horse in nature run and have family relationship

By Shannon Birkelbach


I am a goal-oriented, list-making individual. It’s how I’m wired, and it has helped me be productive and successful in many ways. However, being goal-oriented doesn’t always work so well when building relationships. What if the other individual doesn’t have the same goals as you do?

This has been the case many times in my life, and my tendency was to bulldoze over them with my lack of concern for their goals. My goals were better, more thought out, more important, etc. What does that do to this relationship that I valued to work on so much? It completely undermines the whole thing! So, how did I learn to stop this destructive pattern in my relationships? Horses!

How many of you have tried to get an animal that weighs over 1000 pounds to meet your personal goals? It’s not easy. Yes, it is possible to force them to do many things, but can you catch them easily the next day? Do they really want to have a relationship with you after you have met said goals? Mine didn’t.  Mine ran away and fought many things I tried to “teach”.

What did it take for me to listen to the horse’s thought on our relationship? An unplanned dismount is the nicest way I’ve heard it phrased. When a horse goes to bucking, it is pretty clear it doesn’t respect your leadership. A wise man once asked me what happened before that buck. I answered, “Lots of little things that I ignored, actually.”

I’m too old to ignore those little signals anymore. It hurts to hit the ground with that kind of force! As I’ve learned to listen to horses better, it has also helped me to listen to people better. Have you ever asked a friend what they want to receive out of the relationship you have? Do they have needs that aren’t being met? If they aren’t treated respectfully and valued, they may not stick around.

Setting goals is still helpful, especially in helping me think of the steps to help myself achieve them. I just want to make sure I am not ruining relationships along the way. So, my goal setting looks different now as I make sure it includes the friends I value the most.

These are a few of my relational goal ideas for the next year. They are all oriented toward preventing those blow ups, like my horse gave me, with one of my friends or husband.

Learn From Your Horse – How To Be A Better Friend: 

1. Stopping to question myself when feeling annoyed or offended- “Is really that important?”

2. Plan monthly dates to build relationships.

3. Check in with my friends to find out their needs, before they ask!

4. Be more available by being less BUSY- say no to more things, so I can say yes to important ones.