Friday, March 20, 2015

All We Need is Love - I Don't Need Lessons, I Can Feel His Spirit

    "In the process, she discovered that horses are intensely emotional, intuitive, intelligent beings. They are true reflections of our deepest souls." 

     Many, many moons ago, a fellow trainer gave me a book to read, The Tao of Equs: A Woman's Journey of Healing and Transformation Through the Way of the Horse. There was one particular chapter she wanted me to read and think about. 

"Don't read the first 100 pages, it will poison you against the very valid passage I think you'd like," she warned. 

Of course I read it from the beginning. She was right. I almost doubted her sanity. For those of you not familiar with this particular book, the woman goes through a spiritual awakening while walking with her horse for a year or something. 
  The part that still sticks with me today, is not of course the part she wanted me to read, it comes from that first hundred pages. This woman's journey didn't begin until she sold her first horse and bought another. The first horse would go crazy if tied, to the point of violence. The woman refused to let the trainers she encountered work the horse because they were cruel. Instead, she sold the horse and then began walking her spiritual path with a more appropriate partner. 
  I always had great success training horses to stand tied. Even the bad ones. It didn't take beating, or chains, or cattle prods. I couldn't help but wonder how the  horse's journey of healing and transformation went. You know, the one who was sent down the road with her vice compounded many times over.

Anyway, let's fast forward many years, to just last week. My Reiki Master was doing whatever the heck it is she does to my back. My nerves were jumping, things were popping and realigning, my PD was humming and she was barely touching me. I don't understand how it works, but it does.

"I want to buy a foal," she said.

"Really, a foal?" 

"You stopped breathing, remember, it's all in the exhale," she said. "I want a white one. So keep your eye out for me."

I stayed quiet, but my mind started jumping. I knew she had owned a horse before. I had half-listened to tales of a crazy old gelding she had saved from being put down. She had "listened to his heart and tamed him," and he lived with her until he died. If I remembered right, she had never ridden him. Age, lameness, crazy, something, something, something.

It's the kind of story I smile and nod at, but keep as firm a grip on my opinion and eye rolls as possible. There is a type of horse person in the world that approaches horses as a magical, mystical, spiritual experience. I don't really have a problem with it. If this is what floats your boat, fine, it's another horse off the truck to Mexico.

"I might have to wait a while, I have to find a place to keep him."

Good thing, I thought, maybe she'll let go of the idea and get a white kitten or something. 

"I'd keep him where my sister keeps her horse, but the barn owner, Lucy is such a bitch," she added. 
"She is so mean."

"That really surprises me," I said. "Lucy was a client of mine years back, and our biggest struggle was getting her to step up and be tough when she needed to. She was a good rider though."

Step up was an understatement. Lucy was so afraid of making a mistake, making a horse sore, doing something the horse didn't like, she was almost frozen in place. She had been better when we parted ways, but not cured. Her personal horses were gentle and easy going, and she had progressed enough to be safe, but that was about it.

"She is so mean to my sister," my Reiki master continued, "One day we took her horse out to graze. He gets stubborn sometimes, and he wouldn't pick his head up from the grass. I was behind him waving my arms but he wouldn't move. He was mad because the other horses had been biting him. I think he wanted them to see him eating the grass.

"Lucy came up and said, 'You need to whip that horse and get him moving.' My sister told her, ,I'll never hit my horse, ever!' Then that bitch said, 'If you don't do something, somebody is going to get hurt someday. Can you believe it? She threatened her!"

Her fingertips dug deep into my vertebrae. Her indignation was totally upsetting my spiritual energy. 

"I don't think she was threatening anyone," I said. "She was warning your sister that a rude horse can become dangerous."

"He isn't rude, he's just a little difficult. We can walk him all over the trails."

It suddenly clicked. When she said walking, she meant leading. I knew the horse and I knew the sister. The horse was a Tennessee Walker, well-bred and expensive. He came from a training facility that specialized in gentle, broke-to- death trail horses. Within a month he was rearing, refusing to leave the barn, yanking through his bitless bridle and grazing at will. He wasn't above threatening with a tail snap, a raised hind foot and a snaky head. 

At first, Lucy had her kids ride him, he was fine for them. Gentle, mannerly, great on the trail, but he had the sister's number. She petted him a lot. Led him around, cried in his mane, and complained about having been ripped off. A lot.

