I used a different approach today with Lucky.
I realized that my energy yesterday was still too aggressive, demanding results. As gentle as the leading from behind was, it was still done with the intention of being a consequence of refusing the hackamore.
So I regrouped, read some Carolyn Resnick articles, and meditated a bit on what was happening. Then I took the hackamore out to Lucky and just got very quiet to watch his reaction. His high spirits are indeed hiding fear.
If I approached him with the hackamore, he evaded by raising his head, then turning away if I persisted.
If I pushed when he evaded by following him, he moved more and got more head high.
When I stood quietly with the hackamore, he would approach withing a few feet, head high.
If I sat with the hackamore, his eyes would soften, he would lower his head and approach me cautiously, keeping a close eye on the hackamore. The slightest clank of metal and away he’d go.
My gut said to chunk the process down even further. Rather than make the goal to put the hackamore on him, I made the goal just to get him willing to stand and walk with me if the hackamore was hanging on my shoulder.
I starting by hanging the hackamore on the fence, and doing some companion walking with Lucky. (For those not familiar with Carolyn Resnick’s Waterhole Rituals, this is free walking, no tack at all, with the horse matching your movements voluntarily. Like joining up.)
Once Lucky and I both had calm, centered energy and were walking easily together, I got the hackamore and hung it on my shoulder. He immediately backed away.
I was able to encourage him to approach by sitting whenever he got nervous. At first, he would walk with me several feet away only. Gradually he came closer in, even nosing the hackamore. Finally we were moving in unison. When I shifted the hackamore to my other shoulder, and moved to Lucky’s right side, I had to start all over gaining his trust. The off side took longer. When he finally came in and joined me, walking calmly, I ended the session.
Tomorrow I plan to do several short sessions like this, add in some EFT and TTouches, and hopefully get him to volunteer to wear the hackamore.
I must confess I am feeling impatient to get back on and ride again. I have to put those feelings aside, and allow this relationship to build at it’s own pace. The more I honor his free will, and the softer I get, the more responsive and obedient he is becoming, which encourages me that this process will lead us back to riding and partnership on the trail. He listens better than ever, and I can often direct him from 20-30 ft away easily.
After the weekend off, I had plans to ride Lucky again tonight.
You know what they say about plans…
When I went into the corral with his hackamore, he walked away. He had done this the last couple times we worked together. I was focused on getting out on the trail and let it slide. Tonight I paid attention, realizing that skipping steps would lead to issues later. So we would play with accepting the hackamore.
After some time just standing in his area, sharing space, some brushing and some body ttouches, he again walked away from the hackamore.
Now, I certainly can get the bridle on without his full consent. Easy enough to run him into the stall, or chase him around until he submits, or even just keep keep offering the bridle until he is desensitized.
My goal for us is to have partnership without resistance, that honors his free will.
After a bit of gentle leading from behind at the walk and some sharing space, he reluctantly took the hackamore. With hindsight, I probably could have done the EFT without the hackamore on first. It’s a learning process for me as well…
I tapped in several statements with EFT, the 2 most effective being:
Bridling Lucky is fun and easy
Being bridled means fun time together
Lucky was fascinated by the tapping, moving in close and resting his nose on my hands.
When I finished, I gave him a few moments to process, then took the hackamore off and let him walk around.
A few minutes later, I again approached to put the hackamore on. He still tried to dodge at first. Hmm… better, still not 100% So my next strategy was to do some random tiger ttouches with the pads of my fingers on his neck and body, followed by some forelock slides, put on the hackamore, and repeat the ttouches. I gave him some time to process again, removed the hackamore, and let him wander around for a bit.
When I approached him again with the hackamore, he stood his ground, head a bit high and was willing to touch the hackamore with his nose. Still some fear and resistance. He then retreated to his stall. After some brushing and petting, I again offered the hackamore. He let me put it on, with his head high and tense. I asked him to lower his head and as soon as he relaxed and moved his head down, I removed the hackamore. He licked and chewed. We repeated the sequence again. Again more licking and chewing when I brought his head down. One more time through. More licking and chewing, and that “ah-hah” look he gets when he is making a connection.
At that point, my gut said stop and see what happens tomorrow.
