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December 16, 2017: Bringing out the Best in My Horses

Today I wanted to go with Pete to the recycling center – they were celebrating their 20th anniversary by having a special ceremony. Usually I bypass such things, but this time I was up for socializing. In working closely with the staff on the book, I have come to know some of them quite well.

But I stayed put because I haven’t spent much time lately with the horses. Before Pete left we did the Holiday agility video with Raudi. It is an easy course though difficult to set up because there is a lot of ho ho ho. I sensed that she was bored, so instead of going to VCRS, I took her for a ride. It was a great ride – the trails now have enough snow so that it’s no longer

Putting the cart before the horse

icy/choppy. After, I did some bodywork on Tinni. Most amazingly, his eye was much better after. I then took him and Tyra for a walk on the trails. Pete, who had arrived home, got Hrimmi out and met us on Siggi’s Loop.

I was out from dawn to dusk. Now I am inside, writing about my day. Walking on the trails gives me much needed time to think. Today I thought that horses are not born great – rather, we humans are entrusted with the responsibility to bring out the best in them. I suppose that the example that most people would relate to is that of Seabiscuit, who in his time was a champion. Then Laura Hildebrand made him a champion twice over, by writing a book about him. She did this from her bedside because she suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome.

Our horses are all superstars because we work and play with them. If they just hung out in a field or pasture, they would be lawn ornaments. Instead, they are realizing their true potential. These days, Tinni the patient gentleman, is enabling me to become more adept at bodywork by letting me know what he likes and does not like. In other words he is teaching me to go slowly and work in a mindful fashion. And Raudi, the willful older mare, is schooling me in the proper use of my physical movements in relation to clear intent. And Hrimmi, the up and coming carthorse, is teaching me to be trusting and flexible. And Tyra, the light on her toes trail horse, is teaching me to trust my intuition. I decided some time ago, on a whim, to just let her run free on the trails this winter.

All my horses have reinforced certain beliefs that I now hold to be true. I used to waffle when people advocated the use of spurs, whips, rope halters, and “handi-sticks” when my horses didn’t do as asked. I complied, the same way horses comply when told to do what they don’t want to do. I know what it feels like.

What my horses have taught me is that these aids (which are extrinsic, human-based reinforcers) are unnecessary. The same holds true for round pens. I have proof in that I have brought out the very best in one older gelding, one middle-aged mare, and two young mares. They are all in good mental and physical health. I take one, two, three out and the others stand around, waiting their turn.

I suspect that I have Raudi to thank for all this because she was the one, early on, who was adverse to Natural Horsemanship methods. I had to seek other means of working with her. These other means were TTeam Training, Centered Riding, Positive Reinforcement Training, and Intrinzen training. All involve the use of play, exploration, autonomy, and body awareness. And time, lots of time. What it has not required is money. I never sent any of my horses to an outside trainer.

I still have things to learn, as do my horses. But more and more, I have the sense that on the ground and on the trail that we are in this together, which is a wonderful feeling.

Next: 348. 12/17/17: Ho Ho and Mo Ho Ho

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