Lucy suggested a few lessons with me, which she rejected, because she had seen me, I was mean to my horses. She knew in his heart, her horse was a good boy, he was trying to tell her something was wrong. 

The last I saw of her she was leading him down a trail, going on a "hike." 

This woman was still leading her horse, nine years later, and was the horse expert/mentor for my Reiki master. 

Lucy is not a bitch. After nine years of this nonsense I think she might be a little on edge. Don't get me wrong. If a horse owner wants to commune spiritually with their horse while they meander side by side through the woods, that's okay, whatever. 

What is not okay is refusing to learn from the knowledgeable people around you.  It is not okay to allow your horse to become an angry brat because you don't understand how horses think. It endangers you, your horse and the people who have to handle the horse. 

There is an arrogance to this kind of thinking that just blows me away. To presume your inner voices, or your balance with the Mother, or the alignment of the planets is enough to bear the responsibility of owning a horse  is beyond me. 

There is a lack of respect, for the people who have dedicated years to learning about horses and for the horses themselves. To consider your personal interpretation of bad and good, kindness and cruelty, or natural and unnatural behavior the right path to take, without having any knowledge based in fact or experience is stupidity at best, and blind ignorance at it's worst.

I am not keeping an eye out for a white foal. Normally, I just shut this kind of horse person down and walk away. Instead, because I like my Reiki master, and think she might hear me if I approach this right, I am going to take her out for coffee and we'll have a little bit of conversation. 

Who knows? Maybe, just maybe I could get her to the point where she could adopt a twenty or thirty year old one of these...

...and we could keep another one off the truck.


Anonymous said...

Funny, but not really if you know people like that. I've known a few, including my own sister.

emma said...

we have people at my farm who, as a local saddler said, 'will always be looking for the right saddle and never riding.' and i think nothing of it bc, like you say - 'it's another horse off the truck' ...

while i'm not convinced any of these barn mates will ever ride seriously, they at least DO take lessons from professionals, which i suppose is the point you're hoping to make to your friend. good luck!

rockysgirl said...

I agree wholeheartedly - you endanger the horse's life when you don't keep him/her reasonable on the ground and ensure they know a job. It's not cute when someone has been intending to ride/drive/train that last foal out of their favorite mare for the past fifteen years but just "got busy". It's equivalent to raising a child without giving them basic coping skills for the adult world. What makes people like that think they'll always be around to make excuses for their delicate flower? Have they allocated funds for the rest of that horse's life should something happen to "mommy"? Are they brave enough to have the horse put down if they can't care for them anymore? I'm all for people's right to adopt the old or lame if they don't want to ride/drive/work the horse, it's a great kindness to give horses like that a good life. That good life should include functional ground manners, both for the sake of the horse and for the vets, farriers, farm sitters, and barn staff that will be in its life. However, if the horse is young & sound it's inexcusable to allow them to remain an untrained, spoiled, 1,000 lb. lap dog. If you just want to love them and pet them and not deal w/the responsibilities, get thee to a petting zoo.

Anonymous said...

It simply is a disservice to the horse to not instill good ground manners. I have a friend who doesn't ride anymore, but her 2 mares have good ground manners, no ifs ands or buts. She understands that training is FOR the horse's good, and on that note her younger mare is being trained to ride, even tho she will never ride the horse herself - it is insurance for the horse's future (no truck ride)!

Anonymous said...

I know someone who has a horse she bred from her old mare. She was a good mare and was sent to a good stallion so the 'foal' is a beauty (anglo arab), sound with a lovely free movement. He was sent away to be professionally schooled and then...nothing. In the last ten years I've never seen him out of his field. The farrier and vet go to the field to him because the owner can't get him out. The mad thing is she isn't ignorant by any means. Her horse is in great condition, she knows how to spot and treat lameness and illness (and more importantly knows how to keep a horse healthy in the first place), can make useful suggestions if anyone else is having problems and is one of the few people I trust to look after my horses if I can't get there. I can only assume she's lost her nerve yet she appears confident enough around my horses and has a pony for her children. It's a mystery really but I do wonder what would happen to him should she have an accident or even have to move him to another yard.

Russinka said...

