She was 16 and life had not been kind. Boundaries had been violated in countless ways.
Elle had learned that it was best not to fight or challenge those who might try to intimidate or take advantage of her. She wanted to be more assertive with people but she simply didn't know how.
On her first visit to Project Horse, she had met several horses but she connected most with a large, beautiful mare named Iggy. Iggy had been gentle and easy to work with, and Elle was excited to see her again today.
As she approached the horse though, something seemed different. Iggy was not as gentle. She was a bit pushy and kept nudging Elle with her long nose. Elle giggled, but it was a nervous laugh. When asked, Elle admitted that she really didn't want Iggy to poke at her.
She was encouraged to let Iggy know this and to "set her own limits." Elle struggled to do so, and wondered aloud about what was wrong with Iggy today. It was explained that there was nothing "wrong" with Iggy, and that perhaps the horse was trying to help her practice assertiveness. Elle giggled again, unsure of whether to believe this.
Iggy walked over to the water trough and took a long, slow drink. Iggy then lowered her head, touching her muzzle to the ground. When she lifted her head again, her muzzle was covered in wet dirt. Iggy then walked back toward Elle, who laughed nervously as the horse got closer. Elle let out a surprised gasp as Iggy then reached out and proceeded to smear her muddy nose all over the front of Elle's white t-shirt. Elle was now convinced that Iggy was definitely trying to provoke her into action.
Elle asked how she could practice being assertive with Iggy. She was shown how, using just her energy and intention, Elle could literally ask that the horse take a few steps back. As she tried this, Elle was surprised that Iggy complied with her clear request! Over the next several minutes Elle experimented with her energy and how to direct it with increasingly clear intention. It took a lot of effort, and practice, but eventually Elle was directing Iggy to walk backwards, from one side of the small paddock to the other, without even touching the horse.
At the end of the session Elle seemed pleased, and she shared that before today, she hadn't really known what being assertive felt like. And Elle agreed that if she could move a 1200 pound horse, she could certainly set clear and firm boundaries with people as well.
Elle petted Iggy affectionately, and thanked the smart mare for teaching her a valuable life skill, and in such a creative and messy way!
Elle left Project Horse that day determined to apply her new skill, saying she would picture Iggy when she needed the confidence to set a firm boundary with someone.