Sharing territory by Sally Adam
If you’ve followed Carolyn’s blog for any length of time, you’ll know she’s big on “sharing territory”. And if you’re anything like me, you think to yourself: “What a waste of time. I wanna train my horse, not sit around gazing at my navel. Anyway, I’m far too busy for such foolishness.”
Carolyn makes all sorts of claims about the benefits of sharing territory. It’ll deepen your relationship with your horse. Problems you are having with your horse will just magically vanish. And so on. All pretty flakey, really.
When I started playing with the Waterhole Rituals, just a few months after getting my first horse (my girlish pony phase only started in my late 40’s), I swished a reed around and Lead from Behind and was impressed with the results, enough to make me want to understand the rituals better. I signed up for the Insider's Circle program in 2011.
To start with, Carolyn announced, we would be spending two weeks sharing territory with our horse. I was appalled. I was resistant. For heaven’s sake - I’m spending money to be told to sit in a chair and ignore my horse? It turns out, actually, that mostly I was scared. I wasn’t used to being around horses. It didn’t seem like a safe thing to do, to sit near a horse. What if it ran over me, or kicked me or …. my imagination ran amok. (Please understand that we’re not talking about a wild mustang here; my pony is child-safe and very polite – this was all about my own lack of experience and my overdeveloped self-preservation tendencies.)
I jammed myself in a safe corner where I could easily duck under the electric tape should my worst fears be realized. Not surprisingly, the horse didn’t come near me. An hour a day for two weeks and the closest he got was 10 feet away. Hmmm.
After a while I started spending time with my two donkeys. They were thrilled. They regard themselves as lap-donkeys, which was terrifying for me when I first got them, to the extent that I would always put a fence between us unless I had them in halters. Thanks to Carolyn’s coaching, I now knew that it was okay to ask them to move back if they were crowding me. They quickly learned the rules and loved the fact that if they asked nicely, they were allowed to put their cuddly fuzzy heads in my lap and have me wrap my arms around them.
Eventually I got brave enough to hang out with all four horsekeys at the same time. I had by now learned what to watch for: any signs of grumpiness within the herd which might have lead to a tricky situation and I could either intervene or leave. They didn’t like being banished though, so the equine manners are generally good when I’m around. This once scary ritual of sharing territory has evolved into a precious, priceless part of my day. I’ve never been very good at meditating, but when I’m with the horses it’s that much easier to slip into their way of being and clear my head of everything except what my senses are telling me at that moment. I sit on the roots of the giant bluegum tree where they like to snooze, and the horsekeys are genuinely pleased to have me there.
So has it deepened our relationship? Oh my goodness – where do I start! Recently a visiting little girl fell in love with my pony and rode him every day. At the end of her stay she made me an illustrated thank-you card. The pony is depicted as having his head turned so that you can see both eyes “because”, explained the girl’s grandmother, “that pony never takes his eyes off you!”.
What about problems simply vanishing? Those donkeys of mine had always been resistant to walking on a line and were practically impossible to separate. It was a hassle trying to walk them together and they would often break free and charge off. After a few weeks of sharing territory I asked one if he would like to go for a walk. “Sure!” he said eagerly, diving into his halter. And off we went. On a loose line. Along our narrow trails, through the forest, up the hill. Happy, enjoying the outing. I tried the other donkey – she was also delighted to accompany me, never allowed the line to go taut and we had a splendid time. Their leading problem had, well, vanished!
As Carolyn says, if you are only going to try one ritual, make it Sharing Territory. There’s not a single downside and you may well see magic happen, even if you’re a disbeliever.
What I have experienced teaching my method online concerning Sharing Territory is that it has been a controversial ritual because of what Sally expressed... who wants to waste time in a program that you have spent money on.
I want to help newcomers understand the purpose of why this ritual is the foundation of my program. Horses do not view humans as family. They prefer horses to humans, this leaves a horse skeptical of his training program. When Sharing Territory you are able to bring out the optimistic nature of the horse and develop a desire to follow your lead and participate enthusiastically in the training process. It is also a spiritual development for a person to find out exactly their true nature and an ability to develop an inner knowingness in how to lead and how to direct.
The two weeks that we spend Sharing Territory in my online course is part mediation and part intimate interactions with your horse using flexible boundaries as a way to develop a working bond.
On the subject of bonding with the horse: you can bond with a horse but it does not necessarily mean that a horse is willing and optimistic through the training process. By Sharing Territory we are able to prepare the horse to choose our leadership over his own and give him a way to understand the communication that is needed for his training.
I personally look at training as a self realization for us humans to become more than we are through the ways of horses. Thank you Sally, I loved your story. It was fun and humorous and expressed the value of what my online course has to offer.
Have a great weekend! Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.