Thursday, July 31, 2008

Claiming Lyra

The sign was posted on our barn's BB late on a Friday afternoon, "Rehoming Zelda - $200.00"

NOT ZELDA!!!!! I knew her as a shy member of our general pasture herd, seemingly timid, accepting my approach with hesitation, appreciative of all carrots. Not Zelda. She had been adopted by a knowledgeable young woman in our barn - adopted to be a boyfriend horse. Turned out the boyfriend didn't like her and ordered that she be rehomed.

Back in November she was all bones, legs, coarse dark hair, and worried eyes. She had put alot of weight. Still had the worried eyes. I asked if I could spend a week seeing if we might make a team. My request was gladly granted . . . the week flew by. On May 25th, 2008 Zelda was rehomed with me and I suddently had tiny herd of two - Red and Zelda.

How many times . . did she change hands, have to say goodbye, feel her attachment to people, place, and herd ripped out of her heart and body? How many names has she had to learn? I've given her yet one more name - Zelda did not flow well for me. Lyra seemed somehow to be a closer fit.

I have discovered that Lyra is a beautifully trained horse, sensitive to breath, shifting weight, whisper soft aides. Not a schooled rider, I practice mindfulness and being present with Lyra. She responds.

Each day when I go to claim her from the herd, to ask her to leave the bounty and comfort of the general pasture and leave with another questionable human, she looks away. Looking back at me for an instant, she wheels and takes off. I must be able to catch her on 40 acres so I crouch into my predator stanch and hissing, carrot stick extended, I stalk her. For 45 minutes I stalked her the first day she ran, what a sight we were - graceful thoroughbred mare wheeling and cantering away from the not graceful, just over middle age woman stumbling, hissing, and always intruding into her space. Always intruding with annoying noise and invasive stares until she turns her attention my way.

I am trying to apply pressure and release strategies in an open pasture of 40 acres in a herd of 15 horses. I advance and look for the slightest shift towards me in her focus, an ear will do, and then I stop, shift into mild, passive stance as I soften my eyes and body. And slowly Lyra learns that the predator disappears whenever she looks at me, and if she stands still, the weirdly hissing woman turns into one with sweet words and sweeter carrots who gently and respectfully approaches.

It is seldom now that I have to call upon predator woman's help. Lyra will turn to me when I approach or, jealous for carrots, stride up to me and Red and demand her fair share.

Deeply I appreciate the courage it takes Lyra to stop and turn to me. I am asking much as I gently slip her halter on. As we walk towards the gate she frequently stops and turns her head back to her herd.

On our first days together I did not fully understand the depth of her concern as I asked her to leave and so I would insist that we kept moving. Each time she stopped I would force my agenda - onwards to the gate. Now I wait for her quietly, with soft words and images of what awaits us. I reassure Lyra that she will return, that only good things will happen to her, that she is going to stay with me until one of us no longer lives. I remind her of the delicacies that await, of the horses we will visit, of our routine that will guide us.

And Lyra listens, sighs, and moves to me on her own, deciding to trust me enough to move away from the 14 sweet horses who watch this seemingly simple exercise in-hand yet understand the depths of fear through which Lyra walks as she walks away from the herd.

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