So, I learned some more today about Lucky. His resistance to the hackamore appears to be fear-based. He is super sensitive to how I handle the other horses, not just him. If I turn up my body language with Foster (who loves to invade space) Lucky regresses a bit in his trust.
Overall, as I continue to work with him, I’m noticing that he watches me most of the time when I am outside. He keeps an eye on me whenever I’m within view. He comes to greet me much more often, and is very curious about what I do in the barnyard, approaching to investigate.
I’m really curious to see how he is tomorrow.
I submitted Ted’s case history to the TTEAM offices for approval the other day. It occurred to me that my readers might find his evolution interesting.
Ted is a 16 year old Welsh Cob gelding.
When I first met Ted, he was emotionally distant from people, even his person Mary. Ted was very mouthy, and would mug people for treats. He was cranky about grooming and being tacked up. Too much the gentleman to actually bite or kick someone, he would pin his ears, switch his tail, bite objects or block you with his body.
I started with Ted’s physical condition. A combination of bio energy work and nutrition changes helped Ted become more balanced and lose some weight.
Ted’s back was locked up and he had obvious saddle damage. I used a combination of TTouches and other bodywork to help Ted heal himself. When his back was on the way to full healing, Prudence Heaney came out to fit Ted with a new saddle.
Proper barefoot trimming made the changes to his hooves, and a visit from Dr. Regan Golob tweaked the last few body issues.
I also switched Ted from a snaffle bridle to a Kincaid jumping hackamore.
Plenty of TTouches and going back to the basics on the ground slowly taught Ted that I would listen to him and respect his space & wishes. Once he realized he had a choice, he began volunteering to participate. Ted would test me sometimes, refusing and watching to see if I would allow the “no”. Steps forward and steps back.
By this spring, Ted was going completely bridleless, walking and trotting in hand and under saddle. His attitude had turned around completely and he was enjoying human company and touch. His back flexibility was almost normal. And Ted and Mary were partners! So amazing to see this independent distant boy actively watch for Mary’s arrival, and come to greet her!
Here’s a short video of me & Ted, all bundled up, on one of his first bridleless rides:
In Mary’s words…
“I almost gave up on riding Ted when I heard about Carrie Eastman and her healing work with humans and animals.
When we met, I knew right away that Carrie Eastman was the right teacher at the right time for Ted and me. Ted connected with Carrie immediately, and almost seemed to sigh with relief that I had finally gotten the message: that being with a horse is about partnership on all levels – mind, body and especially heart. And, that just as in any relationship – it is real, steady, sometimes difficult often joyous work in the here and now.
Carrie taught me how to listen to Ted: to have his well being first and foremost up front and center. Carrie taught me how to better understand Ted’s body language, to notice when he is not feeling well, to give him the ok to say “no” when he doesn’t want to do a particular exercise. Carrie also taught Ted and me practical, step-by-step ways to connect and build the trust between us through our interactions on the ground and eventually in the saddle. And, that being with a horse is not about winning or losing. It’s about caring enough to listen and respond to what my equine partner is saying or doing.
The difference in my relationship with Ted, because of Carrie’s work with us, is palpable. I was away for a time this winter, and when I came back to see Ted he greeted me with a sweetness that moved me in a way I didn’t know was possible. It was clear that Ted not only recognized me, but that he was also glad to see me and enjoyed our doing the TTouch exercises that Carrie had taught us. When I rode him a couple months later – the first time in almost 6months – I clearly sensed that something had changed; Ted wanted to do that with me.
That sweetness continues – even through rough patches when I lose awareness and forget to listen to Ted and hear what he is telling me. Carrie and Ted and I continue to work with each other remotely since Ted and I have moved 700 miles away from PA. I know that with Carrie’s guidance, the bond and trust between Ted and me will grow deeper and stronger as we partner and learn from each other. ” Mary Riley-Sanders
Dianne came this morning to do some Sportsmassage on Lucky. Got some really fascinating releases in his gluteus accessorius – he stretched his hind leg waaaaay back, and then stretched his tail (he usually carries his tail to the left). He was yawning, licking and chewing for at least 10 minutes after the session.
I was hopeful Lucky would offer up some riding time tonight. And he did!
