Our horses are the true superstars of this program. It’s important to always listen to what the horse is saying, as they are the tellers of truth, always honest, act instantly and live in the moment. This was evident when one of the youth who came to our facility, Charlie, worked with his teachers, the horses. Charlie came to our program and initially didn’t want to participate in the programs. But he did want to be around the horses. He wandered around, looking at the horses, but never fully participating, as it was really hard for him to focus and it was extremely hard for him to trust people and situations.
Charlie was often looking for negative attention, scuffing his feet on the ground, picking up and tossing around signs, causing havoc. Of course, through this all, we as Facilitators had to let the process happen, and only step in when the horse was saying through his body that we must. This is how the horse talks.
It was the third or fourth program and Charlie was slowly losing his cool as he STILL hadn’t received any negative reinforcement. He began tearing the signs and their holders out of the pylons and whipping them around and making a mess in the dirt. We stepped back and just had to watch the situation take place. The horses were okay, their body language was okay, and so let the situation ensue. Of course, with safety as the number one priority, making sure that no one was spooking or anything else. Man, aren’t horses incredible?! The horses were right by not reacting. They were teaching.
After five or so minutes, (the longest five minutes of our lives) Charlie began to collect himself and he started to put the cards back into the pylons.
Carolyn walked up to him and gave him an integrity clip. An integrity clip is a little blue clothespin that the youth get when ‘they do the right thing even when no one is watching.’ It’s just a little piece of plastic but holds so much value. Carolyn clipped him with the little blue integrity clip and said, “Great integrity, buddy.”
Charlie then proceeded to clean up the mess that he had made around himself. By his own choice!
Instead of us responding to the negative behaviour with Charlie, we responded to the positive. And showed him that others recognized when positive actions were taken. It was definitely something he was not expecting, but he felt valued and started making choices that were based on positive behaviour. From that day on, he never had the same attitude again. He continually made the choice to respond in a positive manner, and this was all because the horses bodies told us to step back and let the process happen. It truly is incredible, isn’t it?