Sunshine and I had an “almost” day.
This adventure started when I went out in the field to ask him to come in. As I approached the hay bale where the herd was gathered, I said hello to Anny and Missy as they were on my way. Well, truth be told there might have been some squiggles in my path, not quite a direct route. I can’t refuse a hello pat when they turn their heads or take some steps toward me. As I was engrossed in Missy’s hello, Sunshine turned off the bale and came toward me. Another good reason not to eliminate my need to accept hellos from the horses.
As we made our way to the arena, Sunshine’s state shifted. Harley was spending some time in with the trio to see how he’d do if he were to live in with them. Harley wasn’t so sure this was the best of ideas and was walking the fence. A very perceptive and responsive horse, Sunshine, of course, needed to take this all in. I waited, maintaining my inner calm by not letting any “should” statements poison my state. We made it into the arena with respect and teamwork.
Once in the arena, Sunshine’s mixed state continued. He was really tuned into me at times, and then other times, focused more on all the excitement of the outdoors. I was very pleased with how both of us did with the conditions of the day. After a few good rolls and some respectful and (mostly) connected ground work, I led him outside.
Going back to his field, Sunshine was quite a bit more enthralled with other distractions than he was with me. We made our way to the gate with more frequent pauses than those that decorated our way into the arena. These pauses were also busier than the ones heading into the arena. Because Sunshine was not near as attentive, much less connected to me as on the way in, I would do little things to keep his attention with me. Nothing was a major ordeal, just asking him to turn his head a little, for example. The request for an action wasn’t my main focus. It was having him connect back with me. So, if I got an ear, or his full attention, that was my goal, and the pause could then be just that. A pause rather than a refocusing action.
We were almost to the gate. Almost…..and his “disease” came back. In a joking manner, we sometimes refer to his action of throwing his head to the side and leaving abruptly as his disease. Right before we almost reached our goal, the challenge loomed in a big way. (How often does this happen in life?)
What happened next was a tremendous validation of our progress together. The first thing that happened, that I noticed, was that I didn’t have any feelings of disappointment or frustration. My mind was too busy asking how am I going to redirect this? The footing was pretty darn slippery, my horse was leaving and I was holding the rope. Of course, I was thinking all of this as I was running after my cantering horse.
The next thing that happened was I was able to get myself balanced enough physically to flip the rope enough to run up to Sunshine’s chin. That was enough to get his attention, and it changed his state. He turned toward me and stopped. I will admit that I had to pause myself because it took me by such surprise that this worked to stop my runaway horse.
I was able to lead Sunshine back to the gate and turned him loose without any more excitement. Not even a bite at me or the halter. He even hung around just a bit after he was free. I got a bit deeper understanding about the importance of keeping a calm emotional state, and for me that includes dropping the self-judgments I can throw at myself in those situations. I felt that I really am making progress! and that allows for our trust to grow as a team. I thanked him for the lesson. And, for not taking me for a slide or drag in the slippery, wet and cold snow.