WRITTEN BY Kimberly Highland
According to Chief, the entire fiasco started the day before when Flat Stanley swore an oath of revenge against Chief just because he accidentally ripped Flat Stanley’s arm off. Chief claims he’d only meant to nibble some affection on Flat Stanley; he’d had never met a boy made of paper before.
The morning started just as every morning of our nearly 2,000-mile drive from South Dakota to the Deep South. I led one pony into the trailer (ensuring no mountain lions had smuggled themselves into the stalls) while Scott stands with the other outside. The morning of concern was Chief’s turn to go first, while Rusty the True waited patiently outside.
Once I fastened Chief’s lamb’s-wool halter (safeguarding against abrasions and split ends) to the trailer sidewall, I turned about face—addling my way toward Rusty the True.
SNAP! WOOSH! BLUR!
That’s all she wrote. Chief left me in the dust of pine shavings and poo, flicking his tail at Scott and Rusty as he bee-lined for six lanes of traffic. I flailed about like Henny Penny with her comb on fire for a second or two and then made haste with my wattle to the wind, chasing Chief in near hysteria. Scott stood stock still next to Rusty watching the terror unfold, like the Tin Man waiting for his new-found heart to stop hammering in his bolted-down chest. Rusty and Flat Stanley stood quietly.
Fortunately, there was a 25-foot swath of lush green grass between the Wally-World parking lot where we’d nighted and the morning-traffic-mottled freeway. Still, if I got within 12 feet of Chief, he’d turn his ample rear to me and dash toward a 12-car-pile-up-in-the-making. Several times he hoofed along the pavement. His message couldn’t have been clearer if he held a knife to his throat and shouted to me, “Don’t make me do it. I’m serious; I’ll do it, and it’ll be all your fault.”
Finally, my brain caught up with my burning comb and waving wattle, and I remembered The Principles. When inviting another to connect, ignore=increase pressure, resist=maintain pressure, cooperate=release pressure. Chief was definitely resisting, and I’d been increasing pressure. A sure-fire recipe for an explosion. These are the fundamental principles for all relationships, and the foundation of our Faith, Hope, and Love trauma-informed care, learned and honed through Make Way Partners relationship with Natural Lifemanship.
As soon as I dropped my shoulders and took a deep breath, the flame blew out of my comb and my wattle stopped quivering. Chief immediately raised his head from the grass and set his bead dead on me. I moved too fast, and he decided I wasn’t serious about connecting, but rather had ulterior motives. Chief was off again. Hoofing the pavement, testing my calmness.
By this time a RV-ing couple, pulled to the side of the road, offering assistance to trap the poor beast. A stray bicycler kicked in a similar offer. I firmly asked them to stay far away from my thunder-cloud of a horse, and focus their attention on warning oncoming drivers of the danger.
With a prayer of surrender, I applied a fraction of pressure on Chief by focusing my eyes and energy from my core onto his backside. Without the slightest hesitation, Chief turned gracefully toward me. I took a small step backward, releasing pressure, and he took a larger step toward me. We repeated this five or six steps, until Chief caught me.
For the record, Flat Stanley flatly denies ever having made a threat against Chief. “Besides” Flat Stanley crooned, “My arm is too sore from all the stitches Kimberly threaded into me to get my arm back on to have flapped around and spooked that big oaf of a horse.” I sensed a bit of resentment with the name calling.
Chief maintains that Flat Stanley did, in fact, spook him as soon as I turned my back in the trailer, otherwise—he claims—he never would have startled and run.
Rusty the True, being the consummate Peace Maker of the Traveling Trio, settled the matter by reminding us all that placing blame or nailing down causation is—at best—unproductive. Instead, Rusty pointed out that we should simply “Apply Grace and Allow Do-Overs.”