Today there was quite a weather shift from yesterday. Instead of a repeat of the mild temperatures we enjoyed, we got a big dose of winter. It was very windy and the temperature started at 22 degrees and dropped throughout the day. It took some talking myself into venturing outside.
I went to the farm, and was having a pretty difficult time keeping my fingers warm. The horses were also a bit silly in the windy conditions, so I didn’t have any major ambitions on my interactions with the equines. Needing some pictures for my facebook posters, I went out to take some pictures in the blowing snow. When I got back into the arena, Petey, Mandala and Charlie were inside. They had been outside eating from the round bale when I started my walkabout, so they had made a shift. Since I talk a lot about paying attention to shifts, and adopting the policy that there are no coincidences, I paused in the arena before rushing into the warmth of the observation room.
Petey came up to me and hung around for a bit. He’s been coming up more and more lately, but it’s usually more of a drive by in “exciting” weather. I grabbed a halter rope to take advantage of this offering. He politely put his head down, and in the hole of the halter, which is always a nice validation that the horses are agreeing to what we’re requesting of them.
Since he was so agreeable, I chose to pick up some of the manure in the arena with Petey’s “help”. Actually, doing this together with him is helping build our therapeutic alliance as we journey toward co-facilitating healing work. I know that scooping poop in an arena doesn’t seem like it would be a useful exercise in preparing a horse to work together in sessions, but it can be a great builder of trust and rapport.
For example, Petey was great at connecting with people in a very close proximity. In fact, this was one of the reasons he had me from hello. When I first met him, he was very polite and cuddly. and rested his head lightly against me after I rode him around at the walk. What he didn’t understand quite so much was how to feel connected to people at a distance. By watching his expression, it was obvious that he didn’t usually take that connected feeling with him as the physical distance between he and I increased. So, asking him to “help” me scoop the poop helps him with some concepts, and us to hone our skills as a team. He has already made a lot of practice, and can stay tuned in to me as I walk around and toss manure into buckets around him. This is going to be such a useful ability we have together, to stay connected as we each move around and are aware of our surroundings, when we start partnering to help others.
I think one of the reasons this is such a valuable exercise, is that together we have a job. I am not micromanaging him, and he has to tune into me in a new way. As he gets more familiar with the ground rules of space and signals, he will be able to offer more opinions as he has the comfort and stability of knowing the expectations, and I can read the other communications he can offer. These communications as we work together with clients will help me be able to read the client better from the information Petey offers. It has been my experience that after the horses get the hang of what we’re doing, and I pay attention to what they are offering, that they give more and more. Their giving is both informational and amazing. Some of the things that they have offered during sessions are truly stranger than fiction ~ and, in my humble opinion, magical. By taking the time to build a solid foundation with Petey, he will offer all his heart can. I knew this from the moment I met him, and am enjoying building our partnership and looking forward to working with this special horse more and more. He has an incredible gift for equine assisted self-growth work.