Time and Location
I need to add and explain a few more points about Pressure Tolerance. If you have read my first article called What is your Pressure Tolerance Part 1, here is the next level of explanation, and this one is really very, very important! If you have not read Part 1, please read it first, then continue on here for Part 2.
There is a Time and a Place for when crossing Thresholds, that goes for humans as well as horses. There is a time and a place to work with thresholds to overcome any emotional, mental or psychological hurdles. I need to clear up a common misunderstanding: Some people may mistakenly think that when they hear me saying "backing off a step or two before the behavior escalates (from yellow into red)" which to me means "taking the pressure off for a few moments", that to them this automatically means "the horse/human/child now gets away with his or her undesirable behavior". People at times may mistakenly think "that we're avoiding or not dealing with the behavior, thus automatically reinforcing it". I'm of a different mindset, especially when it comes to thresholds. Why? Because there is a TIME and PLACE for when crossing THRESHOLDS leads to positive results. Believe me, it took me a while to "reprogram my own training" on this approach as well; I too had been programmed to push harder instead of slower.
However, I certainly don't run away from any "scary or big" dramatic display of a horse refusing something or a person needing to step through a fear barrier. I just go a little slower, and I tune into the horse or person with awareness. Then I proceed when the subject (horse or human) indicates they are ready to try, I'm ready to support them, when time AND place have been taken into consideration.
A person might believe that they are helping someone else by not letting them off easy. But does pushing, bullying, aggression, (abuse, power trips) really get someone over their personal thresholds in a healthy, long lasting, positive effect? The jury is out on that one. Yes, there is a time and place to overcome your hurdles! Let me highlight what has worked in my practice with both horses and humans! I will be using the example of horses, but this goes for humans as well! Please read on...
1) Technique of crossing Thresholds:
Basically, fine tuning your own awareness to the horse's AND your own anxiety levels. Many people are not aware of when the horse or themselves have gone from green (mellow, calm, relaxed) into yellow (mildly anxious, horse's head comes up, anxiety starting to escalate) and end up in red (very anxious, horse's head held very high, eyes big, snorting, moving away fast, afraid, upset, acting out). Red is very often difficult to deal with in yourself, another person or in a horse. I described what the signs are and how to recognize them in my article What is your Pressure Tolerance Part 1
2) Time, and Timing of working through:
If you don't recognize good timing, it can end up in trauma. "So when do you push a little further?" is often the question I'm being asked. It's what happens before what happens, happens. Here, most trainers or people get impatient and want to just push the horse or the person right over the threshold and then say "See! You didn't get hurt! You just had to trust me!" Maybe physically they are fine, but if they were absolutely not showing signs of readiness and got literally pushed or bullied into it, it can have the opposite effect of a positive experience. On the outside, the horse may look fine but, however try this again, and you will "suddenly" have a huge fight on your hands, or you just might get bucked off. It's what happens before what happens, happens.
3) Place, and places of working through (invisible boundaries):
If you don't recognize it, it can end up in trauma. If we're only paying attention to the "time span" of when green turns to yellow, we're missing an important part. For example, a horse that doesn't leave the barn willingly, can be ok leaving for a few minutes, but go past a certain point of the property and then the horse has a melt down. This is what I mean by places. It's like an invisible boundary. He could be fine standing at the driveway for hours, but move him across that threshold and he has a meltdown. This same horse might be loaded in a trailer and driven 10 minutes down the road, unloaded and the horse "suddenly" has no issues being away from home, is completely happy. Same goes with people.
For example, someone might dislike being in an airport because to them it's a place of anxiety. However, the person might not even be aware of their anxiety about this place, they just cope and get the job done. Now combine TIME and PLACE and you can have a real emotional ticking time bomb. For example, ask this person to pick up someone at the airport but the plane is delayed for hours, leaving them there waiting, pacing, uncertain...and their anxiety rises! Get the picture? All the elements are mounting and it can be too much. Of course, we can talk about why is the person having the anxiety about airports in the first place, and actually it would be helpful to know if there's some kind of history. I however work often with Autistic children and of course, horses who are unable to verbalize! Even many adults don't verbalize because for one reason or another they haven't been able to. So, I have to try to read the signs - their body language, energy, and shifts!
4) Healthy and Safe Boundaries:
Yes!!! If you don't have them in place, you could get hurt. Know your boundaries. Know your limits, play within it, at least at first. If you're presented with a situation that you know has been producing too much anxiety or fear, treat yourself (or your horse) with kindness. Go slow, take baby steps, until you get feeling more secure and build that trust. Don't let someone push you or your horse over the edge too fast, bullying you, with too much pressure that has no release. Yes, if you and your horse take it slow, you will still get there. You don't necessarily have to jump off the bridge.
5) Speed and signs of seeing changes:
Have patience, at first it seems slower, but once the trust has been build, you will find much faster and lasting positive results as horse or person cross his or her thresholds with more confidence. If trust is broken during this exercise, go back to step one.
When horses or people have been given the awareness, time and place to retrain themselves with all 5 above steps in practice, in my experience their recovery and retraining has been phenomenal and lasting. They are not re-traumatized and move forward with new gained confidence, trying bigger challenges and succeeding joyfully!
If you would like to explore Your Journey further…
Questions, or interested in experiencing “Healing with Horses”, Equine Facilitated Coaching and Personal Development sessions in Kelowna? Please contact Karin Bauer, BSW, RSW by calling 250-860-1964 or email@example.com
Like Horse Journey on Facebook! (click here)