Thursday, August 7, 2008
Every Move You Make, Every Breath You Take . . .
. . . I'll be watching you (apologies to The Police).
Lyra might have her head turned toward the general pasture, but she knows exactly where I am, what I'm doing, and how much or how little of my attention is with her. Red might be eating his crunchies, but he has a precise awareness of how many nano seconds it will take me to reach his side (as he darts out his neck to steal a bite of the barn manger's hay). Letticia - pictured here, was the horse with whom I ended the long, soul-parching horseless years of my life. Always, though her head might be turned toward her favorite hiding spot in the Redwoods, she was watching me.
Horses, more than any animal I've been graced to be with, study our every move, breath, and expression. Makes sense, they being the prey and we the predator. However watching is not the same as acknowledging, responding, or respecting. Being watched does not mean you have been taken within your horse's awareness and accepted as their leader. Whether your horse regards you warily, serenely, wildly, fearfully, calmly, expectantly, or detachedly, it is this basic prey needing to know what the predator is up to, hard-wired drive that is one of the most powerful tools we have to forge a working relationship with our horses. They miss nothing.
It is this never lagging awareness (sort of an equine version of the all-seeing eye of Mordor) that makes possible one of the greatest mind-boggling truisms of working with horses - every moment we are with them we are training them. Always. Whether you planned it or not, intentionally or not. If Lyra sneaks a hoof into my space, she KNOWS if I miss it or ignore it. Ignore it and I have trained her that she can try to take over a bit more of my space (thus moving up a notch in our little herd hierarchy).
I cherish this knowledge because it invites me, challenges me to work towards increasing my own awareness of how I am moving, breathing, and even thinking so that what I am training my horses to do is congruent with my training goals, starting with with having safe horses that respect my space. In seeking to become more aware, more present with my horses, I become more present with myself.