I have been working with a new horse that I got over the winter. She is as pretty and sweet as can be but has some 'gaps' in her training- don't we all though! I have been doing ground work and arena riding to get her brushed up for her next role in life- a bump up from pasture ornament. :) She is on the small side and with her sweet people oriented personality and smooth gaits, hoping she will be a nice horse for ponying grandbabies or trail riding for a small adult or older child.
Yesterday, after some ground work, I rode her a bit. The day before, while riding, my neighbor started mowing his yard. Willow, being the not so brave soul, wanted to shy away from him so we made a game up of 'chasing' the mower. As a prey animal, if a scary thing moves away from you, it becomes less scary. Its not coming to eat you if IT moves away. So when the mower came around by us I positioned Willow so we could follow along behind, or chase it. She became less afraid and braver with each pass.
Anyone who has been around horses knows how horses have the super powers of seeing horse eating monsters in places we can't. My Arabian mare STILL remembers the times years ago when my neighbor's guinea fowl jumped out of the brush in the tree line between our properties the first time I rode her there. She always gets bugged eyed when we get to that spot. I have learned to expect it and not reinforce her fears by bracing, yanking or tightening my muscles when we approach that spot. It is difficult though because sometimes it is a physical response we are not even conscious we are doing!
Yesterday I decided to use the 'scary' horse monster corner in my riding ring as a training tool. The scary corner is in most, if not all, horse arenas. It is the spot where horses don't want to go. It may be furthest from the barn or it may be dark with shadows, or it may be where noises come from ..... or most importantly.... it may be - just - because. Because we ride horses, prey animals, beings that have survival instincts evolved over millions of years to keep them from being eaten (and WHO are the crazy ones in this scenario ?)
I chose the scary spot as our resting place. After several rounds in the arena, I let her stop and rest in that corner. I also make a point to use that corner as the place I dismount and loosen her girth and just hang out after our ride. Horses respond to 'the release'. The reward they seek is peace and safety. Predators like rewards and praise. So we 'worked' for a bit, then we hung out in peaceful calm in the scary corner. The scary corner began to have positive associations for Willow.
I am working to find ways to show Willow I can be her calm, secure place in a horse monster world.
That really is such a beautiful lesson. Imagine if we did that for each other? I can choose to be a calm presence in a world where there is an abundance of fear and aggression.
I don't have to muscle my point across to someone or bare my teeth and symbolically growl toward a person who is different than I am. I don't have to guard my 'territory' against intruders.
Baby steps forward. In the arena and in my life.
I have been following Carson James if anyone is interested in a down to earth, horse trainer consider checking him out.
Pet Portraits and Custom Horse Paintings
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