Nature's View Part 2: One Step Forward

By Julianne Rickenbaker, with Bruce Anderson

In working with the horse, we learn about ourselves.

Using the Nature's View system has its benefits for both horses and humans. Many people have found that while training and teaching their horses about our world, they have seen positive results in their own lives. The horse can be regarded as a "mirror", and there are numerous ways in which horses can help us see ourselves. In working with the horse, we learn about both our positive and our negative traits. The horse can be large enough and intimidating enough to convince us to "take our masks off." In other words, we can't pretend to be perfect in doing this work; our true characteristics will always come out (both positive and negative). The horse is a prey animal, so will react immediately to our actions, thereby giving us immediate feedback about ourselves. Furthermore, the horse is a forgiving animal, allowing us to make the mistakes that give us the opportunity to improve our personal skills. Because of the horse's nature, the human value system (including preconceived ideas about power, gender, race, etc.) does not come into play. Finally, for every one horse, we actually have two horses: the left and the right. Working with "both horses" allows us to work on balance, both physical and mental. The horse empowers us to be able to change our mindset if we wish, allowing us to make choices, while enabling us to find balance between "Man's World" and "Nature's World".

One such positive experience came about for a childcare professional, interested in finding ways that she could combine her loves of working with children and working with animals. As she was introduced to Nature's View, Elizabeth (name changed for the privacy of the individual) found that she would have to deal with issues from her past before she could successfully move into the future. Her story began during a conversation with a casual acquaintance.

"Do you ride horses?" asked Ann, Elizabeth 's new friend.

"No," Elizabeth said, "I'm more interested in how children who have emotional and physical problems solve them by working together with a horse or other animal. And," she said reluctantly," I have a few horse issues from my past."

"Oh," Ann said brightly, "well, you might be able to address some of them with Nature's View."

Elizabeth thought, "Oh, no. I don't want to be dragged back into the horse world;" one she had purposely abandoned after being forced to ride as a child and young adult. Sure horses were nice, but she had never been given a choice. Maybe she would have liked to take ballet or art classes instead of spending every free moment in the barn or at a horse show. The whole topic of horses was a loaded issue in her family. They had been blamed for the state of her parents' marriage and her Mom's failing health as she had been kicked several times. Horses were blamed for problems in their upbringing, as her Mom had preferred to spend time in the barn while her Dad devoted his energies to work as an attorney. So yes, she had horse issues, issues she had hurriedly left behind as she had grown into adulthood and tried to succeed in the world.

Working with "both horses" allows us to work on balance.

Elizabeth arrived at the barn the next day at 9:00 am . Ann was already there and Bruce Anderson arrived soon after. Ann had brought two horses, one for each of them. The main work was done in a large round pen that resembled a Chinese wok. It had a high steep 8-foot wall made of wooden slats that slanted outward. The slats were close together so that you could see light through them but not distant enough for a horse to poke his nose out.

The first exercise would be for Elizabeth to lead Ann's horse into the arena. Right off the bat he had other ideas. He had no plans to go into the ominous looking pen where he might be asked to do a lot of work. Bruce said, "Just let him take one step from side to side and then see if he is willing to take a step forward." Elizabeth thought about her life and how she sometimes felt as though she were stopped dead in her tracks with no idea what to do next, afraid to make the wrong choice, afraid to make any choice. In this instance, the horse seemed to be acting as a mirror of those very feelings. Taking one step forward, well, that was more manageable. And so they went one step forward to the left and one step forward to the right and before she knew it they were walking calmly into the pen. Next Bruce said, "Walk him to the middle of the pen and take off his halter." Before walking away she gave him a gentle pat on the neck. Bruce asked her, "Why did you pat him just then?" She had to think a second; it was just something she always did. She usually patted the horse after leaving him in the pasture, rewarding him for being good on the trail or in the ring or to say goodbye. In this case, she patted him for just coming into the round pen, for a job well done.

Bruce said, "And who else are you patting, who else has done a good job?" She thought, "I have no idea what he is talking about." Bruce said, "It's you, you've done a good job here too, not just the horse." And in that moment she felt some hope for the first time in a long while. Her self esteem and confidence took one step up. This was not something just anyone could do. This was not something to belittle just because she had been around horses her whole life. No, this was a difficult situation where the horse had been resistant. She didn't react and hit the horse as she had been trained to do as a child. She didn't yell at him or force the situation. One step at a time we had gotten into the round pen without giving up and without pain. For maybe the first time in a long time she felt an appreciation for her efforts and herself.

Elizabeth 's experiences using the system have been life-changing. She says that she has been able to resolve some of the conflict that she felt around horses growing up, as well as her inability to value her own successes. She found that her round pen work has been the first step in returning to a balanced life between the two worlds by renewing her relationship with horses. She is one of the individuals who have experienced (in her personal as well as her professional life) the benefits of working with horses using the system.

For more information:

Bruce Anderson
Nature's View
PO Box 1464
Camden , SC 29020

About the author:

Julianne Rickenbaker is the mother of five horses, two dogs and three cats who make their home at Thornfield, an equine facility in Ridgeway , South Carolina . She recently began combining her two loves, dressage and music, and arranging musical freestyles. In her "spare time," she is an elementary music teacher and church musician. She also thoroughly enjoys helping Bruce with Nature's View.