Sugar, Lucky and Salty
3 very different horses
Lucky, featured previously on this blog, is an Arabian gelding in his mid-teens, very sensitive and intelligent. Lucky is easy to push away, and is quick to be turned off by aggression, strong cues or a reprimand. Lucky is easy to call in to me, if I have his trust. If I lose his trust, he has a long memory and is very slow to be willing again. Lucky and I have been working together for several years now.
Sugar, a newer companion on my journey, is a Quarter Horse Mare. 9 years old, Sugar is a trained cutting horse who spent several years as a broodmare. Very intelligent and sensitive, and also aloof and a bit insecure, Sugar knows her job but is very slow to trust and frankly, has not decided that humans are worth messing with yet. Sugar is easy to send away, hard to call in, and generally reluctant to participate in a relationship. Sugar and I have been hanging out for a year or so.
Salty is the newest member of our horse family. Salty is another Quarter Horse mare. Also 9 years old, Salty was injured during her initial breaking, and knows nothing beyond wearing a saddle and bridle. Salty is very intelligent, calm and sensitive. She loves people, and is always right there investigating everything. Salty is a leader, curious, bold and the first to explore new things. Salty is easy to call in, and VERY hard to send away.
As I’ve taking the last few months off while focusing on the writing the goat muscle testing book, and getting through the summer goat show season, I’m regrouping and reassessing where I am with all the horses. I will be using the same basic principles to assess and work with each one, tweaking the program to suit their individual quirks. My hope is that you, the reader, can follow along and apply these same basics to your own relationship with your horse.
Now let me introduce what I consider to be your most important training tool. More important than tack, other tools, saddle time and lessons. This tool is the key to your relationship. Ta da! Something to sit on.
(And to illustrate the personality differences, Salty approached first. Sugar sniffed the chair, Salty grabbed it in her teeth and picked it up.)
So, my way to resume working with Lucky and Sugar, and start working with Salty, is to park my hiney in that chair, or on the mounting block, and just sit with them. I will do this daily, for at least a few minutes and preferably longer. I bring my smartphone, my laptop or a book, and focus on something other than the horses so they can explore my presence at their own pace without pressure. My only rule is politeness. No shoving, stepping on or nibbling. I will send them away firmly without anger for that behavior. I will sit with them individually and together. I will sit with them in the corral, in the training area, and in their field. (You will notice lawn chairs strategically placed all over my farm, just for sitting with the critters)
Now, I am not a certified teacher of Carolyn Resnick’s method. Nor have I ever been a formal student. I am a huge fan, and have read her blog and watched her video, and it resonated with me. It has been the best foundation under the TTEAM and Ttouch and other work I do. To learn her method, please visit her blog. I have included 3 links to get you started on understanding the chair, what Carolyn calls Sharing Territory.
If my horse partners are full of energy and busy with their day, I will join them where they are and mimic or mirror what they do. Walk where and when they walk, stop when they stop, look where they look. For mirroring, I single out one horse to focus on and follow. I had a fun round of mirroring with Salty the other day. We were facing each other, and I offered back every movement. Each head toss, hoof shift, loud breath I echoed back. Salty really engaged, and began offering very specific hoof and head movements, then watching alertly to see if I would follow her lead.
When any of them chooses to come stand with me, relaxed, and I see some licking and chewing, maybe a sigh or a yawn, I know we are ready to move to the next step.
*Sitting together is an exercise I do with my horses regularly, no matter where in our training we are. Sitting together refreshes our bond, lets me assess how my horse partner is feeling that day, and also keep me grounded and in present time. Even on days I plan to ride, I spend a few minutes just being together before I start grooming and tacking up. Obviously, there will be times that for whatever reason, you might have to get on quickly. If you have a solid foundation, your horse will give you the benefit of the doubt when that happens.
Enjoy your interactions and stay tuned for the next post, when one or more of the horses offers to move our relationship to the next level.
Copyright ©2016 Carrie Eastman.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or American Veterinary Medical Association, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your veterinarian about any changes to your animal’s health program.