The Game of Surprise and Approach!
I went to our local New Age store and found a children’s book titled Zen Shorts. I took a look, read a few pages, and had to have it! I want to suggest it to any one who likes children’s books and the lessons learned from them. Let's exchange ideas on what to read this winter. All through the year, I love to have people over to my house. In order to make them welcome I like to keep treats in the bathroom and many interesting books on my coffee table. I have found that people will take treats from the bathroom quicker than if I have them anywhere else. When people come to visit they even go into the guest bathroom to see what treats might be there. What they like is chocolate. It is all experimentation on how to please others and stay connected just like working a horse at liberty. It takes the same kind of experimentation working a horse at liberty as it does creating a social environment for people. I also make sure I have beautiful music playing, and I like to listen to everything my guests want to talk about.
The other day I bought Apollo a squeaky Santa toy. That night he took it to bed and curled up right on my spot, making it impossible for me to lie down. He knew it and it delighted him to no end. I could have picked him up and moved him over but I did not. I wanted to see if he would be nice enough to move over and let me lie down. I begged and begged. I said repeatedly “Apollo, I would appreciate it if you would move over here,” and I pointed at the spot I wanted him to go. Never has this ever worked before. However, I am always hopeful that he will listen to my wishes and be just a little more thoughtful of my needs. This time, he got up and went to the spot I asked him to move to. Now every time I ask him to move- he moves!
I can’t help communicating with animals in experimental ways so I can understand them better. I find when approaching children and animals that it is important that we hold the right attitude and feeling inside during the communication. From begging my dog, one would have thought I would have taught Apollo to never listen to my request. I was begging him like we see people repeatedly beg their children in public places when it never seems to work. “Tommy, please stop that! Tommy, No! Tommy, if you don’t stop you will be in big trouble,” and of course Tommy keeps right on doing the thing his parent does not want him to do. Soon, the parent is fuming- and the child becomes a bigger problem over time.
So why does Apollo listen to me, but Tommy does not listen to his parent when we both use a similar approach? What makes the difference is that I am not exasperated or slightly upset, I am only experimenting. Apollo does not feel he is doing anything wrong. I think the secret is the energy I am harboring makes the difference and that I did not threaten Apollo with what would happen to him if he did not move. I am learning all the time how important it is to be comfortable with the outcome that animals and children give us. I do not care whether Apollo moves or not. In the end, if he does not move I will move him sweetly to the spot I want him to go.
You want to avoid letting an animal see that the interaction he is sharing with you is a battle of the wills. When I take territory from a horse, I pick a time when the bond is strong in the moment and I have usually done a lot of “bucket intimacy exercises” before hand. There is no battle of the wills- only a surprise rush when the horse is not aware of any issues or problems. He does not feel reprimanded. When he is surprised and then greeted again with a hello, there is a sense of intrigue and play. The reason that he is able to respond positively is that there was no reprimand, which keeps the bond in place giving the horse an ability to read your intentions.
The game is like a grown-up game of “Peek-a-boo – I can catch you!” It is about surprise- not terror, and the horse sees it this way. The horse learns in a fun way he can keep me in line by keeping an eye on me. The horse picks this Ritual up easily and it creates a closer bond as well as gaining more trust and respect in a short time. When some horses at first are not happy with being moved in this way- they are the dominant ones, (you would not use this Ritual on a shy horse) they soon catch on, and there is a change in attitude. They become optimistic and happy with more desire to bond. I would have never thought of this approach with horses if they had not shown me how their bonds grew deeper and create more respect and awareness to one another’s needs from the practice of this game.
I think the danger for people who do not work directly with me is not developing the quality of empathy needed to create a cross species bond. I find this is especially true when I hear that people are not liking certain Rituals because they feel they are too demanding or forceful in regards to asking a horse to move out of your territory. The Rituals need to be brought to the horse in the right manner as a playful dance in a relationship.
Horses like a certain amount of drama just like we do. We would much rather have mates that are forthright and completely interested in our relationship and well being. We do not want a mate that dotes on us all the time for fear of loosing our affection. We want a person that knows how to lead us so that the dance we share is alive and interesting and life enhancing.
Horses love intrigue and playful interaction. Working with horses at liberty, you need to direct them, but not control them after they have been directed- that is the secret to liberty work. It is not easy to give up control to direct the dance and deepen the bond, but it is the secret. A little of this and a little of that in the right measure making sure that in the end of each day we have a more enthusiastic connection. It does not make any difference in what method you use as long as your interactions for the day creates a deeper awareness, bond, trust, connection and performance.
I would love to hear your comments and good book suggestions! Season’s Greetings!