There is a spectrum from 0 – 100+ or maybe more in terms of engagement and levels of interaction for horse and human.
We are the ones with the intellect. The horse has the deep intuition and honesty, and lives close to the earth.
Our work involves: horse, human and horse + human.
We are at different places along the spectrum when we begin our journey with the horse. We are different places with individual horses also.
Recently we worked with horses who were at polar opposites from each other in terms of engagement. Oliver, a 22-year-old Anglo-Arab, is so shy it takes him almost half an hour to come over to his owner and eat from a bucket of tasty treats she holds on her lap. She is in no danger of him gorging himself or mugging her, as his fear keeps him at an “uncomfortable” distance.
And what is his comfort zone? One step backward can make all the difference to Oliver. He can then breathe a sigh of relief. And this is with only one person: the person who makes the most difference to his life. As his work progresses, he is showing a sense of humor, and it gives me such joy to see that sparkle in him as he trots around with his person.
The connection is interesting – taking a horse from basically 0 connection to 3-5, maybe, ever so slowly. He is a survivor of some unnamed abuse, with a connection like a lifeline. He only will interact with one person, and she is everything to him, much like a child revolves around his parent. Everything the parent does makes a huge difference.
In contrast, we have my teaching horses: one horse who is tough to move off food, and very self-confident, certainly not afraid of contact with the human. My mare Zuzka, will teach someone how to move her and how to walk with her in a companionable way. She will teach them how to breathe and be still in themselves.
My younger mare Jazzmine is now coming along as a teaching horse, watching Zuzka, recognizing what to bring to each occasion. She is easy to move off food, but not skittish. She is light as a feather and very responsive to direction, so we can take the work to the point of direction and ask more. She never takes offense because she too, is extremely self-confident. While she could be seen as a bossy mare, in this setting she is not bossy, just self confident, requiring a good reason and the right energy to move.
It is more helpful for people to learn the energetic connection than to simply learn the steps. The energetic connection comes with the steps, if taught correctly. The horse is your best teacher.
(c) Susan Smith, Horses at Liberty Foundation Training, Equine Body Balance (TM)
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