Codependency and Horses

This is part 3 of a series of contributions from Annette

This week’s Healing Through Christ meeting was on codependency, and I wondered how it could possibly apply to my horse situation.  I will begin by sharing a definition of codependency inserting “my horses for people.  “The prefix “co” in the word codependency refers to the connection between [me and my horses.] “Co” is attached to the word dependency to convey the understanding that [my] mental and emotion health are directly connected to and dependent upon what [my horses]….are or are not doing.”  I thought, if this is true I should feel different emotions depending on what my horses are or are not doing as they work with my horse trainer.

The next lesson for my horse Tomie was to learn to yield to the bit which means teaching a horse to put their head in a position where there is no pressure or pulling on the corners of their mouth by the bit.  It looks like this. 

Notice how loose the reins are; this is very comfortable for the horse. My trainer explained how we would teach this to Tomie.  First we bridle and saddle him, tie the reins to rings on each side of the saddle and then allow Tomie to freely wander around the corral as he figures out where to place his head.   My trainer told me in the beginning it might be frustrating for Tomie as he works to figure out where to place his head so the reins hang loose.  We then bridled and saddled Tomie, tied the reins to the rings and let him loose in the corral.  My job was to watch him as he wandered around the pen. As I watched I wasn’t prepared for the feelings I felt inside. Instead of lowering his head he raised it up high which created pressure on the bit in his mouth.  Tomie was uncomfortable as he fought against the bit instead of yielding. I didn’t like watching Tomie work to figure things out.  The longer I stood there watching the more upset I became.   I knew where his head needed to be and wanted to go and lower his head to speed up the learning process.  Even though it had only been a couple of minutes I could hardly stop myself from jumping through the fence to help him.  As I stood trying to work through my feelings a voice inside my head said, “Annette, you are acting codependently towards Tomie. You don’t like your feelings as you watch your horse discover and learn the lesson your trainer is teaching him.   You want to go in and force Tomie’s head to the correct position in order to stop your anxious feelings as you watch him learn on his own.”

I was shocked as I realized the truth of what the Spirit was teaching me.  My mental and emotional health was directly connected to what my horse was or was not doing.  I couldn’t feel happy until Tomie was “doing the right thing.” I wondered how many time I had interfered with lessons the Lord was trying to teach my children because I couldn’t stand my impatient feelings as I watched them work through the learning process.  Finally I had to walk away from Tomie and find someone else to watch him as he figured out where to put his head.  Within minutes I was called back to see that Tomie had discovered where his head should be and the reins were hanging loose.  My trainer was right, Tomie had figured it out on his own.

It was a day to celebrate Tomie’s progress but also a day to celebrate what I learned about myself.  I discovered my impatient and anxious feelings as I saw others go through the lessons God has arranged for them.  I realized my uncomfortable emotions often cause me to control and manipulate others instead of letting them learn by themselves. I hope in the future to choose to trust in my Heavenly Father’s lessons for others just as I am learning to trust my trainer’s lessons for my horses.

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