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.