I got pretty discouraged before our first cowboy dressage clinic. The day before we were to haul the horses over, I wanted to make sure that Petey would get in the trailer ok. I know, I know, why was I waiting until the day before to check this out? Because I thought that because he had gotten in the trailer fairly well for our Indiana trip, that he would get in even better this time. After all, everything else had gotten better, why wouldn’t getting on the trailer get better also? Well, that’s what I get for thinking 🙂
This eve of our first cowboy dressage clinic, Petey actually followed me right onto the trailer. Then, it was as if he suddenly realized what he had done. Before he got to a place where the butt bar could have been fastened, he scrambled back off the trailer. I then asked him to get back on the trailer in the best way I could that I saw Bryan Neubert load a horse when we were in Indiana. We got close, yet Petey did not get back on the trailer that afternoon. Fortunately, he got on the next morning with help from Kathy and Dave.
Once we got back home, I went to work on making trailer loading different. We hooked a truck to a trailer and stuck it in the indoor arena. The plan was to have Petey eat his breakfast inside the big tin box. The first time I asked him to come in and have his snack, I put it half way in the trailer, so that he would have to have his feet on the ramp, but not have to get all the way in. He did that, and I stopped for the day. (After a well timed reminder from Dave not to get greedy.) The next day, I had the feed tub all the way in the front of the trailer. I was prepared to move it back if it seemed that it was being too greedy. However, Petey managed to get himself all the way in the trailer and eat his breakfast. There were some pauses on his journey into the trailer. When he would pause, I would wait. Sometimes, it was easy to wait and watch, other times, I had to force myself to not rush or push him. My programming and old voices at times were urging me to “just get him on the trailer”. My curiosity and dedication to remain as calm and peaceful as I could inside helped me just say no to those voices and old urges.
This is the part where I really don’t mean to be controversial. I know that what and how I am asking Petey to get in the trailer (and many other things I do with him or other horses) don’t completely jive with many things taught in the horse world. I am not saying that I am doing things the right way and implying others are wrong. I am not saying that what I am doing with my horses is the right thing for anybody else at all. What I am really hoping to help the right people to understand is that taking stock of the situation, including the partnership you have with your horse, what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it, is crucial to your own success. Acting in alignment with our values is very important to things working well. To make the “how” we want possible, we may have to do something different than we have before, or do it differently than the rest of the world would. We may also have to get some more information, or some more support to help us find our way. I think the important thing is to recognize that interacting with horses (and people) will often be unique to each individual, and it’s worth the effort to have the courage to wait and experiment. For me and Petey, helping him to keep his calm on in the trailer is important, and this is the best way I know in this moment to help him with that. When I learn something different, maybe get more skill or discover a new technique I want to explore, I may very well change our approach. For now this is working, and it feels right to me. And, that is enough of a good reason why. Thanks for trying, Petey!
I guess, if I’m not intending to be controversial, it could be helpful for my own journey to identify what I am intending. So……I am intending to honor my horse, my emotions and follow goals which honor my values. Hmmmm, sounds like the honor system?