Horsey Therapist

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Influenced by Libby Lyman and my horses

I have become increasingly aware of how quickly I get defensive, and when I get defensive I get tense, critical, pushy, distrusting. Or perhaps when I start feeling distrusting, I get defensive, critical, tense... In any case, I am intent on getting below and beyond this reactivity in me. Even to the point of inviting RNB to tell me when he feels I'm being critical. Sometimes I cannot tell because a degree of criticism is sometimes hidden in my 'good intentions' and my 'advice giving'. It is tricky business, the line between 'let's do what I want to do because my idea is better', and 'let's do what I want to do because your idea is worse.' I sure know that someone can say the former and I hear the latter.

I was told years ago that my Rusty horse feels criticized most of the time. I was not gracious hearing that and in fact became defensive and critical of the speaker of that truth. My reaction interrupted a budding friendship. That is sad.

Meanwhile, Rusty has not had the same freedom as that person had -- Rusty cannot walk away. Well, he CAN walk away, but not far because I have fences keeping him here. But there are other ways he could 'walk away' -- mentally and emotionally -- and as time passes and I become more aware, he shows less interest in walking away. For his benefit and for the benefit of my relationship with this amazing horse, I am deeply compelled to unravel this burden I carry and inadvertantly share with all beings in my vicinity.

Yesterday I made huge gains, at least in my assessment. I'd say based on Rusty's changes, in his assessment, too.

What does this have to do with Libby Lyman? She taught a clinic last weekend in Maine at Piper Ridge Farm. I kept hearing about and seeing how to set it up so the horse finds the answer and hence can feel good about -- and OWN -- the lesson learned. This is NOT what happens when I help out. This is NOT what happens when I say a lot of 'yes, good' to the horse. It IS what happens when I breathe and wait and watch and give him time to come to his own conclusions about what works or what doesn't.

Yesterday it was about bridling. Rusty and I have a long history of controversy about bridling and the past few years, it's been relatively easy to bridle him and carry on with my plans to ride him, in the arena or on a trail. But before yesterday, I never stopped long enough to help him find a way to help me with the bridling. I have, in so many relatively clear and gentle ways, been using pressure and release as best I understood it, to show him the answer, ie,. show him where to hold his head so I can bridle him easily.

In the process of doing this exercise in patience and clarity, I learned more -- like the horse, for myself finding the answsers opposed to being told by a teacher -- about the timing of asking for something else and the meaning of feeling good together.

The asking for something else is NOT me telling him what I'm asking for. That is so tricky for me because Rusty is attentive and willing enough at this point to do just about anything I ever ask of him. This might be why I can take this next step. So, he will do anything I ask, and with very light cues on my part, a shift of my weight, a gentle lift or squeeze of a rein, a clear thought about stepping to the left while my body steps to the left and he's there with me. It has become like a very pleasant dance and indeed it has been personal growth for me to become the leader of the dance. After all, I'm a sensitive new age woman, and I know how to follow like a wisp of smoke, no dragging me around the dance floor is needed!

So here I was a few days ago, on one level so pleased that I can ride Rusty out on the trail alone, without the comfort of another horse for him, mostly soft and responsive, and on another level recognizing that we're out there because I want us to be and Rusty is comfortable being submissive to my requests. Indeed this IS progress, but is it really what I want? That lingering feeling that if I stopped this subtle asking over and over again, he'd turn and head back to the barn without a thought.

Then the weekend around Libby and it hits home again and again, all the little ways I'm pushing and pulling on my horse. Yes, sometimes they are big ways but mostly little ways. But it's still pushing and pulling! I am starting to recognize the difference, and I'm certain Rusty has known the difference all along but all the other factors in our relationship have finally added up to a solid 'getting along'.

I want more. I want this horse (and every horse!) to know he has a choice and to believe in his horsey mind that he is choosing on his own, that he is checking this option and that option and finding the most right choice in his mind, which happens to be the one that suits me, too.

There is something very simple behind all this complexity. It's about feeling good. It's about zero pressure for the horse. How many times have I heard that! However the more I recognize the core importance of finding a zero pressure spot for myself, the more I can recognize how important it is for the horses. But so many, many layers of the onion skin have to be peeled away to find this vulnerability, this sensitivity, this place where true responsiveness is felt, allowed, honored. And it's only when I find it in my own experience that I can own it, and offer it to others.


At 15 June, 2007 05:23, Blogger Susan said...

Finally opened a Google acct...have been reading your blog & smiling for awhile!
Just wanted to say ISN"T THE PROCESS GLORIOUS!

At 15 June, 2007 05:25, Blogger Susan said...

Have been reading your blog w/joy,
Isn't the process amazing?

At 15 June, 2007 08:09, Blogger LJB said...

I get the message! Your enjoyment comes through loud and clear, loud and clear. :-)


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