So far, my newest approach with my red horse is still proving to be effective. As I’ve learned to expect, effective doesn’t mean without learning experiences. Which is what I am now choosing to call them. Previously, I might have referred to them as mistakes, wrong turns, or maybe even something with swear words.
What helps me the most with this new ability to see some incidents as learning experiences is my Sunshine inspired perspective of not taking his choices and actions personally. Of course, I still have work to do here, but I am so much better at it! Fortunately, I work with horses, and will never run out of learning opportunities.
Since I have been interacting with my red horse more from the gentle strength of my direct leadership, there have been a few times that his protests have resulted in the lead rope being pulled out of my hand and him running off. After a deep breath, I walk after him and pick the rope back up. Well, ok, sometimes it’s more than one deep breath, and he might be running for a couple minutes. Nothing big and dramatic after the initial act of leaving. The difference now as opposed to what was logged in our history is that we go back to what we were doing before Sunshine decided to leave. Before, it would have resulted in us being done for the day, as catching him could take quite some time. This is where the swear words could appear.
Noticing that after each detour from my plan, Sunshine releases tension in some form and gets better, has really been a big help in not taking his antics personally or feeling like I have failed. This has allowed the feeling of partnership with him to grow. We even have moments that he feels soft and connected while on the lunge line. This happens even after the much smaller protests he expresses. It’s almost as if he tests the edges and then releases tension as he trusts in the security of the boundary. It’s really cool to witness.
Rhythm is proving to be our friend in the lunging endeavors. On the line, I am only asking and holding space for Sunshine to move forward and encourage him to maintain a steady rhythm. Most of the time, there is a chaos to his movement that I think is a direct reflection of what’s in his mind. The wonderful thing that is happening is that as he relaxes into a steadier rhythm, his tendency to bend away from the center of the circle diminishes. I have tried to “tell” him to bend the other way. No surprise that is when the leaving was most likely to take place. No pushing of this horse! Being brave enough to watch what happens and try something different if the result isn’t desirable is really the only way that I can have fun playing with Sunshine. And, fun is what I will consider success!
Many thanks to my red horse for being such a great teacher. I am still listening and learning……..and occasionally retrieving a runaway.