Monday, May 21, 2012

A lesson in Connection

Saturday, my granddaughter, Trinity was with me. She had wanted to spend some time with one of our horses. She's a very active girl, and being still is not easy for her. But she asked for a lesson in connection.
Ranger, Shaman, Rascal

We began by seeing who wanted to interact. It was Ranger, much to my surprise. Ranger is Ken's horse, and the one horse I rarely work with. He has not done much of the liberty work I so enjoy. So, we took Ranger and spent some time grooming him. His mane is long and wavy and it had lots of dreadlocks, so it was a bit of a chore.
Notice the LACK OF CONNECTION and their expressions

The other horses were let out to graze and we let Ranger graze for a while on the lawn, while we talked about what we would be doing. I told Trinity it would require patience and focus and relaxation, and that there was no knowing what exactly would happen. She would just have to relax into the experience.

We began by sitting on the stump in the arena. I stayed with her, as she was somewhat frightened of the horse. He went over by the gate wanting to go be with the other horses. So we sat together, and I told her, we are not to think about the horse, our job is to listen to the birds, the sound of the wind, watch the clouds, feel the sun,  enjoy the moment. But, not picture the horse, or try to get the horses attention. So, that's what we did and as we relaxed and softened our eyes, Ranger came over to be with us.

He hung his head down and sniffed the back of Trinity's hair, he inhaled her scent. He explored her. He was gentle and slow, as if she were a new foal. If she got frightened, I told her to just wave her hands a little bit and he moved a step or so away. She was NOT to touch him. After a while he just stood over us and hung out. Carolyn Resnick calls this Sharing Territory. It's what the old cowboys did when they went to fix fence day after day with a young horse, focusing on the fence, but giving the horse time to know them - Without the focus of the predator on them. It builds trust.

After a while, I told her, I'd leave the arena, and she could stand up and wait for Ranger to see if he'd join her.  From outside the arena, I instructed her in the dance steps of building the connection. This is what it looked like...
He was happy to be with her, but I hoped with time she could become the leader.

He stayed right with her, as she walked around and around, making circles and weaving between barrels.
I wanted to see him by her shoulder, not pushing her along, so in our effort to change the dynamic, he walked off, and she was instructed to follow him, gently, stopping when he stopped and moving him in the direction she wanted him to go. Just as he did moments before.

When Ranger rejoined Trinity, he was more willing to walk by her shoulder.

 Without force, without a halter or a rope a novice 8 year old is "leading" Ranger easily and naturally. When I asked her what she felt she said: I felt like I was one with the horse.

Neither of them is scared!

The horse feels safe and relaxed.

And once again, I was in awe and in love with this work! This is such a loving way to Experience Horses!  For more information check out my website:

After building a connection

Before building the connection