Horsey Therapist

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Nine to five

What a long day! I don't usually spend all day with the horses, but Tuesday I did. Well, slight exaggeration. I took a break for -- of course -- breakfast around 2 pm. Then back out. I stayed focused and intent on completing what I started, and now I really understand when clinicians joke about packing a lunch before they get started with some horses. Doing it on 'horse time'... no human clock to determine 'time's up' but the horse's time frame and when the horse makes some changes.

I tested my limits. I feel ok about what transpired. Although not happy about the bruise on my knee -- a wee ouchy -- and I am uncertain how it happened, which also makes me unhappy!

For the most past I remained emotionally neutral throughout a few trials and tribulations. They were trials and tribulations of the horse. For me they were learning opportunities. Ok, learning except for the two times I was seriously scared. And I watched when I was scared what I did -- tighten up, hold my breath briefly then exhale loudly with some vocalizations. Someone listening might call it shouting. But the balance of things yesterday was better than in the past, with more awareness of fear-provoking moments, and less reactivity.

Hence I got some changes in the horses that otherwise I would not have even looked for.

Too many details for me to get into right now, other than to say I learned how extreme were (no longer "are") the feelings of one horse about being paste wormed, and how long it can take for me to wait for a horse to change versus me pushing the issue and forcing a behavioral change without the attitude change coming first from the horse. I call this progress.

Oh, I do want to comment on some specific progress with Rusty. I've been noticing how dull he has been under saddle lately, and questioning the effects of my fear/caution energy around the horses. Well yesterday with Rusty and Bo in the arena, with the two mares then later without the mares, there was a lot of liveliness from the geldings. A lot!

When it came time to take Rusty back to the barn and release him in the paddock, I found my initial thought was to do something at liberty to help bring Rusty's energy to a calmer state, then think about haltering him up. But Rusty was so wanting to be with me, be close, do whatever I did, attentive and his life was really up, I changed my mind and decided I'd see how much he wanted to be with me and see how much I could trust him to be close but not bugging me.

I walked off down the arena and he walked with me. Fully energized and ready for anything... I took a breath and started jogging off toward and over the cavalettis and he came right along with me nice as can be. I slowed and stopped. He slowed and stopped. I turned and he swung around. We headed off again over the cavalettis. Back down over them again and returned again. I realized that even with his energy as up as it was, he was mentally with me. I held out the halter to him and he put his nose into the noseband, stood still even though he was revved up, and we walked off together to the gate, out the gate, and down to the barn. Fully mannered and self-contained he was, and so was I. I did not unnecessarily ask him to slow or back off or anything. I allowed him to be lively and trusted him to be listening and respectful.

Now I feel more ready (not fully ready yet but closer) to ride him when his energy is like that. All this time I've been employing all the nifty things I've learned how to calm a horse, and now I get to explore how to direct this life. Success yesterday on the ground. Next step, help him believe all that life of his is welcome under saddle, and help me have faith I can direct it so we both can enjoy it!

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