007JulyBlog2016Even though the weather can be brutally hot in Texas this time of year, I greatly enjoy spending time out at the ranch where I keep my horse — there is something truly restorative about spending time in relationship with my horse and the friends I have made out at the ranch.  And while kids are decidedly not horses, I’ve found in my 24 years with horses and my over 6-year career counseling parents and kids that the tools of the trade are sometimes more similar than you might think when dealing with girls and horses.

Here are three lessons that I find translate perfectly from the ranch to relationships with girls:

  1. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make her drink.” True relationships involve the freedom to choose one’s behavior.  Force, bribery, threats, and fear can be effective ways to get short-term compliance, but they are usually not the best way to foster a long-term relationship built upon a foundation of trust, love, and respect.
  2. The behavior is just the tip of the iceberg.  The lens through which I choose to interpret my horse’s behavior has a huge impact on whether or not I am able to use his mistakes and less desirable behaviors as a teachable moment or whether it quickly devolves into a power struggle.  And one thing you don’t want to engage in with a horse, or a girl, is a power struggle — take it from me, whether you win that particular battle or not, you’re well on your way to losing the war and with it your horse’s respect.  It was relationship changing when I started to approach my horse as a good horse trying his hardest to make sense of the world around him and his place in it rather than a misbehaving horse in need of fixing.
  3. Cultivate a safe place. I often speak with my clients about creating a safe, soothing place, frequently in their rooms or any other space that feels best, to practice the relaxation and coping skills we discuss in session.  Making sure to stock that space with things that speak to all five senses really helps to make girls feel equipped to deal with the challenges inherent in life.  That space for me, without question, always involves my horse.  And whether it’s in the barn or out in the pasture underneath a tree, even the smell of the leather of the tack or the pine shavings in the stalls has the power to instantly soothe me.

Happy trails to you and yours!