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You might remember I've been taking riding lessons so I've been reading back over some of my diaries from when I was hanging out more with my lovely horse whisperer friend Liz and her herd.   When I got divorced she taught my then 7 year old son to ride bareback and to play tag with an Andalusian stallion; it was an amazing way to build his confidence and help him tune into himself.  

'Focus on where you want the horse to go and he will' she told him, and when my son focused, the horse moved.  What magical lessons in the power of focus and intention. 

At the time I was only a year out of that marriage and just starting a new relationship and was really struggling with boundaries and this is what I wrote:

Recently I've been reminded about how tricky intimate relationships can be and how sometimes I feel ill equipped to deal with them.  So I've had a few moments of wobbles and tears and felt that not only did I want to see Liz who is part of my Soul Family, but I also wanted to see her horses.  The picture above is Aine and she's my childhood dream of a horse; a caramel palomino with long legs and a flowing mane.

I wasn't sure what I wanted from Aine, but it seems that she knows what I needed!  My lesson from Aine this week has been about boundaries.  Liz and I took Aine for a walk along the roads to get her familiar with cars and noises. As we walked, she gently pushed me over to the side of the road so I was up on the verge and rather squished.  Horses are big so it took some pushing to get her back into the road, and then she would simply edge me over again.

When I finally realised what was happening, and it took a while, I told Liz, who told me to use my elbows to push Aine away.  When this wasn't enough she showed me how to 'helicopter' the lead rein so that if Aine pushed over, she would be knocked on her nose with it.

It felt strange to elbow her out of the way, even though she was in my space...nice girls don't use their elbows do they? It felt even meaner to have her walk into a 'helicopter' of spinning rope.

When she did walk into the rope and get a flip of it across her nose, she dropped her head and her lip which I immediately assumed meant she was sad, but which Liz said was a sign of compliance.  Hmm, reflection number one, that I had assumed that setting boundaries would make her sad. But it didn't and we carried on our way, her in her space and me in mine.

It was only later, at home that I realised what she'd shown me about myself.  I sometimes struggle to set boundaries in relationships, especially with people I perceive to be more powerful than me and in intimate relationships where I want people to like me and where I don't want to upset them.  I assume that if I set boundaries they will either push harder or not like me or both.

Aine is so big and physically powerful that I noticed her pushing, not immediately (doh!), but sooner than I would notice with a human, simply because her invasion of my space was so physical.

I sometimes let humans get into my head space, my heart space, my physical space and my soul space and very often I let them do this without even noticing, let alone consenting and being happy with it.

What I learned with Aine is that boundaries keep us both safe. It didn't mean she didn't like me, it just meant we both knew where we stood (literally) more clearly, and so didn't keep treading on each other and causing pain. So being able to stick my elbows out and keep myself safe actually made for a more positive and enjoyable walk, and hopefully ongoing relationship.

What a wise horse and thank you to Liz.'

It was so interesting to read back on that.  In some ways it is still so relevant, not least with  my now teenage children.  But I can also see how things have moved on and changed.  I think I am now better at boundaries and I think that particular relationship has helped me with that.  I also think the menopause has helped.  As my oestrogen levels have fallen, so too have my oxytocin levels which has meant that I no longer feel the need to please others as strongly as I did in my youth.  

This is why I blog and keep a diary, because sometimes it is only when we look back that we can see how far we have traveled.  These are the questions I asked myself then, are they relevant to you now?

  • How good are you at setting boundaries in your relationships?
  • Who do you struggle to set boundaries with?
  • What do you assume about setting boundaries? Are these assumptions true? How do you know they're true? Can you find examples to challenge your assumptions?
  • What would be a simple boundary to set which would help you in one of your relationships?
  • How will you set it and when?
  • Commit to reviewing the effect of setting a boundary and ask yourself which other boundaries you need to set in your life.


If you want to have time and space to consider and set your boundaries hop over to my contact page to arrange a free chat.


Julie Leoni

Writer, Listener, Teacher, Dr

I am a stress and well-being coach who supports women to ask for what they want and look after their own needs so that they can hear their heart's call and live a more empowered and meaningful life. I draw on experience and training in bereavement, domestic abuse, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, Transactional Analysis and other therapeutic approaches to get you loving you. I have 2 sons who I love loads (and who sometimes drive me crazy). I'm a Barefoot Trained coach and I got a distinction for my post-grad cert in 2011. I have a PhD which led me to look at Emotional Intelligence in schools and I have a number of academic and professional qualifications in various types of therapy. I have practiced meditation since I went to India over 25 years ago and I'm currently training to be a yoga teacher. I have written a couple of books, I teach psychology and work with a large variety of coaching clients.

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