How Not to Connect

Hello Kindred Hearts:

Continuing on the theme of heart connections during the month of Valentine’s Day,  one of the Projects dear friend, colleague and prominent contributor, Dr. Penny Lloyd, has offered to share her wisdom on her approach to heart connections with horses.  This is the first of a three part series on the topic of connection by Dr. Penny Lloyd, each of which will be posted throughout this week.  Absorb her approaches, experience them with your equine companions and share with us your thoughts and experiences.  Hop in your saddle and see what you feel! The journey has begun!

Blessings from your Kindred Spirits

Allen  M. Schoen, DVM and Penny Lloyd, DVM

I remember a client that fed her horse 80 treats a day – all different! – in an attempt to love and be loved.  Sound familiar?  We all want to connect.  It feels so good when it happens now and then.  But most of us don’t know how.  If you think it would be helpful Dr. Schoen, I would like to share a true story that illustrates all the ingredients on how NOT to connect.  Now that may seem a backwards way in, but we all do it every day – and to start to catch ourselves in the act – is FREEDOM in the making. 

All of you get to play along, by seeing yourself in this story, and GENTLY and FORGIVINGLY see what you may have been doing wrong.  No need to beat yourself up.  When you catch yourself in any moment, doing what I was doing, simply say “Oopsie”, chuckle, and move on.  And if you are intrigued to learn more on “how TO connect” – not to worry – there will be lots of discussion to follow.

Harmony Of The Heart

I just wanted it to be over!  The desert sun baked the shirt to my back.  A fly buzzed my ear.  I longed to get back into the shade and take a long drink of cold water.  Better yet, I wanted to ditch this entire venture and retire to a frosty mug of beer.  It seemed like we had been waiting for hours.  I had paid big bucks to be here this weekend.  I had heard about equine facilitated therapy and was curious what it was all about.  So here I was, ready to experience first hand, what a person could learn from a horse. 

The exercise was simple.  Ten people stood silently in a circle.  Then they released a horse into a round pen to initiate interaction with us humans.  I could sense the eager anticipation of others in the group, “rookies”, delighted to be within a mile of a horse.   There had been a time when I was bubbling with such enthusiasm.  But, I had worked around horses my entire life, and lost that magic somewhere along the way.

I was bored with the slow pace of the clinic.  From veterinary training, I was accustomed to scribbling notes at a breathless pace.  So far, there had not even been a reason to pick up a pen.  A trickle of sweat ran down my spine.  I began to question my decision to be here.  What was I thinking arranging a vacation full of horses, bugs, and long hours in the intense heat?  This was everything that I needed a break away from.  The vibrant enthusiasm of the other participants irritated me further.  They obviously were having a great time.  Meanwhile, I had not learned a damn thing.

This horse was supposed to be teaching us some grand lesson, and what was she doing?  Being a horse!  Nibbling the grass near the gate, and ignoring all of us goofy humans.  I thought about how much money I had spent to be here.  My irritation grew.

Still, nothing was happening.  I began to wonder if there was any validity to equine experiential learning whatsoever.  Perhaps it was just construed by some people with wishful anthropomorphic thinking.  I was beginning to feel gullible.  I was a highly educated person, with decades of equine experience.  I had spent my life studying everything that there was to learn about horses.  What could this horse possibly teach us?

Suddenly, the horse was on the move.  She approached the person standing beside me, and gently sniffed her hand.  Then she greeted the next person.  Slowly, she made her way around the circle.  Soon everyone was sporting a huge grin in response to her friendly hello.  Until she got to me… 

Instead of stopping, she walked completely by. Then she faced her butt to me, and swished her tail firmly across my face.  Although others in the group may have thought the horse was merely swishing a fly, I knew with utter certainty – I had just been given the finger, by a horse!

The burnt out doctor had just received a rather blunt, but extremely valuable lesson.  Getting the finger from a horse was an event that changed my life.  None of the humans knew how irritable I was.  But this horse called my bluff.  Not only was I churning with irritation, I was also acting like I was not.  I was incongruent.  The horse accurately mirrored how I truly felt.  Something I had not acknowledged in a very long time.

Ignoring my heart had become a way of life.  I had been well trained to do whatever it took to get the job done.  I was an efficient people-pleasing self-sacrificing robot.  My life had become a “to do” list.  My mind was accustomed to running the show.  The will power that got me through vet school and promoted success in business had edged out one key ingredient.  Heart.

That was many years ago.  Since then I have learned you may doctor but cannot heal without heart.  Similarly you can survive, but you will not thrive.  It takes heart to access optimal health and happiness.  Like a magic wand, one tail swish brought back heart to my life.  No coincidence, the name of the mare that delivered this gift was “Harmony”.

Challenge yourself.  See how many different ways you can identify that prevented a connection to this horse (and to the people).