Husbands, Horses, and Empathy for Your Wife

In my work with married men struggling with their relationship, I’ll use ANY tool I need to make a break-through. Sometimes my background in training horses comes in handy to create “Ah-ha” moments for my frustrated clients.  This article will help you understand that there is another language you must learn to be able to empathize with your wife.

Understanding how horses think and feel while trying to communicate with them is not an easy task. That’s why horses are so commonly used to teach trust, leadership, respect, and empathy in dozens of ways. Just search on “Horse Therapy” to find out how traumatized and disabled people, disadvantaged kids, and even corporate managers develop communication and empathy skills through horses.

It can be very beneficial personally for men to learn about the bond that lures thousands of young girls and older women into the horse’s web of seduction. A woman’s ability to empathize with a horse’s vulnerability and acute awareness of how pressure is felt seems to come naturally to them.

If a man wants to actively and purposely begin to improve his relationship with his lady, there’ a lot he can learn from the horse’s secrets. Learning to communicate his intentions in the language that FEELS right to her can begin to unwind years of misunderstandings and feelings of disrespect and disapproval. In other words, he can learn to empathize with his wife. Lack of empathy is one of the most common complaints I hear from unhappy wives.

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If you can grasp the skills of communicating effectively with a horse you can begin to understand your wife’s perspective and experience of trying to communicate with YOU.”

A True Story at Every Ranch – Every Day

There’s a ranch hand working with a 3 year old horse in a round pen. The horse is new to the ranch and in its short life has learned to fear and distrust people. The ranch hand is being watched by the head horse trainer who has developed the reputation as one of those “natural horsemen” or “Whisperers”.

This is the 7th day in a row the young man has found himself with this horse in this pen for 2 hours trying to do ONE THING. All he wants is for the horse to trust him enough to quit running in circles, snorting, sneering, and kicking at him. Well, he also wants the horse to walk into the middle of the pen and stand quietly with him.

And he wants her to believe he won’t hurt her – that she is safe with him – that she will “join up” with him as calm, trusting horses are able to do. He wants to touch her without her getting wide-eyed and backing away. And, sometime soon, he wants to ride her and have her be ok with it – enjoy it even.

The Whisperer watches the young man mumble cuss words at the horse, swing his rope, wave his hat, and glare at her eyes as he chases her in circles. “Stupid horse”, the ranch hand thinks to himself.

The head trainer finally speaks.

Sometimes a Guy Doesn’t Know What He Doesn’t Know

“What am I doing wrong?!” the young man asks.

“Well”, the trainer started, “It’ll take another 7 days to answer that question, so I won’t try. You’ll be better off knowing what that mare needs from you to trust you. I thought you might start to get it after a while, but it’s not uncommon to see guys just try the same old stuff with more gusto thinking she’ll come around.”

Putting a hand on the young man’s shoulder, he said, “Over the last few days I’ve watched how you are with her. You’re loud. You’re bossy. You act unsure of yourself. You yank on her halter. You wave your arms a lot. You act scared of her. She thinks you’re scared of her.”

He continued, “Let me explain what she needs and why. Knowing this will help you choose how to act better tomorrow. First and foremost, she needs to feel your respect. This is not the same as you saying you respect her. She will know based on how you act.

She can’t feel respect from you when you are unaware of how she receives your attempts to communicate. The horse is not a mind reader, but she can feel the PRESSURE of your intentions – good or bad. Everything you’ve communicated to her this week felt like control, disappointment, frustration, and demands. Your uncertainty with her reactions to you felt like distrust and fear.

And the negative energy of your foul grumbling felt like disapproval. You say you want her to stand next to you, but she feels your urgency to get a saddle on her and ride. She is having a hard time just relaxing and being a horse in your presence.

What’s REALLY Going on Here?

A horse’s ability to trust, touch, respect, and enjoy the company of a person comes with conditions. With an ability to feel the smallest fly land on their butt, they feel the intention and pressure from everything around them.

They need to feel a calm confidence from people. They enjoy the predictability of an even-temper and purposeful assertiveness. They are literally attracted toward a person (or another horse) who creates feelings of safety, relaxation, and fun. Yep. Horses like fun.

They prefer to be “asked” or “invited” to do things for people with the smallest amount of pressure.Horse HATE excessive pressure. Although they will begrudgingly respond to it, they will always prefer the presence of the horse or person who can make them feel accepted and safe with the least amount of pressure. Horses become restless with excessive eye contact, an aggressive approach, and overly tentative behavior.

Oftentimes, the very best “release of pressure” to a horse is to simply back off. Give her space. Allow her the freedom she was born with. A lot of people crowd horses with touching, affection, and constant attention. It freaks them out. They need time away from the expectations of being perfect. This time and space allows them to reconnect with people more readily and willingly.

The person who can achieve this with a horse is able to form the partnership they seek. Some of the most amazing, mutually respectful relationships I’ve seen are between a person and a horse who seem to delight in doings things for each other just for the fun it.

What’s in it for You?

It’s funny. Men who learn to work effectively with horses never question “what’s in it for them”. When they learn what’s really going on, it’s obvious why they need to be the one to initiate a better environment for the horse. However, men who struggle in their marriages are not so quick to understand. And I get it. Like their wives, these men have ALSO been experiencing some very real pain, disrespect, and distrust in their marriage. The decision to accept part of the responsibility for that reality is a tough one. But just like the young man in the story, continuing to operate the same way every day will always yield the same results. I encourage and lead men to choose a new way of operating – first for their OWN good – then for their marriage.

In my personal experience the process of learning this uncovered vulnerabilities of my own that have been hiding under “cow pies” for decades. I discovered a language that has helped me to be honest with myself and to better express my feelings with the woman in my life. If thinking of horses helps me understand what she needs, I’d like her to think of me as a Labrador Retriever. A few belly rubs and one “You’re such a good boy!” keeps me feeling safe and desired all day long.

author avatar
Steve Horsmon Certified Professional Men’s Coach
Steve Horsmon is a Certified Professional Life Coach and owner of Goodguys2Greatmen Relationship Coaching in Livermore, Colorado. He has appeared on well known coachign and psychology television, radio, youtube, and podcast channels related to maintaining healthy relationships. Steve provides intensely personal, action oriented coaching services for men through 1-on-1 coaching, private retreats and workshops designed to give men new knowledge, skills and mindset to achieve their relationship goals. He is a committed, lifelong mentor who teaches his clients to discover their masculine power, take bold action and create the life they want. He has written articles and guest blogs for numerous relationship and expert websites.

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