Thursday, January 6, 2011

Good Horse

I’ve been looking back over 2010 and reviewing how the year went with my horses. Certainly, life dealt me a full hand, and we didn’t progress as far as I had hoped. Yet, as we face this winter’s challenges, I feel a definitely stronger bond and a shift in my horses’ attitudes. So, despite the long list of “I wish I had’s” from last year, I am also proud of what we were able to accomplish.

Both horses are completely comfortable to be in their stalls with me, and I know that all the time we spent sharing territory in the pasture contributes to the relaxed atmosphere in the barn. They like to be together in the same stall, and when I join them, it used to be a bit claustrophobic. This winter, I think that they welcome me to come in with them. Everybody respects each other’s space but at the same time, being close together is calming and has the same warm connection that I got when they joined me next to my chair as I read in the pasture last summer.

Siete wants to do things with me. We are starting to practice Carolyn Resnick’s Uberstreichen Exercises, which she developed to help create flexion and responsiveness from the horse. They are the perfect activity for these days when it’s not possible to ride. Carolyn has been a huge influence on my life with my horses, as you know, and her wisdom and teaching continually strikes the right chord for us and seems to come at just the moment when we need it.

One important lesson that she has taught me is to appreciate and allow for the pause. I understand that if I ask and Siete doesn’t respond, I must take a little break. It gives her time to think about what I wanted. Usually, I just walk away and then come back. If I ask again and she doesn’t give me the response that I am looking for, I may have to leave and come back a few times. It’s almost like I can see the wheels turning in Siete’s head as she tries to understand what I’m asking her to do. There’s no pressure, no recriminations. I just give her the gift of time to think about my request. She reminds me of my daughter learning an algebra problem. Sometimes, it takes a few tries and some more explanation before it sinks in. Siete wants to please, and I’m always very enthusiastic when she responds to my request. She is like a kid, getting all jazzed up and happy when she gets it right.

I have also started to only use one word to let the horses know that I’m pleased with them. I noticed that when I tell them that they are “good”, they both seem to respond positively to it. Their ears come forward and they visibly brighten if I say “Good horse!” So, that’s our code to indicate that I’m happy, and I only use it for that purpose. Silk, especially, appears to soften and relax whenever I announce that she’s “good”. I don’t know why, but it works.

Thinking back over the time I’ve spent learning from Carolyn this year, I am reminded of a wonderful phrase that I heard Clarissa Pinkola Estes say: “Listen to me now. Believe me later.”


Lori Skoog said...

Hey Victoria...what a great post. Personally, I think you had great success communicating with your horses this year. I learned a lot from what you have had to say. Also like the "pause" idea. You really work at it. I would like to try some of what you have done.

I am down to four horses as I had to put down Pony (almost 31) on Dec. 21st for colic.

Victoria Cummings said...

Lori - I'm sorry about sweet Pony. Thanks for the kind words. I know that some people might think what I'm doing with the girls seems odd, but it's working for us.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I think what you're doing with your horses has definite rewards for all of you. Great post and I agree with Lori,I think you've had great success communicating with your girls this past year.

Wish you and your family and animals the best in 2011!

Rising Rainbow said...

I use the word "good" with my horses as well. They are so used to that praise I usually will get a deep sigh when they hear it. It's pretty cool to have that understanding.

Esther Garvi said...

Oh Victoria, I'm so happy for you! Siete seems like a lovely horse. I'm so happy she's responding to you and that you are getting to enjoy this bond between the pair of you. Sending warm hugs from Niger!

Máire said...

I have gained such a lot from Carolyn Resnick too. For me, sharing territory is the most profound ritual. It has so many layers to it. I have also found the uberstreichen exercises to be very rich and very helpful - as well as challenging.

Seemingly small steps of progress, such as your horses welcoming you into their space, are in fact, huge.


juliette said...

Hi Victoria - Thank you for visiting my blog. Your insightful comments were much appreciated!

I really like the idea of taking a break and returning later if your sweet Siete isn't responding initially. This seems to make so much sense to me - time is all they really need to please us!

Oak in the Seed said...

It's been over 20 years and I still don't understand algebra but never heard the word "good" in connection with it either! As you know, I do not currently own a horse, yet never fail to connect with your ongoing life lessons with your beloved Quarter Horses).

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

I've really enjoyed visiting Carolyn Resnick's blog. I've tried a bit of the sharing territory exercises with Val.

Stop by my blog, I've got an award for you :)