Once trust is broken can it be repaired, mended, and even create a deeper connection and bond in a relationship?
I once learned the answer to this question from Corazon de la Montana, also known as Romeo, and continue to learn more about the importance of trust in a relationship from him. He was a wild horse from the mountains of Montana adapting to the human world at the time. His highly tuned instincts would examine me and my leadership levels each day. I felt as if he knew me better than anyone.
Within a year Romeo had learned to fully trust me as we spent more and more time together bonding. Often through doing nothing at all, other times training, and his absolute favorite; eating. Through learning to trust me he even began to trust other humans. One day all of that hard-earned trust was abruptly broken.
It was time for vaccinations. This particular vaccination can be somewhat uncomfortable as it needs to be administered via the horse’s nostril, but I had complete trust in my veterinarian’s judgment and knew he had worked with Romeo before with ease and comfort.
Unfortunately in life sometimes the unexpected happens and it was the vet tech who ended up giving Romeo his vaccination. Things seemed to be going great until she stepped backward in celebration of successfully completing her task and completely spooked Romeo. The quick movement startled him and he was very confused and upset by everything.
Even after how far we had come, Romeo lost all trust and wanted nothing to do with me. He was acting completely differently and wouldn’t even turn his head towards me. Once we realized what had happened with the vaccination it was time to start putting in the work to try and rebuild that trust.
My trainer, Hugh and I went back to the basics and spent several sessions working with Romeo to rebuild our relationship. Luckily he eventually grew to trust us both again, even more than before. Identifying the reason for his misbehavior, listening to what he was telling us, and taking the time to put in the work to rebuild is why that was at all possible.
Similar to human relationships, horses extend trust as needed in order to form relationships, belong to a herd, and increase chances of survival. They extend the highest level of trust to those who demonstrate a high level of trustworthiness. We have all ended relationships due to betrayal and hurt that could not be restored, but have also welcomed some back into our lives even after our trust had been broken. We can choose to find heart-based power in knowing that we will be okay regardless of circumstances around us, and can learn from each experience with trust or distrust.
Romeo has deepened my understanding of the lifecycle of trust. It can grow, be torn down, and come back to life. It’s crucial to nurture through commitment, patience, understanding, courage and without judgment to explore the possibilities of trust. Corazon de la Montana has inspired me to become a better person as he continuously becomes more accepting of the human world, and I will continue to grow to maintain our trusting relationship.
A version of this blog was originally published in 2008.