A Day At Dances with Horses: Meeting Stoli
A lot happens in small increments. This is where magic is grown. At the Ranch today we were acclimatizing a horse by the name of Stoli to the ranch and developing a bond with him using the first Waterhole Ritual™. He is a 21 year old ex racehorse that is a schoolmaster in lower level dressage. He is quite nicely trained, very health and moves around like a young horse. He has a problem though of being quite barn sour and does not really enjoy peoples company but he does like his dressage work. He likes to kick other horses and has made a deep bond with his next door neighbor. He has been on the ranch for over a week and is taking his time in wanting to connect with us.
I have leased him from a friend for my apprentice Julia Felton who is with me for a period of three months. She is here to learn my method and study dressage training and riding. Our trade is that she his helping me to finish my book as well as helping me with my daily responsibilities. In return, I am coaching her on the Waterhole Rituals™ and giving her dressage lessons.
The way my ranch is laid out means that the arena is on a lower level from the horse’s paddocks and so when a horse is in the arena they can no longer see the other horses. This set up, and that fact the Stoli is very herd bound and has never learned to need people for friendship, means that settling him in is very slow going.
This is good for Julia because she said she wanted a horse to challenge her. Julia’s challenge is to set aside her goals and dig into the process of going deep into the elements in how to turn a horse around that has never been bonded to any person from the ground. Stoli seems to like his training in dressage very much but after the ride he disconnects from wanting to feel anything for a human being other than the most surface kind of relationship where no real connection occurs.
Today we helped him out when we took him to the arena by taking another horse for company. We put some grain in the arena for him to eat, but at first he was so upset that he could not eat anything. I had Julia sit with him and hold his lead rope because I knew that he would run around and wear himself out wanting to get back to his friends.
After a while I took charge of Stoli and did a few Uberstreichen exercises with him to get his focus on me. I also did a lot of heaving breathing and when he looked back at the barn longingly, I would turn him around to face me and breathe on his nose. Little by little he settled down and ate some grain. I kept an intense focus on every move he made and mirrored it in my body language so the horse could read that I was truly connected to everything he did. Eventually, he started to communicate with me with his focus and breath as well. I turned him loose and he walked with me at liberty in Companion Walking with a magnetic connection for about a minute. Then he went back to running, trying to find a way back to his stable mate even though he had another horse with him, his grain, and my focus as well as Julia’s. I stopped his running after about five minutes. The way I did this was that I made him change his pattern from running back and forth at the gate by setting him on a new course of running on the back side of the arena and calling him to me rather than trying to walk up to him.
He soon figured out that he needed to make the first connection. Then I caught him up and I went back sitting with him in a chair. He settled and was more focused much more connected. After about ten minutes he calmed down, finished his grain and then we all single filed it back to the barn. Every move Stoli made I responded to in some subtle way and it had a deep affect but maybe someone watching would not have appreciated the little steps of connection that started growing between us today.
Julia commented to me that in her experience most people do not ever realize that their horse is not paying attention to them. I retorted that in fact most people do not pay enough attention to their horse. They chat and talk on their cell phone rather than devote their full attention to their horse in the moment. The lesson for today was that one of the most effective ways to gain trust with a horse is by giving them your full attention. Julia freely admitted that she had been guilty of not paying her horse full attention when she was with him prior to starting learning my Method and would not have known what full attention even looked like if she had not seen it for herself whilst I was working with Stoli.
We plan to sit with Stoli for an hour this evening to keep him company while he is eating his dinner. We will also do more Uberstreichen exercises along with gentle breathing and hanging out and letting the process of time open the door to the magic of developing trust, a bond and respect with him.
We should be happy with whatever shows up on the journey of growing more skills in our connection with horses. The most important point I want to impart is that no matter however it winds up, being with him will not be a disappoint because just being with horses and meeting a new horse gives us a new experience and that is all that we really need, expect or want.
If we ride Stoli we ride him, if we wait we wait and if we connect we connect - the magic is in his hands. Surrendering to the process of developing the bond is the best part of the journey being with horses.
Enjoy your weekend