The little things mean a lot with horses.
The Liberty Foundations have provided me with a way to interact with my horses that allows better communication when I need it. I know I’ve written about this before, but I always manage to find another aspect to address in this capacity.
This week’s example is as follows:
My mare Zuzka helped me teach a clinic last week. She is a very amenable horse and enjoys work. I can feel her beside me, her complete support and allegiance. There were a couple of times, however, after we got home, when I felt she wanted something more from me.
Her favorite thing to do is go out in the big pasture with me alone. I had been busy with two other horses, one of whom had injured himself and needed some immediate attention. I could tell that Zuzka was not happy about the fact that she wasn’t getting the attention she deserved. Her lower lip sticks out and she looks somewhat out of sorts, and doesn’t want me to spray her with fly spray, and will turn away from me when I go to get her. She even turned away when I offered bodywork.
She walked to the back gate a couple of times and looked at me, as though to say, can we go out now? But I didn’t have the time until today.
This morning my granddaughter Ariana and I went out to do doctoring to her horse, and to do some other barn chores. I went to get Zuzka and she led me out to the back gate. I slipped the halter on her easily, because I knew what she wanted. This wasn’t the time to try to put on fly spray or some other thing I wanted to do. I told Ariana that we needed to take Zuzka to the pasture.
Being a teenager, Ari wasn’t that thrilled to hear this but she complied with that request. I let Zuzka loose in the pasture and we just sat and stood with her while she grazed.
When it was time to put her halter on again and bring her in, I simply walked behind her for awhile, stopping when she stopped, and then I asked her to whoa. She stopped, turned to look at me, then I came and greeted her with my hand outstretched. She wasn’t quite ready to come in; after all, she isn’t on human time, she’s on horse time, and so far, the time she thought she’d been out was the time it took to blink an eye.
Ariana, on the other hand, felt we’d been out there forever, and was dying to go on to some other activity, probably shopping.
I walked with Zuzka, side by side, for awhile, then asked for a whoa. Then she let me slip the halter on and we came in.
After we came back to the corrals, I went to get the fly spray for her. She stood absolutely still while I sprayed her with it.
This is to me, a small example of meeting the horse where she is. She is in a space where she needs a certain thing, and I’m lucky enough to be able to “hear” her. I know her well enough that I know what she wants. If I can’t get it to her right when she needs it, she will wait, she will still be a pretty good girl, but she might hold back a bit because she doesn’t like to be put on hold.
Because she’s a good girl and so dependable, she can get overlooked because the others might have more pressing problems. I try very hard not to let that happen, because truly, she is one for whom the little things are immensely important, and just those small offerings mean all the world to her and go a long way in our relationship.
In turn, she knows she can communicate this to me and that she will get what she needs.
For many years, I rode her without knowing this. I didn’t know the Foundations, and I didn’t know how important these small things were. I honored her ability to get us out of big fixes, but I didn’t know how to give back to her in a way she truly values. The Liberty Foundations have changed that for me, heightened my awareness, and shifted our relationship.
I’ve had this mare for 16 years. During the first few years, I don’t believe I knew what I had. We became “one” in many ways but she would hold back because now I believe she wasn’t getting all her needs met. Yet I also think she knew I was capable of providing her with them.
This is a big difference between traditional horsemanship and what we do with horses in the Liberty Foundations.
It is also why, even with extensive training, a horse may decide not to connect with you. They are looking for something more than you know you have to offer. Or you may be carrying some energy they don’t like. Or they simply don’t want to at that moment. It is up to you to figure it out.
Being still, watching, will provide more information on your horse/human relationship than anything else you can do.
(copyright: Susan Smith, OrthoHorse)
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September 27-28 – Spirit Horse Ranch Two-Day Liberty Foundations Clinic, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Engaging the Hearts and Minds of Horses. Susan Smith and Ruella Yates, co-teaching. Contact me or Ruella at 405-771-4274 (email@example.com)
December 13-14 – Horses at Liberty Weekend Clinic, DeLand, Florida – Bring your Horse into Deep Working Connection with Liberty Horsemanship. Instructor: Susan Smith. Contact Anne Daimler firstname.lastname@example.org (386-822-4564) Susan at email@example.com (505-983-2128 or cell 505-501-2478) 9:00-4:30 p.m.
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