“Nobody is choosing to work with Toby,” I said to Shawne with a little concern one day last summer. “I don’t know if it’s because his size is intimidating to people or what.”
We were weeks into our seasonal program, and every other horse in the barn had been chosen by clients for their equine-assisted psychotherapy sessions, but Toby had yet to be chosen. Toby is a big black Percheron gelding who towers over most people. What they don’t realize about him is that he’s really a gentle giant. As a therapist, I felt that many clients could get a lot of good out of developing a relationship with him, but no one was choosing him.
It was also true that Toby was not paying much attention to the people that came into the barn, only connecting initially with me or Shawne. He seemed content to hang back and munch hay or grass, while the other horses put their faces out in the aisle over their doors curiously or approached clients in the paddock outside. Toby had some ingrained trust issues and was not as outgoing as the rest. He was not putting himself out there.
Then Henry got sick with EPM in the fall, and his balance was so compromised that he could not safely work with his people anymore. Without Henry in the line-up, another horse would have to be chosen for several clients.
What is interesting about this is that I noticed Toby suddenly becoming sociable. He started greeting people as they came into the barn, with his head over his stall door as if to say, “Hey! Look at me!” One client even remarked that Toby was looking at her when she came in the barn and she felt a connection, so she decided to work with him.
The horse who once tried to not be noticed seemed to realize that he was needed and stepped up, quite obviously making himself available.
I watched in fascination as everyone who formerly worked on Relationship Logic® with Henry now chose Toby to connect with, and they all did some great healing work together.
After a lifetime of being with horses, they still never cease to amaze me.
The teachings we can take in from observing horse behaviors or developing a relationship with them each individually are worth sharing, so I’ve decided to do that here in this blog on a semi-regular basis. I hope you look forward to reading about them.