Horsey Therapist

Friday, June 15, 2007

Reflections from January

I can think on my feet at times. Other times it takes hours, days, weeks, months for some thoughts to come clear.

In January I had an exchange with a friend about my Morgan mare, Kacee.

Me to she:
I wonder why I am so likely to disregard her feelings and ask her to go places she'd rather not.

She to me:
This is really interesting. I wonder, too. I think I do this too annnnd I think it ties in with some of my questions about why I ride ...[my horse]... the way I do and why you ride different horses the way you do. Maybe you should describe her and that will give clues.

Me to myself:
How would I describe Kacee? She's attentive, certain, opinionated, herd leader. She's delightfully responsive when in her comfort zone, incredibly strong survival instinct kicks in when she is out of her comfort zone. She sticks around when I fall off. She walks off more often than not when I approach her with halter in hand. She stands still for saddling, bridling, mounting. I can ride her without a bridle or reins and she understands forward, left, right, stop and back from my body, but gets a little too excited to listen when we're trotting or cantering this way. She has tolerated all sorts of "natural horsemanship" approaches that I have studied and applied to her, so she must have a big question mark when I show up -- what is she going to ask of me now and how? She is first to the food, but will wait for me to step aside before she comes in for hay after I've reminded her to wait. She has lovely walk and trot to ride; her canter is fast. Her hind legs are crooked as are her hind feet. She has protected me from Rusty when he was young and rowdy and I was vulnerable and helpless. Like trot right over and bite him on the withers to move him away from me.

Clues to why I don't listen to her well? To why I overexpose her frequently? To why I'm impatient to just get on her and go someplace?

Months later, I find pieces of the answer. As with many things, the actual facts of it are simple. I am thinking and reacting, not being present and responsive in the here and now. Instead of assessing who she is right now and what she needs for support and proceeding from there, I approach her with expectations based on the past (my past with her and my past with all relationships) and lay those expectations like a tinted translucent film over our experience.

When I am without that film, I can see what she is telling me and help her, right now, to feel better about what we're doing, right now, and then carry on to explore other things, right now, together and with some harmony instead of me pushing, she resisting. It has to be feeling good or else I'm forcing my ideas on her. I want to influence what we do together, and that requires me first to influence her mental and emotional state so she is open to do something together with me, and some day (which might be in two minutes or two months) she will want to do something together with me. And I want to be present, right now, whenever this happens. Not bound up mentally thinking about something else, missing another moment with this powerhouse of equine delight.


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