Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Beautiful's Story: Week One



The great thing about horses is that they take every day for what it is--a new story. People aren't usually like that. We like to hold onto old stories...about ourselves, each other, our animals. We like to say THIS is who I am, and THAT is who you are. So there.

But that's not reality. We are not who we were yesterday. We are not fairy tales, or cliches, or caricatures--all good and pure or all mean and evil.

Last week I had an epiphany--that I was holding onto a story or, more accurately, a fairy tale, about Beautiful Mustang. I thought it wasn't good for her or me or our training, and since it wasn't good, I decided to let it go.

An amazing thing happened, though, because when I let it go, I found out she is even smarter and more amazing than I thought. She is calmer than I thought. She thinks things through more than I thought. She is more of a willing partner than I knew.

Each day, of the last six days, I've devoted to one of the major foundational training areas: Clipping, Tying, Leading, and Loading. In my mind, I can't go further until these are accomplished. Each one of the major areas has potential for things to go wrong. I don't want BG to have negative baggage about any of them, so I didn't want anything to go wrong.

The first two days were clipping with the electric clippers--and a little tying--I was patient, and it took a while, but, in the end, it went great (more in the movie). Then, there was a day of tying while I cleaned stalls (also shown in the movie). And finally, a couple days of loading and leading. I had exposed her to the trailer last year, but she never actually got in. This year, we started at about the same place we left off. (Horses have good memories.)

There isn't much video of that first day because my husband and I were alternating trailer duty with an approach/withdraw/gentle pressure and release strategy. Finally, after about an hour--or maybe forty-five minutes (I didn't time it) we decided to end on a positive note and feed her a little grain at the trailer's edge.

Surprisingly, at about that time, while I was at her side, she had a slack rope, and we were relaxed with no expectations, she decided to put her front feet in and smell around. She put them both solidly in and sniffed the dividers, the roof, the ground--as if she was sizing it up to see if she'd fit in there and be safe. Then, just as calmly, she stepped back down, and we made a big, happy deal about it.

My husband decided to move back further in the trailer with the grain and see what happened. With the rope still slack, and no pressure whatsoever, in she walked, slow and gentle, and stood there eating for about five minutes. She looked around, back at me, out at the other horses, and she was as calm as could be. I said, Let's try just backing her out since she's so calm. And, out she backed, like she'd done it for years.

Day #2 is on the video. How did she do the second day? Did she load without grain? What were her memories from the first day?

This is the end of week #1--I learned new things about Beautiful. I trust and respect her more than I did at the start of the week. I feel more confident about her ability to think things through. Now, we're on to week #2 and I have plans, but few expectations--because every day is a new day--as it should be. And, if you hadn't noticed, that's my new motto. I've used it many times before, but now it's moved up to motto status. Or, said differently,

To truly enjoy life, to see yourself and others in fresh ways, you must be willing to let go of the stories that keep you tied to the past. Linda Kohanov, Way of the Horse.

***One last BG update--it took two weeks, but she is well-established in the herd now. She occupies a comfortable position second to last (Cowboy is the good-natured Omega, the confidence builder, and babysitter--which, btw, has great benefits for him).

Just yesterday, she was let into the round bale circle with the whole herd. Before that, she had to wait until they were all done. How she accomplished the feat was funny to watch. She went barrelling around them at break-neck speeds, bucking and fussing. They all stood there calmly, watching the spectacle. Then, as if to put an end to it, they signalled some passivity or permission, she walked in slowly, took a timid bite, and they all went back to eating...together.

Now, the herd is six.

I'm so proud, proud, proud of Beautiful. I want to talk about her all the time, but I get a lot of blank stares, the not-to-subtle point to change the subject.

Here she is this morning, standing her ground against the snow, in-line with the rest of the herd. Isn't she amazing?!? I love her.

23 comments:

  1. I'd say you had a wonderful week with her and she with you. I think when we let go of expectations or time limits for a certain behavior it seems to come naturally. Good work with her in the first week I'm sure the second week will be even more productive. Glad to hear she's been accepted by the herd.

