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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
Did you know porcupines climb trees?