For those of you that don't know, my other passion besides hoop dance is horses. I have 2 lovely lady horses who are a constant source of healing, love and learning.. not to mention laughter and fun! One of my horses, Nova, came to me with some significant emotional scars. She had been mishandled by people who did not respect her intelligence. Also, she had some chiropractic and hoof issues that were not being taken into account. It all amounted to one seriously bitter, angry and mistrustful horse. I took a chance on her because I saw in her eyes that there was a good and sweet horse in there. I have never been more happy to be right! To witness her go from being pissed off at the world and suspicious of everyone, to playful and snuggly, is just the most rewarding thing. I wanted to share one of the key elements that helped this happen. I think it is also something we could use more of amongst people and even in regards to how we treat ourselves. Here goes.
Be a safe space for your horse to BE. What does this mean? First I'll tell you what It DOESN'T mean from my view. It doesn't mean tip toe around them, let them run all over you on the ground, give them endless treats that they constantly frisk you for or not ask them to push past their own boundaries. Being a safe space for your horse to be, means;
- Show them that you can consistently regulate your own emotions. If they learn that they can trust that you will never lose your temper and take it out on them, they will feel safe in your presence. Horses are highly emotionally sensitive creatures. They can be incredibly patient with mistakes made innocently but if there is anger behind that same physical action, they will lose their trust fairly quickly. Some horses are more lenient about this than others, but if you have one that has already been handled in a way that they have written humans off as bad news, you have to be religious about not letting your emotions get the better of you.
- NEVER hit your horse. I hope this one goes without saying, but I wanted to make sure and also draw a distinction. If you are lunging or riding with a whip and you have to give them a tap, that is fine AS LONG as there is ZERO emotion behind it. The difference between horse abuse and aid reinforcement is two things. Aid reinforcement has no emotion behind it and stops the instant the horse respond. Horse abuse has emotion behind it and often will persist well after the horse has attempted to respond. Sometimes the actual physical sensation can be the same, but it is the energy behind it that makes all the difference. All it takes is losing your temper once or twice and using your whip or aid with anger, to lose months of trust building. Go to anger management if you have to. Quit the session before you get what you want if you have to. Whatever you have to do to never strike your horse in anger.. Do that. Most especially never strike your horse with your hand. It doesn't matter if they are bigger than you... it doesn't matter if you "aren't really hurting them". Your relationship will suffer... just NO.
- Be allowing of your horses mistakes. Develop your ability to notice when your horse is TRYING vs. when your horse is PERFECT. Nothing is ever perfect the first time... Even after they know what you are asking, sometimes it takes warming up to a movement before they get it "right". Often times your horse will need a different pace or even different technique then you prefer. Listen as much as you can to what they are feeding back to you rather than always insisting they do it "right". Being allowing of things like warm up periods, fluctuations in mood (yes, your horse has them just like you do), individual needs and focus will help your horse build a positive view of working with you. Create enough positive experiences with your horse and they will relax around you and trust will be offered more and more.
- Don't work alllll the time. If you watch how horses are with each other in the wild, a bulk of the bonding happens when they are just hanging out or grooming each other. Even horses that have just met on a trailer ride will be bonded together at the end of the trip from just standing next to each other. While, the "dominant" horse is the one that will tell the herd where to go and at what pace, no one really wants to hang out with that guy for too long if that is all he does. If you want to create a deeper bond with your horse, just hang out with them sometimes. Even if you are not going to ride, still go to the barn if you can. Just read a book outside their stall or stand near them and enjoy the moment. Horses bond in stillness. Practice your horse meditation and let yourself just BE with your horse. You just might learn something about them ;)
Did you notice something? Everything I said above could be applied to human relationships as well. I am still working on that one. I am far more patient and understanding with my animals then I am with people, or even myself. Workin on it ;)
In love, horses and hula hoops~ Anah