Monday, February 8, 2016

To Create A More Perfect Union

“It is a matter of timing and patience…although it may seem nothing is happening on the surface, there may be profound changes occurring a little deeper.”  Buck Brannaman

After last week, I was confused.  What was I looking for?  Why wasn't I getting it?  I asked the question, can I be connected to three horses?  Am I spreading myself so thin, I'm not able to provide quality training to any? (And, I thank you for all of your answers to that.)

It sent me back to square one.  What do I mean by connection?  Do I love these three horses?  Did each one speak to me in some special way?  Is that why each is here?

Yes.  I wasn't there to adopt a horse that day, but I saw Beautiful Girl in that pen and my heart wrapped right around her and has never let go.  I saw a picture of Leah on Craigs List 7 years ago, and she made my heart leap.  When I went to see her, she was the absolute SWEETEST horse EVER.  She tried to listen to what I wanted as I worked with her.  She tried to do what I wanted.  She listened.  She tried. I was sold.  And, Cowboy...we all know that story.

So, if I do have that heart connection to each of the three, what is it that is missing in the training?

I answered that question today.  Partnership.

(I've started writing down my training goals.  I think part of my issue last week was lack of focus.)

Did she walk away from you when you went to get her today? That was the question my trainer asked at Tuesday's lesson.  As a matter of fact, she did, I answered.

And, she did again this morning.

That's not partnership.  I've been so goal driven, I've lost the foundation of the relationship.

Today, I caught Leah, took her out of the pasture and walked her around and let her eat grass.  Then, as  I was watching her, the movie Taming Wild ran through  my head, and I wondered what would happen if I let her go.  Would she run away from me?  Would she follow?

We walked to the arena and I unhaltered her.  She stood there.  I walked around her.  She squared up with me like I'd taught her in our many training sessions.  But it was robotic.  Expected.  Trained. It wasn't her natural inclination.

I walked away from her.  I ran around the pen.  I walked back to her.  She was confused.

Then, I stood by her side, as if I had a halter and lead and I pretended to ask her to move out with me. She did it.

At first she followed behind as I jogged ahead.  Then, I slowed down and she came to my side and walked and walked at liberty.  I'd stop and pet her and tell her what a good girl she was.  I gushed over her.  Because, that small, small step, leading, the thing I EXPECT her to do, when done at liberty became a BIG, BIG thing that I had no right to expect.  It was a gift.  It was huge.

The small things are the big things, but they're bigger when our horses CHOOSE to give them to us.

I sat and enjoyed the sunshine and time with our barn cat as Leah grazed next to me.

After a while, I put her back with the herd.  Did I accomplish trailer loading?  No. It didn't matter.  I accomplished partnership.

I turned my attention to Beautiful who I had just let out with the herd on Sunday.  (That went smooth, by the way.  Amazingly so.)  Beautiful didn't want to be caught either.  She was clearly saying, I'm here in the herd, and this is where I want to be.  My goal was to make her want to be with me.

I stood at the hay bale and itched her withers and hind.

I let her sniff the lead rope and halter.

And, by the end of it, she was curious and possessive of my time.  A willing partnership.  Did I practice tying?  No.

I went up to the all the horses, rope and halter in hand, and did nothing but pet on them and tell them it's okay.  They don't have to always be anxious that I'm going to take them away from the herd.  They can trust me.

Like Buck said, it's all about patience.  It might seem small.  It might seem like it takes a long time.  But profound changes are taking place in their minds and hearts.

Also, yesterday I combined time with my heart horses, Cowboy and Leah.  I wanted Leah to have a positive experience loading with her buddies and a positive experience on the trails.

It was largely that, but today was better.

 That's what I'm talking about! At liberty.


  1. Yes, yes, YES! That video resonated with me too. I've been working with Tex in the same way and the small things have become huge. He's a different horse -- and I haven't even gotten on him yet. All we've done is partnership/trust/relationship stuff. I thought I was slacking... now I feel validation. Thanks for that. I'm glad you are doing this and getting the same results. Doesn't it make your heart swell when they do something because they want to and not because they were forced to?!

    1. It was much more satisfying than anything else I've done with her--knowing she was making a choice. At liberty work is new to me. I've known about it for a while, but until watching that movie, I didn't see how it would work. Today I'm googling all kinds of people doing it. I'm not going to become 100 percent At Liberty overnight, but as I become a better horsewoman...and to build the partnership...I'm going to start experimenting.

  2. I love that video. How adorable were those two!

    I've got to really try to form a relationship/partnership with Blue. Maybe if he wants to be with me he won't mind actually working with me some of the time. The only horse that ever followed me at liberty or came to meet me at the gate or fence was Erik. He was my heart horse and we did have that special connection. I haven't had that sort of connection with any other horse since him. Maybe that's my fault and subconsciously I haven't connected with other horses because he was so special to me. Guess it might take a psychiatrist to figure that one out...

    You did some very nice bonding with the horses today and it seems to be a good first step towards what you want to achieve with them. I feel it's good to let them know you don't expect anything from them except friendship and trust in you.

    1. Oh, you have to try the at liberty! Grab a horse and have that little girl in the video. There's no going back. I saw on Elsa's blog (Taming Wild) some instructions. First, you follow them, then they follow you, then you touch, etc. It might be a good starting point, if you want to have a little fun with it. :)

      I think you're right about "wanting to be" with you. I'm trying to get the same out of my two younger ones. I'm starting to think it's essential.

  3. This post is interesting timing for me- this is exactly what I am trying to accomplish with Josie and Clancy. It was a wake up call for me when Clancy high-tailed it home after rolling in the snow, instead of stopping and waiting for me to get back on. I spent some time in the pen with my girls yesterday with the idea of having them want to be with me. It will take some time but it sure is worth it.

    1. You're right, it does take time. Wanting to be with us can't be taught, it has to be earned. I think it's easier to earn in spring, summer, fall because we're out there more. In winter, they're left in their herd a lot at our house. But the weather is changing, like you said on your blog. My horses are shedding. That has to be at least as good a sign as the groundhog for an early spring!!

    2. You're right, it does take time. Wanting to be with us can't be taught, it has to be earned. I think it's easier to earn in spring, summer, fall because we're out there more. In winter, they're left in their herd a lot at our house. But the weather is changing, like you said on your blog. My horses are shedding. That has to be at least as good a sign as the groundhog for an early spring!!

  4. Amazing how our horses can evoke pretty much every emotion we are capable of. I haven't been ($tooSpendy$) but maybe you've gotten to go to Cavalia (not sure if I spelled that correctly, but you know what I mean)?

    1. Yes, horses are very emotional...more than we often give them credit for. I haven't seen Cavalia. What is it?

  5. I feel like our horses are so much more aware of us than we are of them. And usually, we have an agenda when we come to them, regardless of how they feel, what they want to be doing etc. It's about what we want, when we want...for a partnership/friendship, we have to be willing to change. We have to be able and willing to accommodate them, they have opinions, likes, dislikes, moods just like us. We don't always need to have everything our way. A good partnership is all about respect, and they need to feel that from us, if we'd like to be respected, trusted and "liked" in return. And having my horses like me is quite important to me. One of the things Ray used to tell us at his clinics was that, we need to work with the horse that showed up today, not the one from last time. That makes a lot of sense to me.

    1. Good advice! Yes, we do have our busy agendas. Busy, busy, we have to feel like we're doing something...accomplishing things, when sometimes our horses need us to just breathe with them.

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