Many of you have been asking how I am building relationship with Ginger Coops this time around.
Something I do with all horses is work around consent, and take the time to learn how they are feeling about something.
The more space and opportunity I can give them to ‘speak’ the more they feel heard, and then the more relaxed and willing they became.
I mentioned in a previous post that on day one Ginger Coops didn’t want to be brushed. I allowed him to tell me that without judgement, and without me needing to ‘fix’ him or ‘make him’
What I wanted to do was help him.
So that’s what I did. For the brushing, picking our feet, saddle pad, saddle, snaffle, mounting block and me -- it all gets done at liberty so he has choice.
And don’t get me wrong, there are many other elements here that helped him build confidence around these things, it wasn’t just a matter of turning him loose and hoping.
At the start he walked away from brushing, refused and snatched his feet back, bit and chewed the saddle pad and saddle. Now he walks in and stands to have all the gear fitted, but he always has the option of leaving. If he does, I do not punish him for it.
I haven’t done it with pressure, punishment, or treats.
I have done it with listening, asking, and acknowledging.
First photo is me asking with my hand hovering over where I want him to put the saddle.
Second is me waiting for him to walk forward
Third is me waiting for him to relax at the idea of me getting on.
Horses are remarkable self healers. They have been healing themselves long before anyone could say, "Call the vet!”.
If you provide the pathway for the body to engage in passive physio, this can help our horses maintain physical fitness, and overcome injury.
Make no mistake, I use the vet when needed too. What I am saying is though, our horses possess remarkable ability to heal themselves, but we need to facilitate it.
You might ask why.
Firstly, by nature our horses naturally hide discomfort or pain -- The weak one gets eaten by the lion so they hide it. It’s only later on in the safety of the resting herd that the horses can then practice passive physio.
In nature, passive physio and preventative muscle building is achieved through varying terrain, water crossings, and up hill, downhill movement, variable feeding, fighting, procreation and foraging.
Our domestic horses are often denied these basic, natural and everyday habits and in addition required to work in ill fitting gear, poor posture and pain.
Before long our domestic horses reach a stage of shut down, which is a protective mechanism.
We had a passive physio day at our 21 day clinic, and you can see how the horses chose to move, or rest in seemingly ‘uncomfortable’ positions.
The horses were not made to stay in these positions, they were offered to them, and allowed to move when they desired, often staying for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.
The water is always a favourite, all that splashing is a wonderful range of motion for the thoracic sling, front legs, shoulders and stabilisers.
This is another form of consent, listening and observation.
For the Horse!
GingerCoops has come back into work.11 days in to the 21 day Course and every day for the week we come into the Roundpen -- initially to keep us both safe, and then because his newly trimmed feet appreciate the sand.
So every day we come in and firstly, I let him go and roll, he then comes over to me, and we start our session at liberty.
Yesterday he stayed down, and wanted to rest, so we rested, and then he lay flat for REM sleep.
What a gift to help him feel safe and supported to trust while 3 people watched over him sleep.
So I didn’t get to ride him that day, but I believe the investment in our relationship was far more beneficial than any ride could have been.
Working with young (and when I say young I just mean uneducated) horses is a journey of self discovery in itself.
Our young horses due to their lack of experience are unable to ‘bridge the gap’ for us and therefore cause us to take ownership of everything that happens - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
When our young horse gives us feedback like;
‘You’re not making it clear’
‘You’re too loud’
‘You’re scaring me’
‘I want to be somewhere else’
It can be confrontational to us, as it causes us to consider our conduct and our self.
Older horses learn to ‘figure out’ what it is that we are asking of them, and will show up to bridge the gap, even if we are loud, unclear or clumsy.
Young horses cause us to self reflect and adjust or change.
Young horses cause that moment of “it’s not you, it’s me”.
When we have this thought we generally react one of two ways;
Guilt--- ‘I knew it was my fault’ and subsequent negative thoughts ‘I’ll never be good enough’.
Rejection ‘it’s not my fault this stupid horse just doesn’t get it’ and subsequent affirmation of skill ‘I know what I’m doing’.
Humans tend to have this blanket exclusivity in the moment -- an issue presents and all of a sudden we are useless (or the horse is), instead of changing the dialogue to ‘usually I do this in this situation, but it’s not working for this horse -- what can I adjust’
Opportunities like these are how great horsemen are made.
Shine by @cen_horse
We picked GC up just before Christmas, took him home, Phil trimmed his feet, and we started him on @cen_horse
Day after New Years we took him to the location of the 21 day clinic we are currently teaching, and began.
I have done 1 short session per day, starting at the very start, rebuilding relationship and listening when he communicates.
He’s thin and sensitive skinned, which means he doesn’t like to be brushed, so we worked on that.
He has major association with the snaffle, so we are working on that.
Yesterday I introduced the saddle, and while he had some anxiety to begin with, he overcame it quite quickly, allowing me to proceed with the process.
The theme with Ginger Coops this time around is ‘Manyana’ meaning ‘tomorrow’ - a reminder that we don’t have to get it all done today, that we will have tomorrow.
Do I have to go through this all again for my safety? Probably not. I could probably just get on and go, but that would be all about me and not much about him.
He’s enjoying the space I offer for his communication, and that I am listening to his concerns, along with his comforts.
For the Horse
Chasing our dreams is something we can all probably relate to. We have all at some point in our lives wanted something, many things more likely, and depending on who we were at the time (child, teenager, young adult, adult etc) we may have set goals to achieve the dream, or simply had a ‘pie in the sky’ type of approach.
I was recently talking to someone about business, and when I asked them why they wanted to make a particular business move, they answered “I have always wanted”. My advice was to consider who the person was who “always wanted” and If that really, truly still was a dream of who you are now, or of the person you once were.
We see this so often with horses. As we get older and more able to have our ‘hearts desire’ when it comes to a horse, maybe our kids have grown up, maybe we are semi retired so have more time, or it may just be a simple case of now we are financially able to afford to buy the horse. Ill often ask someone why they have purchased a horse, and they will answer “he’s my dream horse”.
The problem is the dream was dreamt by a 20 year old, riding every day, uninjured, fit and healthy person who laughed when they occasionally fell off the horse. The person who ended up achieving the dream is a 50 plus, riding on the weekends, several injuries, not as fit as I could be person who, when they fall off (and they fall off a lot more easily these days!) At best has to take time off work and spend some days on the couch to recover, at worst has a significant and life changing injury.
It is vital that our dreams grow with us, and suit who we are today. You see the 20 year old and the 50+ are still the same person, and the real dream is to have fun with their horse, its just the 20 year olds idea of fun and the 50+ are two very different things!
This time of year is often a time of reflection, perhaps we need to reflect on our goals and dreams, and catch them up.
Food for thought,
Image by @equinox__images
Shine by @cen_horse