"When the horse understands what you want, he will do what that is, right up to the limit of his physical capacity and sometimes well beyond it."
Bill Dorrance, True Horsemanship Through Feel
Everything happens for a reason, and in its right time. Last night, at the end of my terrible day, a book arrived in the mail, True Horsemanship Through Feel, (A BIG thank you to Grey Horse Matters), and I started reading it this morning. The first two pages gave me instant psychic relief. What do I mean by that? There was a stress over me since yesterday that could not find relief...until I read a few pages of that Dorrance wisdom.
The very first chapter talks about feel, direct and indirect. Direct Feel is when you're attached to them by rope and halter or saddle, whereas indirect feel is when the horse is free, but near you, such as in a turnout. It also talks about the foundations of feel and the importance of time with your horse in order to learn or get that feel. All of it was a validation that I'm on the right path--mistakes and all. How can I learn feel if I don't sometimes screw it all up and get knocked down a few pegs and sent scrambling to the drawing board?
The quote at the top of the page today sums up where my work with Beautiful went bad yesterday--
And, how I set her up for failure.
If you read yesterday's post, The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad EXTRA Day, you know that things went really well--almost perfect, I thought--when I had the direct feel with Beautiful Girl, but when I released her, she didn't want to hang out or join up. She would let me approach her to halter, but she didn't seem happy about it. I would push her away and try again--looking for a softness. I didn't get it. I left her in the arena and went to work...frustrated and disappointed.
But I was told a long time ago by my farrier, who was also a cowboy and trainer, to never hold a grudge against a horse. He told me that after I'd had a really bad day with Cowboy. In fact, during my flexion work with Cowboy, he had stiffened up and taken a kick at me...a warning kick. This was about 13 or 14 years ago. I had put Cowboy back and I was about ready to cry. I didn't even like Cowboy at that moment. In my mind, I was done with him. But Joe--my farrier--ran into me and asked me what was wrong, and he told me that wisdom that his father had told him, and I really believed what he said...gave Cowboy another try the next day. Dear Lord, what if I hadn't? I would have missed out on the best relationship I've ever had with a horse.
Last night, I thought it through and had an epiphany--I hadn't trained Beautiful for what I was asking of her--I had trained her for the exact opposite. For seven years, I've taught her that when we're connected directly there is one set of rules, but when she is released it is her time and she is free to go back to the herd. We weren't in with the herd yesterday, but she was across from them about 200 feet (indirect contact), and tuned in. They were at the gate watching and directing her during At Liberty.
Today I went out to show her that I didn't hold a grudge. Oddly, she seemed to be telling me the same thing. She came right up to me, put her head down for the halter, and stood sweetly at my side. She walked with me, on a slack lead, to the arena. We worked on having her stand away from me, and then me motioning her to come near. She wanted to know what I was asking. She wanted to understand.
I don't want to set my horse up for failure. I think Dorrance is right on, our horses want to do what's expected of them. They want harmony in the relationship and in their lives as much as we do. But they are horses and we are humans and communication--understanding--between us can be a challenge.
Oh, and Scarlett O'Hara was absolutely right--maybe she did get Rhett back!--"After all, tomorrow IS another day."
It certainly is. The important thing is to do something--anything--just keep moving forward.