Sunday, February 15, 2009

Learning to Speak "Horse"


As the years roll by, living with my horses in my backyard, I am beginning to see the patterns emerge. They are very much set by Mother Nature and the seasons. February has always been my least favorite month. I have an intense longing for Spring, and I know that my horses do too. Once again, Siete is challenging all of us, trying to move up from her place at the bottom of our little herd. I am finding a greater understanding of her behavior and coming up with better responses to it this time around.

I really have Carolyn Resnick to thank for this. I’ve mentioned her on my blog since she started sharing her wisdom via the internet with all of us “horse conscious” people earlier this year. It’s incredibly generous of her to offer her insights with such an open heart. Earlier in the week, she participated in an inter-active teleconference and discussion with Anna Twinney. People were able to submit questions to her ahead of time and also during the conversation. I asked her for suggestions to help me build my relationship with Siete during this time when the weather didn’t permit us to get out into the arena together. She had some great suggestions for little things to do to help Siete look to me as the leader and feel more content in her place in the herd.

She mentioned just spending time with Siete in the stall reading a book and being together. This is an idea that I adopted years ago when we moved here. I knew that during bad weather, I would need to be in the stalls with my horses often. So, from day one in our barn, I have just hung out with them on a regular basis. They expect me to be in the enclosed space with them. I’m pretty claustrophobic, so it might actually have been a bigger leap of faith for me than for them. They just accepted it without any issues.

One of Carolyn’s recommendations was that while Siete and I are together in her stall, I should continue to follow the exercise that she teaches in her “Waterhole Rituals” of offering food and then asking the horse to move away from the food until you invite her to return. Horses do this all the time to each other. I see Silk playing this game with her daughter all day long. I’ve discovered that when I ask Siete to move away while she is eating and then reward her for her willingness to do it, that notion of having to follow my lead and respect my requests resonates into all the other things that I do with her. It’s so simple, but so effective.

I realized that I have been deeply influenced by certain men in the horse world: Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Mark Rashid. What is interesting is to see how women like Carolyn Resnick and Linda Kohanov are teaching me equally profound ideas that come from a more heartfelt direction. Comparing what these men and women believe doesn’t imply that one gender brings something better than the other. The differences and the similarities are equally enlightening coming from the male and female points of view. They all are helping me address the question that I posed back in one of the first posts on this blog: Can a horse really enjoy being trained? I think that Carolyn’s experiences over so many years, with so many different kinds of horses, from the wild to the most schooled, give me great hope that I can help Siete find pleasure in being ridden and in spending time together with human beings. Since Silk was abused by people before I came into her life, I am acutely aware of how important it is to give her daughter a kinder, more positive experience. I feel really fortunate that Carolyn is so willing to share her knowledge and that my horses and I are able to benefit from it.

16 comments:

jane augenstein said...

Great post, thanks so much. Good information!

Cactus Jack Splash said...

Really informative, thank you

Mrs Mom said...

I have found the influences of the men you mentioned along with a few others to be stronger than what I have learned from the horse women out there. Wonder why that is...? At any rate, it is wonderful that Ms. Resnick is so willing to share her knowledge so openly!

February blues *used* to hit extremely strongly when I lived in Tundra Country. However, since moving to the wonderful glorious Southland, I have not had one problem with winter issues. (WHOOHOO!!) But this cold/ flu bug... gah! (I probably over did it today anyways. Could not take One More DAY of my living room carpet being a mess, so I steam cleaned the entire thing!! My body is worn, but my HEART feels better!!)

Good luck to you finding the way with your little lady. I am sure she will realize who Da Momma is soon! ;)

Le Cheval Endiablé et Phyto said...

I was interested much in the Waterhole Rituals. I did not know about this before.
Thank you.

Rising Rainbow said...

I'm with Mrs Mom about the men, but I think it's just what I've been exposed to.....more men than woman. Most woman I meet don't know as much as they think. Then there's my friend, Richard (another man, I know), he was trained by his aunt. Wish I could have met her, I'm sure I'd have learned a lot because I know that Richard did.

Pony Girl said...

I really like the idea of using food, then pushing them away from it. It really shows who has control. I do this on a different scale with my horse. I frequently hand-graze him which can cause him to think he can handgraze when he wants or when we near the "usual area." He starts getting pushy. At times I have to get a little tough and just make him stand there and wait. He does not get to eat until I give him permisson by reaching towards the ground. It is SO hard to make him wait, but he needs to know I am still controlling the grazing. Otherwise, really bad habits can develop.

billie said...

Sounds like you and the girls are moving well toward spring - I hope it's right on time and that the fun exercises continue on to the field. :)

Callie said...

Nice post!Glad you got the shared knowledge. That was a nice thing for her to do! And it's amazing what you learn from observation too!

C-ingspots said...

You've got some amazing mentors to glean information from listed here. Very good people. Keep it up. At least you're on the right track and you've nowhere to go but onward.

Saddle Mountain Rider said...

We usually have mild February weather around here, so when it stays cold a little longer, it is hard not to wish for spring. There are some February days that we actually do some gardening and, of course, pruning.

Esther Garvi said...

Hi Victoria! I'm taking two things with me from this post: one, the waterhole and second, reading a book in the stall. The thing is that our five month old filly Isolde is growing like a weed and starting to do a ton of mischief. I think the birth of Kalahari is spurring her in some way, with a need to mark her position in the group. In any case, it's meant that for our lives over at Isthar's Ark have gone from all rosy to a slightly more realistic reality. I've started bringing Isolde out on a halter next to Arwen, and though it frustrates me that she's so on-off about it (oh this is fun / no this sucks / hey, it's FUN!), I know I need to take the time with her and get things right. So the reading the book thing was a reminder of not always having to plan so many activities, but just to "be" together. Since we have limited space, I also need Sahara in check at feeding times so that she doesn't charge the others. Isolde ran straight into me a few weeks ago (lifting me off the ground and setting me down several meters away!) when Sahara chased her away from the water. I was reminded to make sure Sahara knows it's my water and that she doesn't even think of putting any other creatures in place while Anette or I am around.

Hope all is well with Silk and Siete today! How are Siete's hooves doing?

Warm greetings from Isthar's Ark!

Mary Jane Harris said...

Hi, I am a new fan of your blog and today awarded 7 "Honest Scrap Weblogs" awards -- one of them to you. You can read more at my post.

Bill Evertson said...

I'm still amazed that your powers of quiet observation have provided us with so much to ponder every time you post.

Wanna Reading said...

Hi, I am a new fan of your blog. Hope you can join my free horse lovers club RiderMate.com. It is very active now.

Kate said...

I've just discovered you, and thank you for your wonderful thoughts - your mentors are are the top of my list, too. To me, the daily interaction with our horses is the most important thing, and riding is only a part of that. Keep up your great work on this blog!

jc said...

I found the 'Waterhole Rituals' c fascinating. Will try this with my horse some time.