    One of the reasons I think we have our horse blogs is that we can find like-minded people to talk horses with even if it's only on the internet. At least someone is interested and listening.

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  2. GHM--I agree with you about the blogs. Thanks for the encouragement!

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  3. Wow, that loading was beautiful! Great blog.

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  4. She is wonderful, and you are great to perceive her "wonderfulness". Love the way you approach dealing with her and the concept of letting go of the story - may I quote a few words from your post with a link back to you?

    Love the story about her getting into the herd!

    I agree with Grey Horse - I don't have many horsey people to talk to and it's great to get support and inspiration in the horse blogging community.

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  5. It's so nice to see Beautiful standing with the herd, finally with some peace! Good for her for handling the transition :)

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  6. Thanks everyone, and Kate--feel free to quote anything here--I'm thrilled to know you've found something quotable. ;)

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  7. I can see why you find her so amazing! I too feel the sting of others who don't appreciate my horses' amazingness the way I do. "Beautiful" post!

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  8. Thanks, Rachel, and "sting" is a good way to put it. I didn't realize it, but that is how I feel. I have horsepeople bias! I mean, even at the Sundance Film Festival, non-horsepeople voted for the movie, Buck, to win. So, to me, if a person can't appreciate how amazing horses are--well, I don't get it.

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  9. Nice calm loading, how cool is that?

    I hear that wind I am familiar with in the background. Makes me wonder how your snow situtaion is today.

    I agree about the blogging. That blank stare or, even worse, the one that says "are you really going to talk horses, again?" can be hurtful. I find it hard to comprehend people NOT wanting to know more about them, they are such a big part of my life.

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  10. Excellent! You made trailering look easy.

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  11. Yeah, we got lucky in the calm loading department. I like it that way.

    We haven't got the snow yet, have you? They keep saying it's coming, but is it? Just South and East of here really got it yesterday, but it avoided us.

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  12. Except for the snow you see in the picture, but that turned out to be short and light.

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  13. NuzMuz--thanks, and I must say it was ALL Beautiful. I've had some trailer loading experiences that weren't at all like that with other horses.

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  14. Linda, we did get a dusting of snow overnight and more is supposed to be heading our way. The worst hit is the nothern pennisula. The weather models seem to be changing almost hourly so I can't even keep up with the projections but last I heard we are supposed to get 2 - 6 inches over the next 24 so it should be coming your way within a matter of hours.

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  15. It's so pretty right now--but we've been preparing for it. My husband put the snowblade on the tractor and stored it in the barn so it will start up. We're ready! Bring on the snow!

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  16. I'm laughing about your comment on why we love to blog. Is that true or what?! I try to control my urge to talk about Jackson with non-horsey people. My poor husband doesn't notice the glassy-eyes looking back at him when he rattles on about Flash. It's kind of cute for me. Probably not so much for the bored listeners. :)

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  17. Annette--I'm having to laugh about your comment! It's great that your husband doesn't notice "the look". And I have to confess, I probably have the same glass-eyed stare when anyone talks about anything other than horses. Guilty!

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  18. I love this post, especially the first 4 paragraphs. Wonderful!

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  19. What a good girl she is! I'm so excited that everything is going so well for you two.

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  20. Thanks, Jennifer.

    Andrea, I'm excited for every good day, too. It helps me build my confidence in our relationship, and I needed that. ;)

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  21. Your Beautiful Girl is beautiful and smart. Wow, she is SO smart. I bet that is the Mustang - less dumbed down by man's breeding practices. And, luckily, you see it and are allowing her to be smart without interfering with your human ideas.

    I, too, share the stares of non-horsey people. My blog and blogging friends save me from constant embarrassment!

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  22. Thanks, Juliette--I think you're onto something when you say I'm "allowing" her to be smart. This is a concept you almost have to relearn with every new horse--I'm relearning it with Beautiful right now.

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