He remembered all about the mounting block and standing quietly while I do TTouches on his back and neck. I mostly use connected abalone or clouded leopard as those soothe and ground him the best.
He negotiated the ground poles, labyrinth and “L” easily. He was a little stumbly over the high pole.
We also worked trot circles.
Interesting side note – after his bodywork this morning, tonight riding him, he felt very loose and swingy at the walk and trot (is swingy even a word???) I’m used to a “tighter” ride on him, and had to adjust to his movement. As I was riding bareback, those first few minutes were interesting.
Basically, he remembered everything we had worked on last time he was under saddle. He is one seriously smart horse.
I did more EFT while I was on him. I tapped in:
- Giving clear signals and direction
- Trusting him to maintain his gait
- Keeping his attention and focus
- Moving in unison
I’m looking forward to expanding out trot work and adding canter transitions on the long line.
Making some real progress with Lucky! This is so exciting!
Honestly, it’s as much about progress with myself as with him. He’s such an amazing teacher.
Our leading from behind is improving. My signals are getting more subtle, and he is staying calmer about being moved.
We went for another walk tonight, and I got to tap in a bunch of new messages using EFT (while juggling reins and a wand).
- Remaining confident when Lucky spooks
- Inspiring Lucky with my confidence & courage
- Appreciating Lucky’s alertness
- Being centered and grounded
- Working as a team
Only had 1 little spook tonight! Lots of sniffing and looking around, mixed with lots of chewing and licking.
I brought my TTEAM wand along, and did full body strokes and head lowering several times on the walk tonight. Really helped him stay grounded and calm.
On the way home, when you might expect him to get fast and inattentive, he did random slow walk-fast walk -jog-halt transitions just following my lead without any voice or lead cues. Brilliant!
He also helped tow me up the last really steep hill, happily and willingly. Phew…we’re talking seriously steep.
I’m hoping for some ring time tomorrow, get in a bit of riding. Dianne is coming to do Sportsmassage on him before our ride. http://www.expertmassage4u.com/ I’ve got my TTEAM obstacle course all set up and ready.
And I got rid of the funny blue fleece on his hackamore noseband – green vetwrap looks and probably feels so much better, and he can see below his nose better now also.
Now that Lucky has had his teeth done by Krystin Dennis www.horsefloss.com it’s time to get back into training.
I’ve been using a combination of TTEAM, waterhold rituals and EFT with Lucky.
For those of you familiar with Carolyn Resnick’s Waterhole Rituals, Lucky and I have finally bonded, mostly from just sharing space, sitting and enjoying each other’s company. I can lead him from behind now, and he does a pretty decent companion walk, when he chooses. You can see more of Carolyn’s work at www.carolynresnick.com
I depend on TTEAM and TTouch to help Lucky make changes in his body and mind. He has gotten much more comfortable with me touching him, working with him while standing on a mounting block, etc. Using TTouch, he has also gotten over the negative associations with saddles and bridles.
Whenever I find Lucky’s high spirits daunting, I use EFT to clear my emotions.
So putting this all together, Lucky willingly accepted the hackamore tonight, so we decided to go for a walk (me leading him) down the road. Along the way, we encountered scary trash bags, a tractor, other horses, cows, and a BRIDGE (maybe there are trolls underneath?) I recognize now that Lucky lacks confidence, and he looks to me for reassurance, as well as boundaries. So we practiced walk-halt and walk-trot-halt transitions, and also head lowering whenever we stopped. I picked grass for treats along the way, rewarding him for standing quietly. (Plus, chewing on grass helps keep horses breathing and out of flight/fight mode.) He often stops and puts his head against me, asking whether he did something right. Tonight was a real dance between reassurance and boundaries, as he still tends to get quick and high headed. I did have to use EFT twice, tapping in confidence for handling his high spirits and mutual trust.
When we got home, we did a few laps through the labyrinth and over some ground poles, just to settle down and really get him thinking.
It was so lovely out, I ended up just sitting out in the field with the herd for a while, enjoying the evening. I got greetings from all the horses, and Ben volunteered some happy companion walking, following me around the field.
I’m enjoying the journey with Lucky. Each day brings something new. I’ve learned to stay in the moment and let go of agendas.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s adventures!