Horsey Therapist

Monday, February 18, 2008

Horses get used to things

If you are as lazy as I tell folks I am, and you want your horse to get used to something weird, you'll find a way to have the weird thing in full view and let the horse get used to it.

I don't recommend putting tarps and moveable, non-living stuff in their pen unsupervised because horses can hurt themselves either directly or by getting terrorized if a foot got caught in a tarp for example. But adjusting to the sight and sound of a tarp, all on their own, is a wondrous accomplishment. An accomplishment for the horse.

That is how a horse gains confidence in himself. By succeeding on his own to overcome fear, to try new things, to learn. Not that we don't steer them in their learning process, but the learning itself is meaningful to the horse only when the horse is learning, not simply when the horse is doing what we tell him to do. There is an important difference.

I challenged my comfort zone when I introduced our horses to the sheep. Horses in one paddock, sheep in the adjacent paddock. I breathed deeply over and over as I watched the horses gallop away from the shared fenceline, then gallop back, heads up, nostils flared, snorting loud horse alert sounds, then gallop away again.

I talked myself into changing my focus to Other Things. And when I checked later, the intensity was reduced although the worry was still evident. It took three days until the sheep were a ho-hum event for the horses. That is when I opened the gate between them and let them mingle.

I think it's the same for people. Certainly there are times when it helps to have someone hold my hand (literally and/or figuratively) when I am exposing myself to something new and fear-provoking. That could be para-sailing or designing an equine facilitated mental health program. But the goodies come from me taking ownership of my courage, my willingness, my achievement. Horses and humans, we are so much alike.


At 23 February, 2008 07:44, Blogger Victoria Cummings said...

I agree with what you are saying about how it builds confidence. I was getting a lot of advice from "helpful" neighbors who own horses and choose to do things differently than I would. These are just stressful times right now for my whole family and my horses, so anything I can do to remove a layer of stress from any of us is important.

At 10 November, 2008 20:35, Anonymous Alyssa said...

Interesting to know.


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