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Though the rain was pouring down yesterday, the day prior was gorgeous. In this part of the world where the weather can change every five minutes from hail to sunshine, you learn to take advantage of it!
Sally, one of the desert horses that arrived to spend the summer with me had never seen trees, grass, wildlife, etc. before arriving at the farm. Though she's been settling in, everything in her world has changed.
As I was in-between my endless mowing and weed eating and spring chores, I saw a very different Sally standing out in the field. The horses were out grazing in the infield, a place she'd initially go nowhere near as the movement in the branches of the nearby trees due to the wind and wildlife had kept her on-guard eve in her opportunity for letting down.
As I go through my "checklist" of questions to owners with horses that arrive for training, one of the important ones is in regard to the horse's sleep patterns. Noticing if/when/how long the person actually sees the horse sleep.
Since arriving I'd seen Sally sleep, but not in a deep state and for very short periods of time, and only in the night time pastures. But this past week there was a big shift in her mentally. Simple, subtle moments where she'd offered on her own to be much more thoughtful, less emotionally reactive, and able to try in a reasonable manner.
I have found that the quality of the Conversation with the human affects the horse when they are on their own. And then I saw her... I'd turned out horses, but had to gently "re-direct" them to another pasture while they were loose. Sally had made a wrong turn into one area, I called her by name off the grass, she quit eating, came over to me, checked-in, then I pointed and I directed her to the correct pasture. She calmly walked off and resumed grazing. A few other horses had moved off further away, but she didn't engage. Even her body looked softer and more relaxed as she grazed.
And then a short while later, I watched her gently lie down, comfortably viewing the world around her, then settling-in as she took a nap. I headed over to say hi when she'd perked up again. Though she loved scratches for all her itchy spots when standing, she always had a tightness to her body, muscles, and breathing. But as I walked up at this moment, calling out to not startle her, she acknowledged me softly. I watched her, for any concern at my presence. There was none. So I came over and scratched on her and then took a seat.
Was this about capturing a fun picture? Not at all. This was an awesome moment in time that reflected the shift in her perception of the new world around her and me. This was a huge moment, for her to be completely "exposed" laying in the middle of a field, with a human nearby, and not have any fear or containment. This trust is what the equine partnership is built upon.
But it doesn't come from being "nice" to the horse, nor being "hopeful" in the communication. I had to present, and ask Sally to address many of her fears, anticipation, reactivity, and defensiveness in recent sessions. I had to offer her a safe place to express and purge her concern without critiquing her for feeling that way. I couldn't force anything to "happen" but I could offer every interaction to be a quality Conversation.
Does her trusting me as she lies down mean she is "finished?" No. But it is one of the many contributors that will and does affect Sally's journey to her becoming a thoughtful, willing, and confident equine.
But today I want to talk about something I've noticed over the years. Horses that come in for starting, re-educating, or refinement in their training are at various levels of exposure, confidence, and experience. They come from all over the country and are of many different breeds.
I believe socialization, freedom of movement, exposure to natural elements, and wildlife are important aspects of their education. They are kept in wooded area pastures at night and during the day are allowed to graze in herds in open grass fields.
I often joke I'm a grounds maintenance keeper and work with horses "on the side." I like to keep things neat and tidy and spend hours trying to keep up with the facility. So I notice things, like WHERE the horses poop.
Over the years I've realized there is a commensurate "evolution" in where horses decide to pass manure when they are out grazing during the day time in relation to their training.
In the beginning soon after they arrive, they poop wherever they may be grazing at the moment. As their mental availability and thoughtfulness starts to increase in our sessions together, they start to intentionally move closer to places where manure has been passed in the past. Then as they become more available and willing in "trying" and "searching" during their interactions with me, they start to consistently walk to a specific place to pass manure when grazing, in the same place, each day.
Even with me cleaning up manure daily, they will return to nearly the identical spot to relieve themselves, whether or not other horses have passed manure there recently.
I find the more mentally quiet and emotionally relaxed a horse is, the cleaner they are in where they decide to intentionally poop. If I hadn't noticed this consistently happening over the years with so many horses, I would have categorized the individual horse as a "messy" or clean horse.
But upon closer intentional observations, I have concluded that it, just as with all things horses do, is not an accident. It is yet another reflection of how their interaction with the human affects what their mental and emotional state is when they are on their own.
Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey Remote Horse Coach shares a moment captured impromptu on the farm. In this unrehearsed video she shares what Conversation with the horse... or five... can be like. Learn more about the "Reading the Horse" Online Course HERE
*What do you see?
*Where are your thoughts?
*When do you get distracted?
*When do you rush?
*When do you avoid?
*When do you anticipate?
*When do you become "hopeful?"
*When do you critique?
*When do you quit?
We are all human and we're not always 100% mentally and emotionally present even if we are physically standing next to or interacting with the horse. It takes effort to have an intentional awareness to learn to change our own patterns in our thoughts and behaviors, but first, we must become aware of what they even are!
So whether you think back to past events with your horse or the next time you head out to spend time with him, start to slow down and ask yourself the above questions.
This isn't about self-critique, but it helps to break down the excessive "chaos" you may be bringing to the time spent with your horse.
Valuing where your own thoughts are will help you understand your own physical responses to your horse. The more you allow yourself to slow down your thinking, the increase in "time" you'll experience to sort out your options in specific communication offered to the horse.
This takes effort, intention, honesty within yourself, and practice. It helps to peel back the layers of "stuff" that often convolute the human ability to "see" the horse without critique and judgment.
Reminder... "Reading the Horse" online course is starting in June! https://bit.ly/horsecourseonline