I wrote this piece for a private group, but it has relevance for anyone who is not following a mainstream approach. Sometimes when you take a path off the beaten track, when you take a different approach to the one you always followed along with everyone else, it can be a lonely journey. The help and support you desire is not always available to you as often as you would like. You may feel judged or receive unwanted advice that goes against what you want for yourself and your horse.
One evening I was attempting to put into words what help I may need right now – I couldn’t really find the right words so I just parked it for the night.
The following day I had a lovely morning with Grace and while I was walking along the track with her, what I had written the previous evening came into my mind and it all suddenly seemed irrelevant – not needed.
I was thinking…..
We are just perfect as we are; all is as it should be. We are indeed on a journey together, and we are where we are, which is where we should be. Progress has been slow and not always comfortable but we are going in the right direction. We were simply walking (in hand) along a track away from the yard – no big deal, but for us it was. Grace has a long history of not being confident on her own without another horse. In the early days I tried to make it happen and I had professional help to make it happen. But all that did happen was that we put a massive cork on her emotions and at some point they would explode out and she would head for home (mostly on her own). The next day she would refuse to go anywhere and if I pushed it she would go straight up on her hind legs.
I no longer need a lunge line, or bridle or something wrapped round her nose, just a simple halter and 12ft lead rope. We were not far from home but we were both totally relaxed, I had no fear that she may be frightened by something or get away from me. We were both in a peaceful mental state, so I can recognise immediately when she is starting to worry – her pace quickens, her heads goes up, she dives for the hedgerow – all signs that emotions are coming up to the surface, it is so important that I don’t squash them back down or “correct” her behaviour, but recognise she needs some help.
I have been using positive reinforcement (carrots) to acknowledge when she recognises her own fear and is able to consciously inhibit her desire to push forward or away from me. It is important I don’t use the carrots to bribe her to do what I want despite her anxiety – this would tip her over the edge and break her trust. Instead I reward her efforts and then change the environment – do something that makes it easier for her to come back into balance; and of course including periods of simply being present in the moment and constant regard for the behaviours which give away her mental/emotional state. Baby, baby steps, but all in the right direction. The foundation for this work is what I have learned from The Trust Technique – Peace, Patience and Persistence. The feeling changed because in the morning I could see it all from a different, more peaceful perspective. Not having “outside” help means we have to dig deeper into ourselves, that’s where the truth lies. But of course if you’re struggling, share it with someone who understands or reach out and ask for helpful help!