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How do you re-connect?

I've been asking too much of her lately. Too fast.

I've been working towards goals and pushing her along. I've been holding on to my expectations. I've been trying to keep up with other people's standards.

She's been doing her best to oblige but she's been loosing her momentum. She drags her feet. She's distracted. She resists.

It took me a while to realize I was blowing through her hesitations because things look easy. We've been doing in-hand work. It's just walking. What's hard about that? She can move her body any way I ask. She trots on a breath and stops on a sigh. She side passes, cross passes, crab passes, sometimes at a trot. Why the reluctance?

Well - for one, there is the focus that she must maintain with every step. Then there's the bend that I keep asking for. It doesn't look like much from the outside but requires some solid posture holding. Often in a way her body would rather not do. There is my confusing new set of cues that I'm not good at giving yet. And there is the constant movement where she doesn't get her moment of pause, her moment of glory.

It's monotonous and tedious.

I see it now.

So how do I make amends?

How do I tell her I'm sorry.

I know we'll get back there in time. Horses can be infinitely forgiving.

But I want ways of shoring up the relationship ASAP.

So I pause more. I reward with treats but that becomes a chase. She wracks her brain for those tricks that get her that little piece of sweet nothing - but she doesn't connect with me.

So I bring out the big guns - I finally listen. Not just with my goal in mind but really listen.

Horse communication is so subtle. Like a secret shared in a crowded room, a thought directed a me, a gentle pattern of sighs and glances.

I see her hesitation and this time I don't push through. I just wait. I don't look at her. I don't think of what I want to do next. I just watch the trees sway and the sunlight on the grass. I let myself be here, now. And when I glance at her, I see her trying to work up to doing the thing. But this time I say no. I release her. I say thanks for trying, we don't have to do it all now. This is enough. And it's not just her I reassure, it's not just the relationship that I heal, it's me.

So how do you reconnect?

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I had a big challenge with Tonopah, who had not been listened to or acknowledged by his previous trainer, who was not his "owner." If you have followed my posts about our journey together, which started in November of 2021, I worked through a lot of his shut-down and his bond with me now amazes me.

My priority is always, must be always, to find ways to release. To set him up for success. To maintain my boundaries but also to quit early. Surprise the horse daily with, "Is that it? We're done?" Quit on a successful, comfortable note. Have days of doing nothing but sharing space, letting him graze and brushing him while he does. Be fair, be consist…



Mind & Body Work
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