want to be her friend, but I can’t when it comes at the expense of my personal safety.
If you don’t stand up for yourself, who else is going to? Whether to your horse, a bully at school or in the workplace, to family members or anyone else, love yourself enough to stand up for yourself. And don’t let your horse, or anyone, walk all over you.
“What you allow is what will continue.” ~Unknown