Developing Healthy Boundaries


I’ve thought and challenged myself with this quote a lot lately. Mainly because this is an area of my horsemanship that I’ve really struggled with in the past. I’ve let my mood or success (or lack thereof) impede the consistency of the expectations or boundaries I set for my horses. Midge in particular has taught me a lot about establishing trust because he has a uniquely ‘difficult’ personality.

Like most difficult individuals, I think it actually comes from a place of insecurity. He has a very sensitive fight or flight mechanism.  The problem is, if he gets pushy on the ground or I let him pull on the bridle, he loses confidence in me and he gets very aggressive or anxious. Which in all honesty is fair. If we are a team and I am the captain, however I fail to show consistent leadership, he gets worried.  I can hear him say, “Sometimes you’re in charge, sometimes I am in charge, who is actually in charge?” He then either tries to assume the leadership by getting aggressive or gets anxious because he is unsure of his role.

For example, if he has a good weekend and then for the next week I let him pull on me or walk all over me- our next run is generally wild or sloppy. I also notice that he gets a lot more nervous. Some girls can let their horses act a fool. Not Midge, he will literally come untrained. It’s also pretty unfair that if he does bad, I all the sudden crack down with his ground manners and dry work. Who would want to work in an environment in which the expectations were unclear from week to week? Or who would be in a relationship in which acceptable and unacceptable behaviors were not clearly defined?  In our journey, I have learned just how crucial it is for me to be consistent and dependable in my boundaries and expectations. 

As with most lessons in horsemanship, I think this also applies to our relationships. In the same way we do with horses, WE TEACH PEOPLE HOW TO TREAT US. It is a lot simpler and straightforward with horses, but I think the same principles apply. We want to blame bad relationships or friendships on a toxic person but ultimately, we need to take some accountability in that. To some extent, we are responsible for what we allow in our lives. We cannot continually blame outside situations or circumstances for making us unhappy. I think if we are truthful with ourselves, we have to take some ownership of what we have allowed in our life and the consequences they have. 

Here’s what I have learned: Boundaries get blurry when we are looking to something or someone to validate us. 

Whether it’s a horse or a person we are seeking acceptance or love from, we sometimes compromise our standards for acceptance. I want my horses to love me, to love working for me. But letting them crawl over me, act silly… that is not love, nor is it cute.  I could very much be putting myself or them in dangerous situation. It is more loving for me to teach them how to behave and establish trust by being consistent with them. 

The same goes with people. Compromising your boundaries doesn’t get the right people to like or love you, it gets people taking advantage of you. They like what you do for them or how you make them feel. If you’re not practicing healthy boundaries, you will also find yourself resorting to fight or flight mechanisms. 

I’m still working with myself and my horses in this area. I don’t have it all figured out but I can say I am cognitively making an effort to grow in regards to it. In the same way Midge seems to be happier when I practice fair boundaries with him, my own heart and relationships have improved. I have become more authentically loving with healthier boundaries.  If your heart is weary and wounded, you cannot love others well. Period. I’m not saying build a wall around your heart, just be careful and mindful of who and what you allow. 

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”- Proverbs 4:23 

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