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.