Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wanted: Emotional Support

“The best thing that I try to do for myself is to try to listen to the horse, I don’t mean let him take over. I listen to how he’s operating, what he’s understanding or what he doesn’t understand, what’s bothering him and what isn’t bothering him. I try to feel what the horse is feeling and operate from where the horse is.”

 Tom Dorrance From Tom's book titled 'True Unity' 

Yesterday, I had a lesson planned that would require me to:  One, Load Leah in a trailer, which has been causing her stress, and Two, ask her to do some tough mental and physical work.

The question for me was, how do I get to my lesson and still respect the goal of creating a deeper partnership.  


I decided the only way I could attempt to combine both was to go out and be with her much earlier than the lesson, take more time together, get to the lesson an hour early and groom her longer, walk her around the facility, praise her more during the lesson, and spend more time with her unwinding after the lesson.

In other words--give her not only physical support, but EMOTIONAL SUPPORT, as well.

Since we spent more time together, there were more moments of connection.  She had more opportunities to give me try and to get lots of praise in return.  I had more time to tune into her, too.  We started at 9:00 am and I returned her to the herd at 1:30.  That was 4.5 hours of Leah and Me Time.

Did it work?

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At 1:30 I returned Leah to the herd and picked up Cowboy.  Cowboy is a horse who LOVES to go out on trail rides.  He jumps into the trailer, scoots himself over, and says, Get this show on the road!  He's proud of that because he's a horse who wants to please me...when it's convenient, and not too scary, for him.

He's my soul horse, my heart horse, my out-of-this-world-with-love horse.  But how could I be a better partner to him on the trails?



We had the MOST lovely trail ride together.  We walked, we trotted, we meandered, we rested, we even saw 2 moose.  As usual, he did not want to go back to the trailer.  He pulled me away from it.  So, my friend and I decided to try the trail challenge course at the park.  Cowboy does about half of the challenges happily, and the other half stress him out.  He was starting to sour on me...on himself even.  The other horse was doing all the challenges perfect--which made Cowboy that much more unhappy.

Partner...partner...partner.  Hmmmm....

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT!

Cowboy loves to open gates--real gates.  Let's go open and close some gates!  Off we went together, opening and closing gates, side passing, scooting by inches, winding, turning.  He was such a great gate opener!  I praised him and praised and praised him and praised him.

He was happy again.

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When I returned Cowboy to the herd, guess who walked across the turnout to see me?  Leah!

So, it did work.  She had grown some feelings for me throughout the day.  We're heading toward partnership!

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At the end of each day, when it's pitch dark out and I go to let Red out of his stall from his supplement feeding, I've been wandering around the herd and petting each one...talking to them.  They love it.  I love it.  Bonding with our horses in the dark is HIGHLY underrated.  It's my goal to add it to the end of every ONE of my days.  What a great gift to look up at the skies from the side of your horse and witness the vastness of the universe--the stars....so many of them...at your fingertips, too.  And the horses, at compete rest--so at ease in the darkness--accepting you into their quiet.

That is emotional support, too.  The kind we give our spouses at the end of the day when we curl up beside them in bed.  It's the being there and resting in one another's arms, and saying, life is good...when we're together.  We have each other's backs.  We're a team.  

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Did you know porcupines climb trees? 

16 comments:

  1. *sigh* How much better can it get? This post has me smiling and just feeling downright giddy about how it's all going for you and your partners! Making me a tad bit jealous too because I've been missing out on time spent with my ponies lately. This is what it's all about. Sharing our most precious gift with those we love - our time. Giving of ourselves and feeling that love come back. Beautiful trust...it's an emotional experience that starts deep inside and bubbles forth as pure joy. At least that's how it feels to me. You're on the right path. Your journey. Now that's a beautiful thing. :) That's a great book. I have to keep reading it over and over though, I always miss good stuff.

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    1. I ordered the book and am waiting for it to come. I'll have lots of great quotes in the near future!! Perfect timing!

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  2. Yes I knew about the porcupines- we have tons of them here! I think that just spending time is huge with horses. I'm glad that you had good sessions with your horses

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    1. My session with Leah was actually mixed. I forgot to secure her throat latch at first...something I've never done before...and when she startled at a sound, the throat latch flew up into her eye which made her panic. So, that was a bad start. But with a little work, it got better.

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    2. And, I did not know porcupines climb trees until yesterday. It came out in front of us--big as a small bear--and then went over to that tree and climbed up. I was so surprised I forgot I had a camera-so I only caught the tail of end of getting up on that branch.

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  3. I didn't know porcupines climbed trees but it's always good to learn something new.

    Great work with both Leah and Cowboy. Sounds like you're so in tune with Cowboy you know what he likes and what he doesn't and work around it. Leah seems to be really enjoying her time with you. I think the extra time you spent with her before the lesson helped her to mentally tune into you and you to her. Such great work you are doing with all the horses.

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    1. The park where I ride is about 25 miles long and full of wildlife--especially in the winter when it isn't being used as much. Now I wonder how many porcupines in trees I've passed, but didn't see! The same for the moose, they were well hidden, too. Just minding their own business.

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  4. Horses do seem to calm down and be happy when we just hang out with them. I used to go in the house and do chores while the water troughs were filling, but now I pull up a chair and sit in the barn with the horses. This subject reminds me of a funny story. I've been playing this video game called Fallout 4, and part of my job is to build settlements and make the settlers happy. I can't ever get their happiness above 80%, so I researched it on the Internet, and found out that their happiness goes up if I spend time with them at their settlement. So, it even works with computer generated people. Ha ha. Also, you have to choose dialogue in that game, and praising other characters goes a long way.

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    1. I LOVE it. Horses are HIGHLY emotional beings. I was reading a study yesterday that proved they understand human facial language. They can read happiness and anger, it seems. At night, they let go of some of their sight reactions--that's my observation anyway--and they rely more on touch and smell. I think touch goes a lot further with them at night, in other words. Praise is a must. You can just see them melt when you stroke their faces and give them praise.

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  5. Cannot, should not, ignore advice from Tom Dorrance.
    *My boy is NOT so good at the gate, I must work on that....

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    1. Tom Dorrance had some wisdom, that for sure.

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  6. Tom Dorrance was the kindest and most soft-spoken, patient man you would ever hope to meet. I only got to attend two clinics with him and I will always be thankful to have spent some time with him. He had no formal training, he was just blessed with an uncanny ability to sense horses and to look within them.

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    1. Have you written posts on your experiences with Tom Dorrance? If not, you should. I'd live to read more.

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    2. ***love*** and live. Haha.

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  7. I always greet my horses with praise- "Hello Handsome" or Hello Beautiful" . Sounds like your relationship with Cowboy is the same as me and Beamer. When we ride, he is all happy when we are heading out, full of life and interest- as soon as we turn for home, he slows right down. My journey with Josie is going to be all about connection this year. I'm really excited to try out some of the philosophy I have been reading about.

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    1. We are on similar paths. I love to read your blog to get ideas for myself. It's all about connection for me, too. Getting what I have with Cowboy with all my horses. I love this part of the journey. <3

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Please feel welcome to join our discussion--tell us about your own thoughts and experiences.