I rode Chloe around the sheep herding pasture today. She was happy to go in, and we circled around, hugging the fence line doing fine, until we got back to the gate. Then she stopped paying attention to what I wanted, which was to circle around again, and she headed for the gate instead. It was a brawl, but I got her back into the pasture. I made her turn around 3 or 4 times, as someone suggested. I kicked her hard with my heels, I even smacked her on the butt (something she didn’t seem to feel at all) with my hand. I gritted my teeth and got pissed and told her. “Act like you mean it,” I said, that is what my friend and teacher Eli told me to do when Chloe wasn’t doing what I wanted her to do.
Well, this time I meant it.
And I meant it every time she headed for the gate. By the fourth time, I was tired and not liking myself very much. But I made us go around again until I was the one to decide to leave. Because I know from my own experience with animals and from what Eli told me, that times like these are crucial. They set the tone for our relationship and who will be the leader, Chloe or me.
I know I have to be the leader if I’m going to ride Chloe. And it should be simple, but for me it’s more complicated. Actually I think it’s one of the reason’s I have Chloe, to get me to deal with the issues I have concerning my inner strength and the idea of leadership.
This issue goes so deep with me, I don’t even like the word leader. I cringe thinking about, not to mention saying it out loud. Because in my mind someone who’s a leader is domineering, coercive and cruel. This is familiar to me because I experienced it in my childhood. And riding Chloe, which I thought was going to be fun, suddenly triggered a painful memory. It was not fun, not today.
Now, I know there are other ways of being a leader, I’ve heard and read about it. But it has no real meaning for me. I can’t wrap my head around it, my heart won’t go there.
So this whole thing about getting Chloe to do something she doesn’t want to do, which is, walk and run around with me on her back, is bigger for me. Because I don’t know for sure that she should have to do something she doesn’t want to do. And I don’t like how I feel when I’m trying to get her to do something she doesn’t want to do. Suddenly I’m the domineering, coercive and cruel person inflicting the pain. And I never want to do that. Not to any being.
I can see that this is one of those issues that will get in the way of my relationship with Chloe. It’s not something I need to work out with her, it’s something I need to work out inside myself. Otherwise I won’t be able to be who I need to be for Chloe.
Eli said first I have to be the leader, then me and Chloe can be partners. I wish I could skip the leader part and go right to being partners. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. But then I believe this is one of the reasons I have Chloe. Because I’m ready to deal with this issue. To figure it out, one way or another.
Maybe I’ll decide it’s not worth it, that if I have to be a leader I’d rather not ride Chloe. And we can connect the same way I connect with the donkeys, through food and grooming and spending time together. Or maybe I’ll learn the other way to be a leader. The way that can bring two beings closer together, in a different kind of partnership, one I’ve never experienced before.