Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Earning The Trust Your Horse Wants Give"

Howdy Friends,

Over the years I've known more than a few horses, loved some deeply. My mare Kessy took a long time to accept and offer trust, and love. She will always maintain her strong-willed independence; it's a huge part of her – that part that made her easy to be misunderstood. She uses her powerful independence now to offer a loving, caring bond. And I accept it with joy in my heart.
Kessy is always ready to pitch in ... Not bad for a horse who took 6 months to understand a hug ... Like me, she's a little weak on spelling and grammar, but she has great subject ideas to write about.

That deep trust can only be earned, in Kessy's case it took years. Oh she dialed in rather quickly, but the deep trust took years, and our bond continues to strengthen. She has been, and continues to be one of my finest teachers. 

We've been partners now for a bit over 4 years, and before we met her independent nature had caused her to be handled in a way that chipped away at her ability to find trust easy to give. She had developed a strong personality of resistance, defense and defiance. Not because she was mean or stubborn and liked to bite and snake people, but because she was misunderstood. It took 6 months for Kessy to accept a hug - six more for her to give a hug back.

I learned from my mentor, Diane Sept, a philosophy that works every time it's employed. "Ignore the negative and celebrate the positive." It works like magic, not as quickly as magic, but just as completely.

Gaining the trust of a horse can happen quickly, or as in Kessy's case take a long time, all it takes is respect, and not asking for things they are not ready for, can't do, or are afraid to do. In everything we must offer respect, trust and confidence. Then that list of not ready fors, can't dos, and afraid ofs, gets shorter and shorter. The list of Can and Will dos grows longer. Trust becomes deeper as confidence builds.

It also takes awareness on our part. An awareness of our horse's limits, worries and attitude. I believe it is wrong to push a horse beyond her comfort zone ... That to me is not trust building - that is bullying ... I believe we must understand their limits and stop short of them, relieve the pressure, then the next time that limit will be stretched farther, by the horse, not the human. That builds trust. A trust she can count on to be there.

Sometimes we hear advice such as, "push them through it." I'd rather give them the confidence to build up to getting through it on their own. Sure anyone can "make" a horse do something, but to build trust we need to invite them, and allow for time to build trust, in us and themselves.

Another piece of advice I find hard to take is "you can't let them win." I find that especially offensive. Win what? Usually that advice is thought to be useful when things are going wrong, the horse is thought to be disobeying, refusing, acting up, when almost always they are either not ready for what is being asked of them, are confused or afraid. In those cases I like to stop, let her relax; perhaps visit something she is totally confident in doing so she can feel the joy of accomplishment. Revisit the challenging thing another day, but ask for less.
Kessy is always ready to help me ...
Asking ourselves every step of the way ... "How does my horse see this thing I want, as a demand or a request? Am I building confidence and trust? Am I celebrating the positive?" ... builds trust she can count on and wants to give.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

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