Friday, March 19, 2010

The pause

I spent most of the day helping friends build their cabin. The simple tasks provided some relief from the spinning thoughts dominating my mind. At one point I sat on a folding chair while the others continued hammering nails. I was listening to a playlist of songs with strong messages on a friend's iPod. I closed my eyes and felt the warm sun, the gentle breeze, the crackling leaves under my feet.

I took note of the difference between when I get caught up in my mind-spinnings and when I am able to come back to what is happening right in the moment. One felt like an intolerable punishment, the other like I was being perfectly cared for. I think the difference is not so noticeable when the generated thoughts are pleasant, but when they aren't, it feels like being trapped in a small room with a very obnoxious person. I consider the ability to be free of such spinnings, whether they are pleasant or not, the achievement of a master.

The sun was getting low as I went to see the horses. Sofi came up first and very gently asked to be scratched. In this one moment I was able to feel the payoff for the years I have spent exploring how to come into a harmonious relationship with a horse as sensitive and demonstrative as she is. It's like I've made enough deposits in her bank account that she can now walk up to me with a relaxed expression and let me know where she'd like to be scratched.

I think back on how close I came to writing her off as one of those horses that I just couldn't figure out. It would have been easier to classify her as a horse who had an aggression problem that needed to be solved by restraint, repetition, and force. She was the last horse that a client of mine sent to me to start under saddle and sell. In the midst of her training I went through the final stages of letting go of my old ways of being with horses. Sofi hated the bit, she hated to be mounted, she hated to be told to trot or canter, and I hated myself for forcing her to do these things in exchange for payment. At that point, I knew that the likelihood of her finding an understanding home was not very I purchased her myself.

Back to today. Patrik came up behind Sofi and Sofi started looking worried since Patrik is the boss of the pasture and when he comes, she knows she'd better move. I want her to feel like I will protect her though so I asked Patrik to stop and back up. Sofi wasn't quite sure that I would protect her so she moved around behind me.

Patrik obliged me and stopped and then I returned to scratching Sofi. She has gotten quite good at letting me know exactly where she wants to be scratched.

It seems to be empowering to horses when they realize that I am listening to them and will do my best to help them out. I sat on a low rock and Sofi came up and I started scratching her front leg. She wrapped her head around and started nuzzling the back of my neck and sweatshirt. I managed to turn the camera around and get this shot. Notice the soft look in her eye.

Later, after Sofi walked off, it was Patrik's turn. I checked under his belly in the spot that the little flies have started to go for. I put SWAT on it yesterday and it looks to be still covered today. I love the fly ointment called SWAT. It is wonderful for putting on those belly sores. It actually keeps the flies off! I like the hot pink colored variety. That way I know if it's still on or has worn off.

It was also a good day to clean the water trough. The water gets especially dirty because before he takes a drink, Patrik opens his mouth and dumps out whatever chewed forage was in his mouth before taking a swig. I'll spare you a picture of what this trough looked like before I cleaned it out.

They all appreciate their clean water!

JD came to let Sundance in after she ate her grain and extra hay. I took a series of pictures showing the process. I am so proud of how JD has learned to work with the horses. When he first started working with me and the horses everything seemed to be a problem. I realized that if I wanted somebody to be able to look after the horses and work with them the way I work with them, I would have to take the same time and consideration I'd take with a horse that I wanted to come into harmony with. It has worked beautifully.

In the first picture, Patrik waits by the gate, watching JD and the big bag of hay he has slung over his shoulder.

As JD approaches, Patrik knows his job is to walk away from the gate and up to his feeding spot. No fussing, no pushing, no yelling, no biting, no rushing.

After Patrik has cleared the gate area, Sundance gently walks in, also going to her own feeding spot. JD, holding the bag of hay is left to close the gate without getting mugged.

Here he is walking up to the feeding spots. The horses are all standing and waiting.

Even as he gets closer, the horses are still standing relaxed.

Thank you to everyone who has commented on the blog. I have read everything and need to let the various ideas settle in for a period of time before responding directly. It's like the pause...a very important thing in working with horses and in life.

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