We recently had Michael Sparling, a 2 star Parelli instructor, out to the farm to do a one-day clinic. I love watching others interact with horses. I try to decipher the conversation between the humans and the horses as they attempt new ideas and levels of communication. It’s sort of like watching TV on mute… body language and facial expressions give huge clues to the interaction, but without the words you really don’t know for sure. My husband says words are poor communicators and I have to agree… especially in the human world, where our words don’t necessarily match our true intent or feelings. I think I hit home a lot of the time, but I have found that when I am ‘in it’ I can’t see it. Which is why I need guidance from trusted mentors. If I think I know it all, then I have cut myself off from learning anything new… and learning something new doesn’t necessarily mean I have to throw out the old.
This journey of horses has revealed a lot to me about myself. Being open to other’s interpretations has given me added insight. Sometimes taking on their ideas and giving them a spin helps me clarify how I really feel or what I truly believe. I’ve come a long way from where I was, but I still hold to some old beliefs.
I didn’t know anything really about natural horsemanship intellectually until we purchased Horse Haven at Bear Creek, but what I’ve come to learn is that I intuitively already knew it. I had a relationship with my horse Buck that was based on leadership, mutual respect, kindness and trust. I didn’t know all the mechanics of body language and communication the ‘natural horsemanship’ way, but somehow he knew what I wanted (or sometimes needed) and I promised to take care of him. One time my friends horse bit me, and in jest, I whispered in Buck’s ear to bite my friend… he immediately turned and bit her! I loved that horse to the depth of my soul and I learned a lot from him… I miss him to this day.
Our cat Callie isn’t the one we went to look at at the shelter, (Homeward Pet – a fabulous no kill shelter), but she reached her paw through the bars, snagged my shirt and pulled me close, looked me in the eyes and said “go ahead and look at that other cat, but you’re taking me home”, and we did.
Our dog Sadie was in a kennel across from one of the dogs we went to look at. When I turned around to see who was barking, she bounced up and down obviously full of energy. I knelt down, whispered to her that we wanted a quiet less energetic dog and she immediately sat and let out a quiet little boof. I read her bio and it said she was an ‘aggressive cat chaser’, so I again knelt down and told her sorry, we have a cat and once again, she looked me in the eyes and said “I promise I’ll be good” and she has been.
I have a new horse now… Kiera. She isn’t the horse I set out to get… a 15hh quarterhorse gelding 10-14 years old that had been there and done that… but she’s the horse that chose me. Kiera made no such promises of good behavior. She looked me in the eyes and said “you may not know it yet, but I’m your horse.” I told her she wasn’t and continued to weigh the pros and cons of several of the horses I had looked at. But somehow that look stuck with me. I’ve spent the last year working with Kiera, mostly on the ground and we have developed a pretty good relationship. I have difficulty setting and keeping boundaries with my animals. I want to shower them with treats, pet, groom and play with them to show them how much I love them.
We had Michael Sparling out again this week and I had several more aha moments regarding my willingness to become the confident and fair leader Kiera needs in order for her to respect and trust me. So we will continue our journey and someday have the relationship that can’t be built on just treats and butt scratches.