The Trust Bank

The Trust Bank

A few weeks ago, I was chatting on the phone with one of my best friends while stuck in traffic. I was filling her in on a mutual friend who’s been going through some rough times lately. After a shaky past, our friend’s spouse had finally cleaned up his act… only she was having a hard time forgiving him.

“I feel bad for him,” I said. “He’s working so hard to get in a good place, and I don’t think that she’s ever going to forgive him.”

“You know, I get it,” my friend replied. “Sometimes you try to forgive and you try to forgive, but eventually there’s nothing left. You’re just done.”

“It’s like the trust bank with horses!”

I think it was over at Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management when I first heard the term “Trust bank,” and it resonated immediately with my relationship with horses. When you’re riding a 1200lb animal with its own brain, things can go haywire quickly. Us equestrians depend on trusting that relationship not only to succeed with going to a show or embarking on a trail ride, but furthermore to safely ride another day. Each time we as riders give our horse an accurate aid, we show our horse that we’re capable and therefore put a “deposit” into the bank. When our horse does something we ask them to correctly, they put a deposit in themselves and the whole situation moves forward harmoniously.

We're a solid team, even when he has spastic "WE ARE GOING TO JUMP THE JUMPS" face
We’re a solid team, even when he has spastic “WE ARE GOING TO JUMP THE JUMPS” face

Of course even the best horse and the most capable rider will make a goof. Maybe the rider misjudges a distance, and gets the horse to a bad spot on a big fence. Maybe the horse is scared and spooks at something silly. Those things are going to happen, but a well funded trust bank is what keeps them from being catastrophic. Every time something iffy occurs, horse & rider withdraw from the trust bank. Hopefully those times are few and far between, and the balance stays in the black. The trouble is when there are way too many withdrawals and not enough deposits.

I’ve been there with a horse before. Beckett was a great horse who should have been my dream, but he withdrew from the trust bank too often in its earlier stages. When we started to go into the red, I said enough was enough and moved him forward. He became a lovely horse for someone else, but never could be that for me. I was just done.

Amazing, but emptied the trust bank
Amazing, but emptied the trust bank

Why am I blogging about this now? Although I have made comparisons with horses and relationships before, the “Trust Bank” concept transferring to human relationships never dawned on me until I was talking to my friend. Thinking about it further, I realize that I’ve found myself in an unfamiliar state right now.

In my past ten years with horses, I’ve been the chicken shit amateur who’s afraid of everything. Seriously, when I took lessons in MA after selling Beckett my trainer had to start me on a 15hh Haflinger who took the definition of beginner friendly to a whole new level. Now I find myself coming off my first horse show at 2’9″ with a dependable horse I made myself (with lots of help of course). Simon and I don’t just have a trust bank, we have a trust 401k. We can retire on our trust. It’s solid.

Willy the Haflinger who helped me find my confidence again
Willy the Haflinger who helped me find my confidence again

Tim had a lot of amazing qualities during our relationship, and we put in a ton of deposits into the trust bank together. I would listen to friends worry about their spouses flirting with some girl or feeling the need to keep tabs on their boyfriend, and I’d just shrug. With Tim, I never had to worry about him cheating. He fairly reliably did what he said he was going to do, and he typically was where he said he was going to be. Our biggest fights for years were over him not doing the dishes. If cleanliness constituted a trust bank, we’d be in trouble. Instead years clipped by and I had unending faith in my husband until 2015.

His behavior would seem slightly odd or unpredictable, and he’d withdraw a bit from our account. Little things here and there that made me slightly uneasy even though I wasn’t quite sure why. Then the man who I never had to worry about drinking and driving insisted he was fine, and tried to drive us home from a bar. He took down a decorative fence instead of another vehicle, but that was the first large withdrawal from our trust bank… and it wasn’t the last. Of course we all know how things ended, but I didn’t realize until recently how finding him not only ended my marriage but also completely depleted my trust. For the first time of my life when it comes to people, I’m very much in the red.

This leaves me in an interesting spot now. When anyone exhibits any bit of strange behavior, I’ll be the first to throw the “A” word into a room. In my former days on Tinder, some unsuspecting idiot would casually throw out, “Hey you want to come over and smoke a few bowls?”

No. I want to absolutely not do that. There aren’t enough words for me to describe how much I don’t want to do that.

If my friends have to go for the doctor for anything out of the ordinary, I’m probably as bad as their parents when I text follow up questions about their health and well being. When my sister in law was due to have her first child, I had nightmares that she died in childbirth and my brother would become a widower. There have been times when my parents have visited, and I haven’t heard one of them stirring around the house before I got up. My first thought is not, “Oh good! I didn’t sleep too late!” but instead “Hopefully they didn’t die in their sleep.”

Just like it did with my horses, I know the trust bank will fill back up again. Each time one of my friends manages to live through their sinus infection, it gets a little better. I see people going to rehab and getting help for themselves, and my hope gets restored a little bit more. I don’t know how I’m going to be in another relationship, because I’m still trying to climb out of the red negatives into some sort of ground zero. I’m still trying to remember a time when my biggest problems were dirty dishes or being scared to jump 2′.

