A new Spring game you can do with your horse
I went out to visit my horse, Firelight, at Horse Spirit Ranch, the stable where he lives these days. It is about 40 minutes from my ranch. When I went out I brought him some Fruitless Mulberry leaves from his favorite tree. He likes them better than apples, carrots, or equine senior, but they must be fed sparingly.
All horses love them, but it is an acquired taste. When they acquire this taste “Watch out Katy, bar the door!” They will do anything to get to them. The Fruitless Mulberry tree sheds each year in the horse’s paddock. They eat every single leaf that drops from the ground. Each horse has his own tree. The trees are about 18 feet tall and about 10 feet wide. We trim them each year to keep them to this size. They drop all of their leaves in the fall. In a month’s time the trees are bare and every leaf is eaten. This time of year is my horse’s favorite time of year and mine too. The weather calls me back to a deep sense of my inner awareness of gratitude for being alive. I feel like the weather is partnering up with my soul. I like to share this feeling with my horses.
The Ritual I wanted to practice with Firelight on this day was the ritual Eye Contact. I was looking for that romantic look across a crowded room that we would all like to share with our horses.
When I went out to meet him that day he was so loving and so happy but he was giving his eyes to the world and not to me. Before I could ask him to Liberty Dance on this day I needed to wake up his interest to give me his full attention, and his ENTHUSIASM. On this day he felt a deep bond, amazing trust and he was so willing and respectful, but the eye contact needed to be sharper when I asked for his attention.
I had expected this because days had gone by from my last visit with him. I had a plan already in mind on how to gain back his focus and this is what I did.
I took the leaves that I had picked for him and scattered them in a large round pen. I turned him loose in the round pen. He was so happy eating to his heart’s content! Then, he ran out of leaves. I then dropped one on the ground where he would not see it. I then called out “Firelight.” He looked at me because by this time he hoped that I had more leaves for him and he generally looks at me when I call his name anyway.
When he looked I held out my arm and pointed to the leaf. When he saw that I did not have a leaf in my hand he lost interest in what I had said and my pointing. He had no idea that I was showing him where to go. I didn’t help him out at all to show him what it was I was wanting him to see other than saying to him ”Firelight look, there’s a leaf.” I danced this message to him with my voice and body language pointing. He could see that I was being persistent but he did not get it.
He already new the Ritual Eye Contact, but he never had to search for his food. I could have said to him “put your head down”, as he knows what that means, but I wanted him to figure out what I was saying to him using a new phrase. I wanted him to practice thinking and reasoning about what I was saying to him. I wanted him to read my body language so that in the future when I speak to him using new words along with body language he can figure out what I am saying. This is important to his training but most important to growing our connection together.
At the end we had a lot of fun. It took about 10 leaves before he cared about my pointing. He got it but I think his response could be much keener.
I can’t wait until tomorrow to see how he has evolved in his response. Horses always evolve in their training after you come back to them with the same experience the following day. It gives them time to think and to process.
This little game will help all horses connect better with their human partners. No matter what you use your horse for it will improve your partnership and teamwork. It will help in how your horse responds to being trained and ridden. It will also increase the bond you share with your horse. It will increase you and your horse’s well being. It will also help horses that have become shut down from having been wrongly trained in the past from the standpoint that they have turned into robots and have lost any ability to connect and enjoy a human’s company.
It will also improve your horse’s understanding of your body language and spoken language. It will grow the bond and respect. It will cause your horse to pay more attention to you. It will help you with the Waterhole Ritual “Eye Contact”. This exercise will help bring back the life and spirit in your horse and grow the connection you have with your horse no matter what the state of relationship you share.
There is another reason I am sharing this form of Ritual Eye Contact. It will help my class to keep moving forward. My class just finished learning the Waterhole Rituals and now are on their own. Please know that you are not completely on your own. We have plenty to talk about on my blog. We can keep each other company through the winter. So let’s kick it off with this game!
I Would love to hear from you, my readers and students, on this one. May the horse be with you and be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings.