Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's All About Softness

There is one more gem of an idea that Mark Rashid mentions in his new book, A Life WIth Horses. He believes that the ultimate "softness" is when you can have the same feeling of calmness and no stress when you interact with your horse as the horse does when standing around relaxed and eating grass or hay on its own.

I thought about this as the farrier trimmed my horses feet yesterday. The calmness and confidence has to come from inside me. I don't have what my husband refers to as "farm sense", a level of experience that develops when you grow up interacting with horses and other farm animals from the time you were young. I rode horses since I could walk, but I didn't have to take care of them as a child. As much as I desperately wanted a horse, my parents wouldn't allow me to do more than take lessons at local stables. Then, after a 20 year hiatus from horses while I lived in New York City and Los Angeles, I came back to them as an adult with much love and some apprehension.

My greatest aspiration is to have that deep-seated confidence and calmness - even if the horse is really wigging out. As I stood holding Silk's lead rope, watching John, our farrier, trim her feet, I appreciated how good my horse is. She was as relaxed as she is eating grass in the pasture. Even though John and I chat while he works, I've learned to always keep my awareness on my horse. I can tell Silk appreciates it by the way she nuzzles my hand every once in a while. Her daughter, Siete, is another story.

For five years, Siete was very good about having her feet trimmed. Unfortunately, over the last few months, with hoof abscesses and Lyme Disease, she's gotten very nervous about anyone doing anything with her feet. I'm working on it with her daily, and she's getting calmer, but the problem is not solved. I decided as I led her over to John for her trim that it was all dependent on my attitude. If she got upset, I had to ground myself and not get scared. I decided to take slow, deep breaths to see if I could sync up Siete's breathing with mine. I rubbed her neck with some of Linda Tellington-Jones'
" T Touch" circles. I explained to the farrier what I was trying to do - give my little horse a sense of security. He's a very kind man and agreed that we needed to convince Siete that no one would hurt her when we did things to her feet. When she tried to yank her back hoof away, we didn't punish her. John set the foot down, made sure that Siete was solidly balanced on all four feet and picked up the foot again. He had to stop several times. It took longer than it should have, but it worked. We got through the whole thing without any drama. I really appreciated his patience.

It may not have seemed like a big deal to most people, but it made my day.

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