This is how it works:
I come into the barn, seven horses on my mind, chores that need to be done, a ticking clock on my wrist.
My horses, wondering which will be chosen as the woman comes into the turnout with halter and lead, freeze together, watch and wait.
I choose one, secure the rope halter, walk out of the pasture and into the breezeway and turn to look at them as I pet down their necks and start a basic exploration of their body to check for heat, swelling, or pain.
And that is where it starts. Move too fast, they jump. Become careless and rough, they twitch. The thing is, as I ask them to relax, I have to relax. I have to forget the ticking clock, the chores, the day's plans, and concentrate on one thing, the horse in front of me. As I do, I start to come into their rhythm, and they start to relax and come into mine.
This is the point in time where two very different types of animals--predator and prey--can connect spirit to spirit. A space in time you can start to have visions of a willing partnership--of a horse that is not tight or fearful when you go to mount, of a horse that moves as you move, breathes as you breathe, and is ready for the journey. A horse that knows you would never touch it in a way that is cruel, never abandon it in a way that is selfish, or ask it to do anything unsafe.
The surprising thing is that what I'm talking about does not take much time; it can be done while grooming before a ride, and I'm starting to think should be done before any ride. These are the questions I'm going to start slowing down and asking myself as I do the basic body explorations and then the TTouches:
1.) Is my horse in any physical pain? If so, is it something I can fix before I go to the next step?
2.) Is my horse in a good mental state? If not, I need to take some extra time. My goal is to lessen conflict (which heightens fear and mistrust) and take a few extra moments to help my horse relax and relax myself.
Only after these questions are answered am I going to go to the next step of work. I'm going to continue asking them as I saddle, mount, and ride--always, always, with the goal of minimizing stress and pain and maximizing oneness.