Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Delayed Epiphany

It's funny how fear changes you in an instant.
How it gets down deep into your being and makes a home.
It lashes out in ways you never knew possible and affects so many aspects of your life.

We talk about allowing our fears to take control and how we need to learn to control them.
How we need to put our fear in it's place.
How we need to fight it.
And win.

But this passed week I decided to give in to my fear instead.
Be honest with it.
In February I was kicked clean in the gutt by our young OTTB rescue mare Ella.
My fault entirely, she was spooked and I made a 50/50 decision to move her away from me...
Well needless to say I picked the wrong side of the coin in the moment and ended up with a hind leg in my stomach.
I've never been rocked so hard in my life.
It was like being winded and gutted and shot all at once.
I stood there unable to grasp for air, wondering if I would faint.
Funny enough I had enough composure to lay myself down softly in the sand and start counting my breaths... must've been that year of rugby in highschool.
Prepared me for those loss of body moments!

I let that accident affect my relationship with Ella for months.
I was scared to go near her.
Scared to interact with her.
Not just because I was scared she would hurt me again, but because I was scared of what my energy must've felt like.
How confusing that must've been for her to read from me.
I spent months and months grooming her every night.
Bathing her.
Feeding her.
Tending to her rain rot and swollen legs.
But in one instant, my trust in her was gone.

And so yesterday, I had this feeling.
This feeling that has been building in me.
I've watched her work as this fiery red head since, convinced she was this dominant sassy mare.
Chestnut. Thoroughbred. Mare.
And then I remembered all those evenings we spent grazing, grooming and just relaxing.
I remembered the first day she stepped off the trailer and fell into my lap like a puppy dog.
We played in the sand ring.
We ran and kicked the big green ball.
That, surely, was her truest self.
And so I needed to find it again.
I took her out into the sand ring.
I took off her lead.
And I let her go off wherever she wanted.
I picked some grass, and waited on the pedestal in the centre.

She, of course, went to eat on the sidelines.
Grazing away happily.
So I waited.
She ate some more and then got nervous.
She looked around, checking her surroundings and found me in the center.
Locked eyes and over she came.
I rubbed her all over and offered her the grass I had picked.
It was no different than the grass she was eating on the sidelines.
Same grass....
Different company.
She had chosen me as her herd.

This is something I witness regularly in the fields.
Something I think so many people miss over and over again.
Yes, horses are tough with each other.
But they CHOOSE to be in a herd.
They aren't forced into it.
When a new horse goes out in the paddock they don't run over and beat on every horse until they are "alpha".
More often than not they are shunned from the herd.
Chased out.
Left on the sidelines.
And only when they approach the herd, softly, kindly and asking to be a part...
Will they finally be allowed in.
That might take an afternoon, it might take a day...
Sometimes it can take a whole week to sort out.
But the important part is the choice.

You cannot go into training with a horse already deciding that they need to listen to you.
You can't push dominance on them and expect them to get it.
You are tough and they need to fall in line.
You need to be a provider.
Herds are groups of horses who provide for each other.
They provide safety.
They provide direction.
They provide socialization.
They provide migration to food and water.
No horse chooses to join a herd strictly because of how tough the "alpha" is.
They join because of the whole kit and kaboodle.

Ella proved that to me yesterday and again today.
We played at liberty and worked towards bending and relaxation.
Tomorrow we'll test it all under saddle.