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Bad Weather & Horse Behavior- Learning Opportunity for Building Trust
It was been raining... for days. Gray, dark, windy, and cold. You can't see the rear of the property. Every simple task becomes a "chore" as I pile on the layers of clothing, jacket, scarf, and hat to head out and mentally head out into the blustery weather. Last night I had to bring in seven horses from grazing in pastures. Some were in the big infield. Some were in smaller arenas. All were far away from their nighttime pastures. One thing I hate doing is feeling like I need to "chase" a horse to be caught. I'd like them to be interested when I show up, whenever, wherever, during any conditions. This is why it is so important to establish the quality of the Conversation with the horse when being caught, every time, everywhere. Different groups of horses had to either be called in (literally) and loosely followed me back to their night-time area, others had to be caught singly, and others were led in two at a time. As we were leading there was activity from the local deer who always seem to be overly interested in whatever I'm doing with the horses. They have impeccable timing to show up at the peak of potentially concerning moments for the horses. Half of the horses currently here are desert horses. They had never seen trees, wildlife, weather such as what we get in these crazy spring days. This can cause a lot of initially emotionally overwhelming scenarios for them as they try to function in their new environment. As I called each horse(s) over, who promptly left their grazing, and came politely to follow or be caught, I smiled, appreciating our previous efforts that were now apparent in how they presented themselves. As we walked the several acres back, we'd stop, I'd make sure they could mentally check-in with me, still had left, right, back, pause, etc.in their thoughts. Then we'd continue on. With some of them, we would "happen" to go over obstacles along the way. With others, we didn't take the "direct" route back. Then we had to navigate entering the night-time pasture gates, with me directing one horse in at a time, while the other had to stand and wait patiently. They had to step from solid ground into the thick mud that "suctioned" at their feet as they turned around to be unhaltered- as I wasn't going to step into that area. From 18-month-old once wild to seasoned mature horses, and everything in between, each one was asked to mentally and physically interact in a reasonable, respectful manner. The gusts of wind, continually changing the intensity of the rain, other horse's and critter's movement created plenty of opportunities for distraction in the horse(s) I was working with. But it was an opportunity. Less than ideal and potentially highly concerning for each horse, and yet the entire time, every step, I was supporting the horse in however he needed in order to think through, emotionally let down, and mentally get quiet. Why does it matter? If in the least ideal circumstances I am proving to the horse that I will "be there," that I will acknowledge his needs or concerns, and I can help him get to a place where he can drain his proverbial "emotional cup" so that it doesn't overflow, it teaches him to trust me. It helps him to believe that I won't bail or leave him in a stressful state and that my input will get him to a safe and quiet place mentally, emotionally, and physically. So was I cold by the time we were done? Yes. Did bringing them in taking longer than if I had just let the horses blast in and sort themselves out? Yes. But did I make an impression for all the future scenarios I would have when interacting with these horses? Yes. So notice the next time you start to feel uncomfortable when thinking about doing something specific with your horse. Then backtrack and sort out what "tools" you would need to have to offer a Conversation with the horse that would help you influence his thoughts and behaviors in a way that would not only teach him to check-in with you and be physically reasonable in his behavior but also keep the both of you safe, irrelevant of the circumstances. Would you like to find out how Sam can help you improve the partnership with your horse find out about here Remote Horse Coaching programs? There is also an upcoming webinar, "Reading the Horse" Online Course than give you a jump start in understanding the horse.