Teacher and Enforcer

When it comes to setting boundaries, being consistent, and walking your talk, animals and children are hands down our best teachers.

Perhaps it’s that they aren’t tainted by the minutia of life as most of us adults are. Or maybe they’re closer to the Divine, without all the clutter that comes with age and living in the modern world.

I don’t know the answer. It’s a big topic that much greater minds than mine have tackled.

But here’s what I do know.

These days in the pasture, Miss Pepper is the teacher.

In her persistent, equine way she asks us to clarify our expectations.

“Do you really mean it?”

Her brown eyes search us, waiting for the answer.

It is the rule we’ve made that she has to eat her grain before she can have snacks.

And yes, it’s very similar to a parent’s rule for kids to finish dinner before getting ice cream or cake or whatever the dessert is that day.

I talked about Bud and Pepper’s dessert bar in an earlier post, if you want a refresher.

So Pepper is teaching us about backing up our words.

Some days she will take only a few bites of her medicine-dosed grain and then amble to the dessert bar, ready to eat her fill of Horse Candy and alfalfa cubes.

My husband, who is much better than I at enforcing the rules, will walk to the car and look at Pepper’s feed pan. If it still holds grain, he directs her back.

And she goes, albeit with a touch of attitude, and often a huge sigh.

“Oh, all right,” she seems to say. “I was just checking.”

Usually she complies on the first redirect, but not always. There have been a couple of days when this little drama gets played out two or three times. Miss Pepper is a smart girl and she offers us plenty of opportunities to learn.

We’ve been consistent (yes, even me!) for a few weeks now, and our girl has figured it out. Oh, she still will test us. I mean, what self-respecting mare wouldn’t try? But now all we do is step in front of her, and she sends herself back to finish the grain.

And my take away learning from this?

There are probably many, but this morning as I write this post, I think the nugget of gold  is that consistency and routine are extremely powerful actions.

I recently read a story about a woman who asked the Dalai Lama what was the single most important thing to which she should attend. Without missing a beat, he replied, “Routine.”

There you have it direct from Miss Pepper and the Dalai Lama.

Both worthy teachers.

I guess I’d better listen!