33 thoughts on “The Trust Bank

  1. I first learned about The Trust Bank in my college Leadership Studies classes. It really does apply to a LOT of things in life, horses and people definitely being big ones.

    It totally makes sense that your bank is empty, even overdrawn right now. But, you’re already seeing a reduction in “overdraft fees.” Before you realize it, you’ll be in the green again. (((hugs)))

  2. The trust bank absolutely carries over to human relationships, though I had never really thought of it until you just pointed it out. Totally understandable about why yours is currently depleted. I hope you continue to build your bank back up!

  3. I love this illustration. I’ve never heard it referred to a trust bank, but that makes perfect sense. If anything, your post inspires me to always build up my personal trust bank with other people–does that make sense? I hope my close friends feel they can count on me. And to put more faith in the trust banks my horses have already filled to over-flowing.

  4. I’m sending this to a friend, because we’ve been talking about how my relationship with my horse has been a lot like her relationship with her boyfriend lately (although, obviously a relationship with another human is more complex and more important). I loved the “trust bank” concept when Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management first introduced it, and I think it’s SO incredibly applicable to… everything.

  5. wow, I’ve actually never heard the term trust bank before but it’s perfect! I have a green horse right now so that bank is a very accurate description for us, especially when it comes to oxers…lol

  6. I lived through my sinus infection/flu/walking pneumonia!!

    **clink!** Coin in the bank. 😉

    Honestly, a good reminder that my horse and I are dealing with some hard shit right now and maaaaaybe need more trust bank building… oh, maybe my human relationships, too.

  7. My mom is super into this sort of stuff and taught me about this years ago. She also really likes love languages. She, of course, never related it to ponies, just people. Her big thing is combining the two: like her husband makes a deposit into her love bank when he utilizes her love language (compliments her) and that allows her to forgive other petty indiscretions.

  8. This is a really wonderful concept and a term I’ve never heard before. It really makes sense to me, as I’m a more nervous rider on my half-Arab, who is prone to silliness, vs. a paint I’m much more relaxed on who I’m working with to carry a flag. Thank you for sharing. Keep on keeping on. I’m sure you’re helping some silent reader through their own journey with your reflective insight.

  9. i’ve spent years telling myself that i’m ‘not allowed’ to be cynical, and that i shouldn’t immediately think the worst about any individual or situation… but sometimes that’s just hard, and definitely gets harder with each little withdraw…

  10. Well said. When my father died, I spent a year wondering who would be next, in escalating order of concern depending on how close the person was to me. I did not trust the universe. Nor phones. Clearly a trust bank debt there. Getting better with the universe. Still hate a ringing telephone.

  11. My trust bank with horses in general is on the more empty rather than full side. Slowly but surely it will be filled again. Love your writing. The Haffy is adorbs.

  12. Epiphany! This is fantastic, thanks so much for sharing. Also, I love that you and Simon have a trust 401K. Rio and I have that too. If those coins were actual money, I could retire for sure.

  13. My trust bank with animals is almost always empty. My trust bank with humans….I’ve been stabbed in the back one too many times to ever completely recover. It makes dating and making friends so exceptionally hard, but in the end I don’t really mind. I just end up being pickier about who I associate with.

  14. Hugs. I have all the feelings about this post, for various reasons, but I can’t quite articulate them.

    On a side note, what farm did you ride at in MA? I would love to know! PM me!

  15. This is so relevant to me right now. I had a Bad Experience ™ a few years ago, and I’m only just now realizing that it wasn’t all my fault; I put too much trust into someone and they took advantage of it. Thank you for your post, and I hope you put a little bit of change into your bank for sharing it.

  16. Wow, I guess I’m absolutely bankrupt when it comes to my trust bank with horses. I went from doing jumpers and trying for the fastest possible time, to now being afraid to even ask for a canter. I have had one too many falls and was riding a mare that was just trying to think of ways to mentally break me. And it worked. It’s a struggle to even GO to the barn these day, but I still dream of being confident on a horse again :/

    I guess one penny at a time….

  17. Lauren, I just love this. Haven’t ever heard the term before but I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about when it comes to spouses. The niggling sense “something” is wrong grows to wholesale suspicion, and when that is confirmed – BAM. Right to the core of you and you are left breathless and adrift on a sea of disbelief, rage, horror and heartbreak.

    I spent years trying to stem the tide, literally and figuratively trying to fill the bank back up, but it didn’t work. No more trust left, no more hope that he will ever change or be trustworthy again. It’s a really, really rotten feeling that really, really sucks. I’m so sorry to hear you describe it.

    I’m glad you have Simon and your pups to be with and fill that part of your bank (I have my children and dog). Someday we’ll both fill the “loving partner” bank back up again, too, I’m sure of it. Just going to take time. As always I wish you the very best and thank you for sharing!

  18. ” Simon and I don’t just have a trust bank, we have a trust 401k. We can retire on our trust. ”

    REALLY like this line. 🙂 Great post.

  19. Thanks for sharing this! I’ve not heard the term ‘Trust Bank’ before but it makes so much sense! I very much emptied my trust bank with horses when I was younger, after some bad experiences jumping (and falling). But with the help of a wonderful school master I had on loan, we slowly put more ‘deposits’ in and I regained my confidence in jumping again. Brilliant way of looking at things!

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