Today's blog comes to you courtesy of my apprentice, Lila.
Working on the ranch as Carolyn’s apprentice student I am having many opportunities to appreciate the subtleties of the Waterhole Rituals and learning what creating willing relationships with a horses REALLY looks like.
As a professional consultant and coach, working at training people for the past 25 years, working intensely with horses for the past 12 of those years, I feel that I have a good grasp on what it takes to create willing partnership in my students and trainees etc. But that being said, I must tell you that what horses are showing and teaching me is dramatically expanding that understanding. I want to share with you the continued evolution of what my horse Sebastian and I are creating together.
Some of you may have heard about my experience with my horse Sebastian at liberty in the arena a few weeks ago; how I was playing with him looking to see what training opportunities would evolve. We played with a barrel and I learned about the power of focus and sharing leadership though reciprocal movements. As I have observed Carolyn with horses I see that with some horses you have to have an overpowering focus, like a superhero with miraculous focusing powers, to communicate with horses and keep their attention. I am also learning it is just as important to be able to completely let go of my agenda and the need for the horse to do what I ask in the moment. If I am truly giving my horse freedom when we are together then he has the volition not to do what I ask. By letting him decide for himself, every time he chooses to cooperate, he becomes more willing and new opportunities emerge.
Here is the next evolution to our journey together. The barrel behavior led to another new offer from Sebastian. When I went out to feed him the next day, his feed tub was flipped on its side. I was lazy and I didn’t want to have to go all the way round his pen to open the gate, and turn over his bin. So I thought I would try to communicate with him and see if he would flip it up for me. The chances that he would right his tub for me was only a remote possibility as it was a different situation, a different space and I was not standing next to him able to touch or tap on the tub. I asked him to put his tub right side up so that I could put hay in it. Again I was not sure he would do it, but I asked him with expectation that he could or he would do it. I kept my focus, at the time, he was more interested in the wheel barrel of food that was waiting for him, but I keep asking and HE DID IT, he tipped his tub up!!
A week later, my husband went to feed for me and over my shoulder I hollered out, oh by the way, if his tub is tipped over ask him to it up for you before you put the food in it. As my husband Chris was just visiting the ranch for the day and has not been involved in all of these training experiences, he seemed more focused on the task of feeding and walked away from me as I was making my request. I really did not think Chris understood, or would have the intent, focus or patience to pursue this. But, much to my surprise, he came back up the hill with a happy look on his face exclaiming, that as he was walking down the hill to Sebastian’s pen, he was thinking about what I had asked him to do and wondered to himself if Sebastian would do it. Sebastian, who was standing by his food tub saw Chris coming, saw the hay he was carrying, and just as my husband was just a few steps away from the pen, Sebastian flipped his tub up right, before Chris even had to ask.
Carolyn has been sharing with me about this concept of the New Horse and what that is. She says the horses are hiding from us, we do no know who they are, because we do not pause and look and wait to understand who they are and that they want to communicate. When we allow and give the space for horses to emerge, we discover behaviors and receive communications from them that we never imagined. My experience suggests to me that the New Horse emerges in the space we generate together as part of a co-creative partnership, it happensi n the moments in-between. The new horse is always evolving, becoming more willing and surprising us with his creativity and partnership.
When we stop expecting our horse to engage from an idea of fixed performance and instead allow interactions from a place of wonder, focusing on the bond and respect in all interactions, we evolve together. This way, when and if we can do this, we CAN have an agenda, because we will see the opportunities of when to present the agenda to the horse that would cause the horse to want to participate.
I hope you enjoyed Lila's observations and her progress with Sebastian!