Yep, another mistake. I was working with Jethro and his owner last Friday and got bigger than I needed to and he tipped too far into worry to keep learning. I had to take a breath and slow down until he felt better about what we were doing. It seems to be the way it goes, but holy cow, it’s so frustrating! We try, we make mistakes, we try again, and we learn. Horsemanship has lots of mistakes. When I think of the horses I knew from 2002 until now, I cringe. I let so many of them down with my lack of knowledge and with the mistakes I made. There are so many times I’ve quit on a horse and sent him down the road because I didn’t know how to handle the situation, or I was scared of his/her behavior, or impatient. Sometimes those thoughts stop me in my tracks and paralyze me. I get angry at myself and think what in the world am I doing? I don’t know enough! I’m a bad person! If anyone knew how incompetent I am they would never trust my opinion! But then I settle, I remember, I let the words of my teachers settle in my brain I let the feeling of a horse reaching up to say hi to me reach my heart. Because of my human teachers and four legged teachers, I have learned. I have a learn a lot!
Lets look at Dutchess and travel back in time to the year 2004. She was our sons horse. Nick loved Dutch, he went trail riding and gaming with her and they were a good team. Then she broke her scapula out in the pasture one night. She recovered enough to move but was never the same after that. She got mean! I mean really mean. She would hiss like a goose and kick you when you tried to get on her. Once you were on her she would kick the bottom of your foot. Nick became afraid of her and quit coming to the barn. I became afraid of her and didn’t know what to do. So I sold her to my friend who bought and sold horses. He knew the situation and he probably matched her up with someone that knew what they were doing. I sure didn’t . Looking back, the meanness she showed probably was because she was in pain. Today I would have waited it out longer, called in a chiropractor, called in a body worker, changed her diet and added herbs to help her with inflammation…. So many things I’ve learned since she was here. She’s one I wished I knew then what I know now.
Lets take a look at JJ. I had decided that join up was something I really wanted to do with each and every horse that I owned. Yep, every single one of them! Even JJ, the one that knew me, who knew my heart and soul. As you read this you probably think, No, don’t do it Cheryl! But alas, I did, I put my best friend in the round pen and chased him, moved him, and tried to make him submit. He ran away from me, looking over his shoulder and keeping his eyes on me like I was a deadly snake. I eventually stopped and met his eyes. I fell to my knees in horror of what I almost did. I almost broke our trust, I will never forget the feeling of that. If I was trying to be a horse advocate, how could I have tried to make him submit like that? I was so humiliated and overwhelmed with a feeling of total stupidity. JJ came to me as I knelt there and touched me with his muzzle on the top of my head. I know, it’s ok he said. You stopped, I still trust you. Thank God he knew who I was in real life and that the creature that almost ran his heart to the ground wasn’t who I was.
See, the horses are cool like that. They know our intent, even when we make mistakes. Maybe they know that we have to learn from our mistakes, that we are human and our egos get in the way. They seem to make allowances for our egos. Thank God they do or I would be in lots of trouble. I’m a bit slower in making mistakes since one lesson I have learned over and over again from them is slow down so we can see when the learning stops and panic sets in. For some horses the panic comes fast when we put pressure on them, others it comes slowly. I’m finding even when I think I’m moving slow, for some horses it might not be slow enough. I’m not taking about moving in slow motion, I’m talking about increasing pressure. For example lets look at Tefah. For those that know me, Tefah has been the horse that has taught me more than any other. I have learned much more from her than she will ever learn from me. She has taught me to wait, to listen, that she is a horse that is so sensitive that we cannot use physical pressure, she responds to my thoughts and intent and responds quickly! It’s hard because when I work with her, my direction has to come from the inside, the rope can’t pull on her, the reins cannot be used to drag her along. She will resist any pressure past what gets her moving. And by moving I mean her moving on the inside. If I put pressure on her past that tipping place I lose her. I used to lose her a lot, but it’s getting better. I wasn’t sure I was right in what I was doing with her, so I sent her off to my friend, Heather, who I trust absolutely, and who knows who I want to me with my horses. I was so relieved to find out she thought the same thing as I did.
So, the moral of this story is it’s ok to make mistakes, don’t let your past relationships that failed with horses stop you. Try not to go down that rabbit hole, keep learning, keep trying and thank the horses that were here before you know what you know now. Let the guilt go and don’t be afraid to listen to your gut. The horses from the past are who have made you the horse person you are today. And if you still think your gut may be a little crazy, go ahead and ask someone to help you, someone who knows who you are with horses and can give you an honest evaluation. If you have people in your lives like that, you are truly blessed.