• Elaine Sanders

The Only Rule

I screwed up my horse. I didn’t mean to. But I did. For months, maybe even years. And here’s what I did wrong. I followed the rules.

The horse world is full of rules.

You should never allow the horse in your space. You must never release pressure until your horse does what you want. You should forbid your horse from moving off without a cue. You should never allow your horse to groom you. And the list goes on.

Think about some of the rules that you have in place concerning your horse.

Could you imagine having human interactions with so many rules? How long would the friendship last that is built on rules? What’s the state of the marriage that is built on rules? What’re the parent-child interactions like when based on rules? And how about the relationship between humans and God when it is all based on rules?

Relationships built on rules are not relationships at all.

I’m not saying that your relationships should be a free-for-all, do-whatever-you-want, 3-ring-shit-show. That’s equally damaging. Obviously.

But never should rules trump relationship.

Relationship always, always comes before rules.

In fact, if there is ever a rule, it is this: Put the relationship first. Always.

When we put the relationship with our horses first, here’s what happens: they love, respect, and bond with us. Then they want to do the things we request of them. They want to cooperate, perform, and please. That is their nature. But their nature is only drawn out of them through relationship, not rules.

Same goes for friendships, primary relationships, and parent-child relationships. When we put relationship first, we do what it takes to draw out the inner nature of the other. From there, we don’t need rules; we naturally want what is best for each other. When we form a relationship with God, same thing happens. We don’t need to follow the list of rules, we naturally just want to be the best we can be, no rules required.

In other words, where we have relationship, we don’t even need to worry about the rules.

Now you may be asking, how do I put relationship first?

In short, relationship comes down to this: be the best version of yourself and help the other be the best version of him/herself.

With your horse it looks like this:

  1. Stay calm, centred and in control of your own emotions.

  2. Listen to the hesitations of your horse

  3. Don’t ever fight with your horse

  4. Set flexible boundaries rather than rigid rules

  5. Avoid punitive energy at all costs

When you put relationship first, magic happens. It may take some time and some guidance, but eventually, that horse is going to look to you for direction and leadership. Trust me, when that happens, you know that no amount of rule-enforcement could ever have gotten you to that point the way relationship did.

With heart,


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