Today I want to talk about stretching into uncomfortable territory.
As you know by now, I am sharing animals' voices, opinions, insights, and needs. In each phone session or barn call, each podcast I record, and each article I write, I am expressing something the animals have taught us humans. Because of it, we get to understand our animals better and have a perspective on their life we wouldn’t know without them sharing it with us.
In my experience, animals often provide us with DUH moments. Some of the things they express are so duh that it is humbling.
Let me give you an example. In the last episode, I mentioned that if you walk up to a horse with a saddle and the horse pins his ears, you need to figure out why the horse is saying no.
Is it the saddle? A physical issue? A behavioral pattern based on old experiences?
It seems like a duh moment, right? If your horse says ‘no,’ we should figure out why.
Well, the truth is that thousands and thousands of horses go through this every day without someone trying to figure out how to help the horse go from unease to ease.
Because the horse is required to work, we don't have time to figure it out. Or, we have tried it without success, and therefore we don’t know what to do, and therefore we ignore the horse’s behavior.
The same is true for other animals.
Recently, I spoke with a dog who immediately pointed out that her tendency to be unfocused is because her person was always very busy in her head. When I suggested grounding and embodying exercises for the human, the woman said it wasn’t her. It was the dog who had Attention Deficit Disorder. My explanation that our dogs are part of the family and that we are all living in a pack and, therefore, all of our energies influence each other did not ring true for the person.
Another DUH moment. There is no question that what happens to me will affect those around me. However, not everyone believes or trusts that truth.
Here is another one.
Most of the dogs I work with had a challenging past. And when a dog expresses fear or concern, its ears are flat against the head. The head tilted down, a growl and hackles up, or the tail down between the hind legs, which means the animal is not ready for physical contact.
If your dog doesn’t like to be petted … don’t let anyone near him.
But, you might be surprised how often the dog is exposed to things that are uneasy for him. Many dogs need physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual rehabilitation before they can handle the world. Taking in a rescue animal is a lovely thing to do, but it doesn’t stop there.
Running a riding program is a lovely thing to do, but it doesn’t stop there.
If the animal is in our care, it is our job to provide ease for the animal. DUH. Right?
Not so much because when the care inconveniences us or when the care requires us to give something we never gave to get something the animal never had, WE need to adjust. Not the animal. And that is uncomfortable.
And that is true for me too. Sometimes I got to push out of my comfort zone to share a truth that is not easily digestible. Here is an example. I realized that I should send the latest podcast to all my horse people, encouraging them to listen. And then I hesitated because I sensed it might feel uncomfortable for them to know their horse is speaking to them when it is resisting the saddle. And once they know, they might feel uncomfortable … are not sure what to do. Well, here is another DUH moment. Our discomfort means we can change something. The horse itself can not change the experience without our help. We are the ones who signed up for the job, the horse care, and the program. The horse didn’t.
The same is true for the pup. The dog didn’t sign up for the neglect, abuse, or whatever else he might have experienced. But when we signed up to adopt the dog, we agreed to improve the animal’s life. And that might mean that we need to adapt. I have spoken about that before. Our dog Scout was challenging my decision to bring him into our life when we couldn’t leave him home alone for over a year. But this wasn’t Scout’s responsibility. It was mine. And I had to adapt.
Telling my human client she has to adapt to her dog’s needs doesn’t always feel good to them or me. DUH … but I feel it is my responsibility to put it out there.
I will get over my discomfort and send the last episode to all riding centers and peeps who work with horses, hoping that a bunch of amazing humans will wake up and realize they have the power to change a horse’s life. How? By speaking up to the barn manager or director, or instructor. Stepping into your own discomfort for the horse's sake is scary and rewarding at the same time.
I want the voice of animals to be heard, and if that means I have to work through some discomfort to make them comfortable, so be it.
And, if your dog shows signs of overwhelm, as described above, tucking the tail and lifting the lips … speak up for your dog. Tell people, “He is not ready to connect with people.”
“He is not big on meeting new people/dogs/cats/others. Just let him come to you.”
“She is still healing from her former experiences.”
No need here to describe her as a RESCUE or label it in any other way. A simple statement is enough.
Experiencing a truth is one thing … standing in it and speaking it is a bigger task.
I encourage you … stand with me in the truth that we are responsible for the ease and care of the animals in our care. It can be challenging, but knowing that you spoke up is rewarding.
We are not in charge of the response or reaction of other people. We are in charge of seeing and hearing the animal and becoming their advocate. And when we do … the animal knows. The animal will appreciate being seen and heard, and that is worth any effort you put in.
Always happy to hang with you … until next time … Auf Wiedersehen!