The capital letters in the title were on purpose – meant for shouting. The action (or non-action) of resistance is a strong objection in body and energy.

The thing that I find quite often is that humans who object to horse resistance are most resistant themselves. Resistance is avoidance action or non-action. On the human side, I will get to later. But let’s look at the less complicated version – horse resistance. I have a pony who is an expert at this. Bless him. He taught me the art of forming a willing partnership.

What kind of resistance did Toby the pony do? Well, where should I start! If I look back from the beginning, he was called ‘nappy’, as he could not be steered easily with the reins or maintain a gait per rider request, avoided all forms of travelling by small enclosed vehicles, could not be tied up, putting a bridle on was a game of wrestling, and generally took an opposite approach to partnering with humans. He was quite comical in his devious behaviour. Now, I know some out there will be ‘tut-tutting’ to have called a horse devious, but I have to wonder if they ever really came across a truly smart horse – one that operates on the premise of ‘why should I?’ rather than the typical reinforced conditioning that follows the more ‘scientific’ approach to training horses.

The dictionary defines ‘devious’ as: showing a skilful use of underhand tactics to achieve goals. If you still disagree that the word cannot apply to horses after reading this, then well – we just disagree. Toby was truly an expert at knowing the right moment to ditch a rider. He didn’t go overboard bucking and expending his energy, he calculated a swift side or stop move at precisely the moment when the rider was unbalanced. It worked like a charm. He even ditched a friend of mine who had been a track rider. So cunningly executed, she didn’t see it coming.

He also stood on quite a few toes…of children. Too many to be just a random accident. High pressure never won over Toby. He had me lunging him for 2 hours in a (misguided) effort to make the outside of the horse float a worse place than the inside of the float. The answer was still “no”. As was going into water – “no”, getting wormed – “hell no!”.

And then there was leading. How many times he outwitted me! I’d have carefully managed his resistance all the way from the paddock up to the barn when I lost concentration for 3 seconds opening a gate and he would time his escape with such stunning judgement that I would be too impressed to be annoyed.

So, you are probably thinking that he was just an untrained pony – and that is mostly true. However, now that he is trained, he still does not follow the same conditioned behaviour as other horses would with the same input. He repeatedly tests the boundaries, looking to find a way to suit himself. Good on him really. I mean who wants to be a slave?

In this process of teaching a devious pony how to be more accepting of human input, I discovered more about myself and how much of the time we have unrealistic expectations of what others should be doing for us. Does Toby have a right to demand what happens with his own body? Apparently so. Just as many resistors in these pandemic times are demanding the same. Not that I am one of them. I am less resistant in that regard, having deemed the risks as low. However, it is not a criminal act to want to have sovereign rights over our medical experiences. It made me think, about this and the approach needed to arrive at peaceful negotiations with Toby the pony. Empowerment is very important to our bodies. If we are not empowered then the body reacts. It will first power up with stress but then eventually shuts down – via our reptilian brain parts. This is innate biological programming and not something that we can just override.

People who are resisting feel disempowered, unsafe or insecure to some degree. Resistance always rises up from oppression. Many will shut down and become passive from being overpowered. But those few uncompromising and belligerent, devious ones will make you pay for it. It’s time to recognise that horses also operate that way. Let’s see where that can take us with truly functioning partnerships.