The idea of boundaries is frustrating. They’re tangible and visible limits, preventing us from doing something, from going somewhere. No one wants to stand up and tell themselves no, and most of us would prefer to do the opposite. When we’re given limits, we test them. When we’re given boundaries, we fight them.

You never know how far you can go until you can see the fence, white panels against a pine backdrop. Curiosity suggests finding out exactly how much space there is for you. The space seems open, giving you the illusion that you can do what you please. But should you want to venture further than the fence, you will find you can’t. And that’s frustrating.

There’s a reason the fence is there. Maybe there’s a cliff beyond the view of the pine trees. Perhaps the landscape is filled with sink holes, and if you venture too far you could fall in. Maybe there’s something dangerous living in the woods. You don’t know, but isn’t it frustrating you can’t go there and find out?

It’s there for a reason.

The idea of boundaries is frustrating, of course it is, but just like the fence wrapping around the edge of a large property, they exist for reasons. You wouldn’t let your prized horse into a field without a fence surrounding her, right? She really wants the grass beyond the fence, but there are sink holes. There are bears (or whatever lives in your woods). You know these things, so you put her in a field where she’ll be safe from them.

There are so many benefits from boundaries; setting them with our horses, with each other, and with ourselves. Though frustrating, boundaries are necessary for us to work alongside horses. It is because of boundaries we are able to teach horses to walk beside us, instead of on top of us. It is because of boundaries we help horses trust us. How?

Think of your favorite pet, maybe a darling dog or a lovely little house cat. We set boundaries to help our pets understand what we expect. Discipline is what comes after a respectable boundary has been confronted, helping an animal know what is expected. Which is to say, discipline isn’t always physical. A “No, Puppy. That’s not your toy,” can suffice, sometimes. But you’ve let Puppy know he breached a boundary. He feels better because he knows what he can and can’t do, and trusts you to lead in situations where he’s unsure. We become the leader of our partnership with our horses when we create healthy boundaries.

Healthy boundaries aren’t only beneficial between us and our horses, though. Boundaries encourage relationships to coexist successfully, because each person knows what to expect and they’re happier for it. Boundaries encourage self-respect, and you deserve to respect yourself and your needs.

Boundaries are useful things which help us learn “no” is a full sentence, and others’ wants and needs don’t necessarily need to come before our own.