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Drawing a line – managing boundaries

Working with horses helped me get better and setting and accepting boundaries in my relationships...

It is cold, grey, damp and December.

I am standing in yard waving a whip at a woman I have only just met.

I am learning about boundaries…mine and hers.

She approaches from afar and stops when she sees something in me which would indicate uncertainty or discomfort.  I don’t even notice that I have blinked or that my mouth moved.  She stops at a distance I feel comfortable with.

I walk towards her and watch for flickers, twitches and actually see them.  I haven’t looked so closely before.  I get to a few meters away and I feel like there is a light but spongy wall.  I step forward but it repels me a bit, like magic.  She says she felt a tightness in her chest when I cross the invisible wall.  I step back.  She feels relief.  The line is invisible but felt by both of us.

There are two horses, one white, one chestnut.  I step into the field with the white mare.  I expect her to be friendly.  I trust and like women and assume she will let me go up and touch her.  I have my whip should she come to me too fast. I am to set a boundary.

I circle her, watching her ears, her eyes, her body.  She is twitching but not moving away.  Her ears go back.  I stop.  She carries on grazing.  I step closer, she moves her head away.  I step back. She grazes.  I can’t get close to her.  She doesn’t come close to me.  My assumption is wrong.  I see my projection for what it is.

I am nervous of the chestnut male horse.  He is bigger and seems pushy.  I don’t trust men so easily.  I circle around from afar until I am level with his shoulder.  I walk in, he grazes. I walk, he looks up and walks to me.  My heart rate rises, he comes closer.  I use the whip, not to point at him wand-like, but to draw an invisible line in front of me in the mud.  He continues to approach.  I focus, pull my intention to a sticking point and draw a faster, stronger line.  He stops dead.  Magic.  We look at each other.  We breathe. I wonder if he will move again but he doesn’t push my boundary.  I expect him to reject me and walk away.  He just watches back at me.

Then makes a small circle tograzing.  I am unsure whether to move towards him now, having just set a boundary, but I do, watching his ears, eyes, body to see if he sets his.  He doesn’t.  He’s watching but letting me approach.  I step through sticking mud until my fingers find his warm, damp coat.

A light touch, and then he moves away.  I let him.  Stay still.  Watching him.  He grazes and watches me, turns his head almost invitingly.  My heart is beating.  Should I move closer again?  I do.  He lets me gently circle around him again until once again our bodies touch.  This time for long enough for heat to pass from his warm flanks to my frozen finger tips.  I start to relax.

I learn that it is possible to set a boundary and to have it accepted.

To have it respected

For it to not break or threaten a relationship, but to have it pave the way for respect.

He wasn’t angry at my boundary.

He didn’t mock or discount it.

He didn’t reject me and walk away.

He remained in contact, watching, breathing, present until we found our way to a new and mutually aware and respectful connection.

Maybe obvious for some.

Not for me.

What more will I learn today?

(Thank you Rosie Withey for your horses and wisdom)

To listen to my podcast conversation with Rosie listen here.

For more about boundaries read here then here

And a poem here.




Julie Leoni

Julie Leoni

Coach, author, podcaster, facilitator, Yoga and psychology teacher, learner

I have over 30 years of experience and qualification in various therapeutic and meditation/mindfulness based approaches. I work with change. Some changes we chose, others happen to us.  Sometimes we know we want to change but don't know how. Sometimes we don't want to change but external events or people are forcing us to change. The menopause, children leaving home, the end of a relationship or job, becoming a parent, coming out, bereavement are just some of the personal changes I support people with. I also work with people who want to make changes to their life and wider world in response to social issues such as Covid, the climate crisis and racial, sexual and gender inequalities. Times are changing whether we want them to or not and we need to be nimble, agile, curious and open in order to part of the new story emerging. Work with me to get clear on what matters to you, what makes your heart sing and what kind of future you want for yourself and those you love. It is possible to live differently, get in touch to explore how.

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