I am offering this blog page to a student of mine, a long time self-realization coach using horses, Talley Hutcherson. The reason this story is important for you is in the way it may improve your understanding of the need to assess a situation for yourself and teach you how to approach your horses in times of lost connection. I want you seeing your broken connection from the horse's point of view because from this point of view you will create a game that will bring back the connection and train the horse for new behaviors at the same time, like Talley did for her journey on her new career. I also what you to see that the exercise she chose to use is a great way to put a strong gas pedal onto a horse and to teach a horse what a good idea it is to move way from you when you ask the horse to move way. The lesson she chose teaches so many things to the horse. This is another reason why working horses separately is a good idea. Enjoy!!
From Talley Hutcherson:
As a student of Carolyn’s I am always concerned about being creative and using what I have learned in a way that offers the horse I am working with “a better deal.” I recently was hired to lead a program at a summer camp for youth that offers horseback riding.
As I first began sharing territory with the horses to get to know them a little before I made any big decisions or changes in their lives, I discovered many of the horses were curious about me, friendly and wanted to come up to meet me and hang out. There were several who did not approach me and that was fine. In the large pasture of 8 horses I remember 2 out of the 8 stayed away.
The next day I decided to catch up the horses and get to know them on a more personal level. When I got to one named Tiny, I found he was always avoiding me and hiding out behind other horses or not approachable at all. After about an hour of attempted approaches, I decided we had not made any progress so I quit him for the day. I had a dream about him that night and I woke up thinking I needed to use my creativity to make him want to be caught by me.
I removed the horses one by one out of the pasture until he was the only remaining horse and as I suspected…he wanted me to put a halter on his head and take him out to where his friends had gone. Once I had done that I put him into a round pen and took the horses I had placed there back into the pasture. Now we were alone and he was loose. I had a friend with me and 2 buckets of carrots. We began playing “the carrot game” and took turns calling him up. My friend called him and I gently drove him away towards my friend. When he got to my friend there was a carrot. Then I called him and my friend did the driving away. When he got to me I put his halter on took it off and then gave him the carrot. We repeated this over and over for about an hour. Each time I called Tiny over I stepped away further from where I had left my bucket of carrots. As the distance between the bucket of carrots grew greater so did the attention he gave me and I discovered many important things about him.
He was very smart. When I saw him choose to step towards the carrots and not to me, I discouraged him by saying “no” or making a loud sound that sounded like discouragement. He never took a second step toward the carrots. His sensitivity and intelligence were so appreciated by me through this interaction. I can see how years ago I might have been irritated by a horse that was challenging me. Often I was in a hurry and the horse not being easy to deal with would stress me out. Now I see it as an opportunity to be creative, intelligent, and sensitive myself.
I took the opportunity to “pause”; letting time go by gave me time to think differently. He had to make many decisions. Come to me, leave me, not go to the carrots, stand and have a halter put on his head and taken off, lower his head further and further each time I asked…all of it was done by choice. I never had to force or demand…all I did was ask and wait. That is the better deal I want to offer all the horses I meet. By offering the horse a better deal I see that I am getting a better deal too. Slowing down has made the things I care about come faster!
Thanks Carolyn for being my teacher and helping me achieve the relationship I always dreamed of with horses as my friends.