Horsey Therapist

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It takes two to tango

I love to quote my parents. I used to squirm when they said these things but now I see they fit.

"It takes two to tango. "

I heard that a lot when my brother and I would fight. I really did believe my brother started those fights. I was convinced I was a victim. My parents' perspective was as above: it takes two to tango. If we were fighting, it is because we both were fighting.

Ever try to fight with someone who won't?

When it comes to fighting with horses, well, I have done that, and I may do it again, however in my place of best intentions, I will be doing other things, not fighting.

If I can keep my focus on what I am requesting, I can ignore whatever the horse does that some folks are calling "rude" -- unless it comes to my keeping myself safe. Those actions to keep myself safe are about maintaining my space, not about the horse and her space. This is a subtle difference but the horse knows. I need to just carry on with my plan. Focus on me, my space, my plan. Redirect those urges to be focusing on the horse...

To anyone who thinks a horse is "rude": please find a replacement for this "rude" idea. Aside from whether a horse is capable of behaving in rude ways, think about the energy that comes with a proclamation like that. If it's true they read our minds, read our intentions, then gee, our horses will feel the need to defend themselves when around people who call them rude. I have never heard a horse called "rude" in a moment of loving energy. So we toss out offensive energy and expect what? That the horse is going to be the first to offer kindness and understanding when we are in a lousy mood?

So why am I talking about fighting and rudeness today? A while back, a friend wrote about her horse crowding her, and used the word "rude" to describe the horse. I got thinking about that word as well as about what we can do instead of fighting with our horses.

I got thinking it's better to find a way to direct the horse before... BEFORE... the horse comes too close for comfort. That is being a leader. That is being proactive. That we should do without fear or anger, without remembering that we ever felt threatened by the horse before. Simply do it, direct. And the horse will respond with 'fine, I can do that'. It is so important to be emotionally neutral! I can't emphasize this enough.

I never had success with any sort of after-the-fact stuff with my most challenging horse. If he did something, I was already late. He has been teaching me about awareness and timing and attunement. He freezes up inside when I tense. He gets defensive when I feel worried, unsure, threatened, not just when I feel angry.

These horses offer us such incredible opportunities to become better animals. The challenging ones really do 'right size' us -- time and time again if you're a slow learner like I am.

I reiterate my admonition that folks find a replacement word for "rude". Rude sounds like the horse is doing something bad. Not. The horse is doing something horsey. That's all. It feels unsafe for sure. But the horse feels unsafe or else it wouldn't be acting that way. Look for ways to help the horse feel safe around you. No more reacting -- that is a lofty but valuable goal. Some horses know from their own past experiences that reactive humans are dangerous. I'm not saying anyone is dangerous. But the horse views us as such if they are emotionally aroused and feeling threatened, and the handler or owner is in the best position to help change the horse's mind about humans. Every time we see and interact with a horse. Every time.

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