Horsey Therapist

Friday, November 30, 2007

Blending, and finding the "we"

Blending means a couple of things to me.

Until recently when I talked of blending, I talked about 'getting with the horse'. That could actually entail walking with him, mimicking his footsteps, following him around like he and I were a herd. When a horse is not so interested in tuning in to me, this seems to help. I tune in to him and at some point, he feels together with me enough to tune into me in return. I might blend/follow the horse when he trots off instead of chasing him or standing there -- matching tempo and rhythm even if I don't cover as much ground as the horse. At some point, it starts feeling different and I can experiment with initiating something -- a turn, a change in gait, a look in one direction... and the horse will reflect what I'm doing or my energy level.

Recently in a clinic with Mark Rashid, I was exposed to a new meaning for blending. And I am new to this so I may explain it much better in the future when hopefully I personally know more about this blending. I understand it comes from Aikido, and research on google revealed the essay on Page 7 of this webpage ( which helped me formulate in my mind what I want to say. Blending is physical and mental. It is being centered and open to others' ideas and movement, possibly being influenced but not losing my center. Blending happens for example when in Aikido one falls to the mat and staying centered, controls the fall and blends with the mat. Because I fell on the ice today, I think I know just what that feels like -- I was not hurt in the fall, not embarrassed or mad, not blaming or bruised. I simply fell and got up.

I am eager to learn more about blending because Mark applies this with horses (and from his report, all of his life) and that is my prime interest! Theoretically I get the idea, but in action, unsure of what I'm doing. An example, my horse raises his head when I go to check his teeth, instead of my prior practice of asking him to lower his head and 'help me out', I move my hands with his head with a little bit more energy than he is using, and when I feel him bringing his head down, I go with that and proceed with the teeth checking. There is a 'going with' aspect that I like and although I feel awkward at times, it seems to make a difference in that I'm not in a correcting or adjusting frame of mind, just in a being with the horse and what he's doing and also waiting for an opening when he is quiet and present and ready.

This afternoon I was with my young mare Sofia. She became greatly reluctant to have anyone in her mouth after I let a vet administer a tube of antibiotic. He was hurried and didn't know to wait for her to be ready. It was forceful, she was confused and upset, and if I had known it was going to be like that, I would not have allowed it. But I did and she was quick to create a limit about anyone near or in her mouth.

Because this has created trouble for the equine teeth floater, I have now and then spent time with Sofia focused on her feeling better about my fingers near and in her mouth, and also accepting a floating tool in her mouth.

My plan today was to help her feel OK about a floating tool in her mouth without any tasty distraction/incentive -- molasses worked well in the past but I'm commited to a purist idea that I potentially can do this with feel.

I kept returning to the thought of softening while I was with her, and I kept returning to my effort to slip the tool into her mouth and move it into position for contact with her teeth. We did it. I have to say "we" because if this mare doesn't want to do something, it ain't gonna happen. She had to feel OK about it or else all she has to do is raise her head. She is taller than me and quickly can move out of my reach.

So I remembered to find softness time and time again. I breathed consciously. I noticed when she was soft and ready for my next try. We did it. I was able to insert the tool and scrape on her teeth on each side. I was soft. She was soft. The struggle of the past was replaced by softness shared by us. It was remarkably easy. I think this was in the realm of blending. I got a sense of the 'we' feeling -- different from the feeling of me and her even when I'm being kind and thoughtful.

Next week I will observe an Aikido class for the first time. I am eager to start training -- curious about all the wonders ahead of me. Already I will say the changes in me are filtering pleasantly into my marriage -- finding the "we" even as our individuation is clearer and clearer.

In re-reading what I've just written, I wonder if the blending I have been doing is perceived by the horse as the blending I'm just learning about. My prior concept of blending has been about me and horse. My new concept of blending is about meandhorse.


At 01 December, 2007 07:37, Blogger Victoria Cummings said...

Thanks for the very clear explanation of "blending". I think that anyone who owns a horse is constantly faced with issues like you had with Sofia and the vet sticking the tube in her mouth. In most of the horse world, force is the way to get it done if there's resistance. Fortunately, there are people like Mark Rashid and Ray Hunt and the Dorrance brothers who are brave enough to stand up and show us a better way.
I'm glad that you and I have connected via our blogs because it's hard to find people who really give this kind of thought and effort to handling horses. I wish more of us did. I've learned that it always pays off.


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