“Life is a balance between holding on and letting go.” — Rumi

Just about every area of life can have a sense of balance, or a sense of imbalance. Achieving a balanced state can be as challenging as it is rewarding. If we manage to find balance, it can be difficult to maintain. And still, it’s worth the effort.

When we’re out of balance, either in our internal or external world, we become more easily dysregulated. We might find ourselves slipping into nervous system responses such as fight, flight, or freeze. This will dramatically increase our stress levels, and make it near impossible to think clearly, socially engage or connect.

That said, we don’t have to stay there. If we notice that we’re struggling, we can progressively get into a more balanced state. We can develop healthy coping strategies and learn to become more regulated in our emotions and in our nervous system. We can take small steps to create more internal and external balance – even a little bit helps a lot.

As you read through the following reflections by Dr. Rebecca Bailey, Jaycee Dugard, Margie McDonald, and Carmen Theobald, consider what “balance” means to you.

Reflections on “Balance” from trauma therapist, Dr. Rebecca Bailey

Balance is that point where it all seems possible and the moment you stop holding your breath to keep it all together. It is the point where you have hit the sweet spot. You suddenly get clear that it doesn’t have to be so difficult. The pieces fit together in a way that seems seamless. It’s easy to push beyond that point, expecting more and more from life. But balance isn’t about stress and anxiety or piling on more than a person can handle. Even with careful planning, balance isn’t always possible. There are points for everybody when things get turned upside down and balance becomes elusive. It is during these topsy-turvy moments that the opportunity for growth and clarity becomes possible.

Equine-assisted interventions provide opportunities for quiet reflection. In some cases, clarity is achieved by observation in a regulated state. Regulation isn’t always easily achieved in an office. For some people, beginning therapeutic work in the arena can lead to fruitful follow-up work elsewhere. Creating a balance between experiential interventions and directive talk therapy can promote insightful connections.

Reflections on “Balance” from trauma survivor, Jaycee Dugard

Does anyone achieve this in one lifetime? It seems insurmountable to me. Like a friggin mountain that once you reach the top, you’re so out of breath that you think to yourself, why? When I was a kid, I didn’t think about balance in my life. I ate, played, and lived day to day. The day I was kidnapped, that carefree life ended, and my only thoughts were devoted to survival. Now I have all the time in the world for balance. But I’ve come to realize it’s not as simple as just having the time. Balance is hard. It’s challenging to balance what you want to do versus responsibility.

Sometimes I plan to do certain things during the week such as finding time to bathe a horse or garden, but as the week goes by and I still haven’t done those things, it seems like the time monster has struck again. Do you ever feel like time is just speeding by? If time would slow down, I could find the time for balance. I’m guilty of trying to find balance and feeling like a failure when I don’t. The only time I don’t feel like this is when I’m with my horse. I like to brush his beautiful mane and tail. He makes me slow down and say to the time monster, “Back off!”. This is our time. Why can I slow down and feel in complete balance during this time, but the rest of my day seems chaotic? Maybe I’m just so focused on trying to reach the top of that mountain that I forget to slow down and enjoy the things along the way. Perhaps balance is enjoying the crawl, walk, or run up the insurmountable mountain we call life.

Reflections on “Balance” from horse specialist, Margie McDonald

Horses are generous beings. They put up with so much from the people in their lives. We ask them to let us ride them. We expect them to be obedient and subservient. We tell them to ignore many of their natural instincts. We train them to walk into a dark trailer, or a scary and cramped wash rack. We want them to do what we want, do what we say, when we say it.

Several years ago, I bought my husband a young horse that I thought would be a great match. Stallone came into our lives at three years of age and stole our hearts. He is a from breed called Halflinger, that originates from Austria. They are a beautiful palomino color, have steady and calm personalities, and are wonderful family horses. Stallone is big for his breed, standing at 15.2 hands and has some draft horse cross in him. He is a silly clown with lots of opinions and full of funny shenanigans, however he didn’t start like this.

When he came to us, he had already been taught to drive a cart, carry a rider, and been used as a packhorse carrying camping equipment on hunting trips in the mountains. This is quite a resume for a three-year horse. All of his short life had been about working for and trying to please people.

As I began working with him, I noticed that there was never a time when I saw him relax and take a deep breath. He was clearly confused when I patted him in appreciation and gave him love. When he did the correct thing and was told that he was a good boy, he would tilt his head to the side and give me a quizzical look. He was very obedient and compliant. However, he had no joy in his work. He never experienced the rewards of appreciation, the rewards of leading a balanced life.

To keep these beautiful beings happy, healthy, and sound, we need to help them find mental, emotional, and physical balance. A lot of horses have been trained to ignore their natural instincts. Their focus has been directed towards performance outcomes. I want horses, (and humans), to find a balance between work and play. We all need to balance our time between pressing for more and relaxing into less. We all need a balance between time to train and time to relax. Time to just be a horse or a human, breathe and trust in the process. Making certain that the horse and rider have a balanced relationship enables a sense of accomplishment, which can lead to success, relaxation, and fun.

Reflections on “Balance” from empowerment coach, Carmen Theobald

The other professional hat I wear is that of a farrier (hoof care for horses). It’s critical that I create physical balance for the horses that I work with, understanding biomechanics and the precise anatomy of the hoof. Horses have large bodies that can do incredible things on relatively small feet. If their hooves aren’t balanced, the whole horse suffers, at times catastrophically. “No hoof, no horse” is a common expression that holds a lot of truth.

Some horses are easy to maintain a sense of balance in their feet and in their body – they seem to have won the genetic lottery. For other horses, and honestly most horses, it’s a much more challenging story. Often, it’s the smallest changes that can make the biggest difference. Seeing the horses who have been struggling for so long finally find a sense of balance, a sense of comfort and ease in their body, gives me so much joy. And when they’re happier in their body, it positively affects their mind, their emotions, and their spirit.

I do my best to take these lessons learned with horses and apply them to my human world, for myself and with others. If we as humans didn’t win the life lottery, and balance is something very difficult to achieve or even consider, we don’t have to stay stuck there. No matter where we’re starting from, there’s always something we can do to get a little closer to a balanced state. Small changes can go a long way, and when we start to find balance in one area, it helps us find balance everywhere else, too.

Now it’s your turn!
What does “balance” mean to YOU?

Dr. Rebecca Bailey
Author: Dr. Rebecca Bailey

Dr . Bailey is a leading trauma therapist who specializes in complex case scenarios. She has over 30 years of experience in the field and continues to be dedicated to the notion that authenticity, common sense, and kindness are the most important elements of effective treatment. She is a lifelong equestrian and animal lover who continues to believe animals, in particular horses, have much to teach humans about curiosity and compassion.