I was informed my horse tried to sit on the farrier last week while having his feet done. (I'm normally there but the only free appointment was during work hours so one of the other agistment girls caught him and held for me)
At the time the girl who was holding him didn't or couldn't explain why he'd done this so I rang the farrier to find out what the go was. He seemed a bit shocked that I was following it up but I've got a great crew of horse health people. I've worked hard to find the best people in my area to work on my horse and the last thing I want to do is lose those people because they don't want to deal with an unsafe horse. Having worked on a TB stud with a bunch of feral mares, I don't blaim them. Having a well mannered horse is like paying them on time, with the correct money and making sure the horse is clean and ready for them when they arrive, you may not lose them if you don't do that but getting a future appointments may also be really tricky.
Upshot of the story was that the girl holding the horse had also brought her non-horsey friend and her friend's young daughter, the kid was appearently running round underfoot and ran straight under my doozing horse's nose. He jerked back as the farrier was working on a back foot and almost sat down. I won't be asking her to hold him again, I don't like being lied to and I don't like my horse and my farrier being put in that situation, though clearly it is time for some "kidproofing" with the horse. I don't have kids and the two or three kids who are out there are older/better managed/know better. So a hole I didn't know was there has been found in his training/life skills and we go from there.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, the barn I haul my horses to ride is half full of middle age women with pet horses. Off the truck, paying board and vet and farrier, so I won't say anything negative about them per se. However, when they sit on the porch watching me work a coming 2 year old who kept trying to climb over me rather than step through a muddy spot....Sorry, dangerous and unacceptable, especially when she knows better. A few bops with a pool noodle and she decided the mud was better than my lap. But, I was "really mean" and "hitting" my horse. Yup, hollow foam, not a rope or a whip...hollow foam, which she then wore on her back, got groomed with, and walked through a curtain of. I don't think she was scarred by the experience.

Erin said...

Ahhhh what a great article!!! You nailed it.

Mo said...

your story was cringe-worthy. such a disservice to the horse to live a life without discipline, and bodes poorly for its future. good luck with the future discussion, maybe you can convince her what the horses perspective and herd dynamics are, vice human perspective, but it will be a tough nut to crack. amazed at how many times people who meet my two horses say how well behaved they are and gee, they don't try to bite or run over you, like that is what the visitor is used to. maybe one of your well behaved horses will convince her there is more to the story.

NotAFollower said...

I volunteered at a horse rescue for most of a year, and one of the things that drove me away was the barnowner/executive director's habit of not consistently training her own horses. Most were just a bit of a nuisance to handle, but one was outright dangerous.

He would bite you from behind while you cleaned his paddock, bit the handyman on the side hard enough to leave a bruise as large as my two hands together, would kick, and would run right through anyone or anything that he didn't feel like respecting.

I refused to handle him after the first time he grabbed my britches while I was cleaning his paddock, other folks thought it was 'cute'. The owner/director kept saying he was going for training "next month".

This same rescue only rarely successfully places a horse (seems like half their adoptees are returned), can't keep a trainer involved, etc...

NotAFollower said...

Addendum: the barnowner/executive director also thought every horse was "just such a love", "totally sweet"...even right after it had threatened someone.

Mona Sterling said...

This post made me laugh. I totally get it and yet I am currently a lady who 'walks' her horse. BUT (and it's a BIG but!) my trainer has me walking my horse to instill good ground manners before I get on. So it's walking and keeping him out of my space. And making him stop when I stop. And back up when I back up. And move sideways from pressure and on and on and on. Okay, I talked a circle....maybe it's not just walking. :)

I have ABSOLUTELY no issue with the older women who just want big, expensive horse-dogs, but much like dogs, you MUST instill manners. It's not the not riding that's the big issue, it's the no ground manners that makes some owners and horses dangerous.

BigYellowMoneyVacuum said...

I love you. But you already know that.

Anonymous said...

Russinka, you've reminded me of an incident when we had the farrier. Our hard standing is quite near the main gate so passers-by often stop with their children to say hello (they particularly love our 30 yo shetland who is a sweetheart so I'm usually happy to oblige them with a pat). On this occasion a young woman with a little boy of about 4 were watching the farrier work with a keen interest and asked if they could come in for a closer look. We don't usually invite people inside the gate but the farrier was happy so we let them in. Imagine our horror when the woman immediately sat down cross-legged right behind our pony with the little boy on her lap 'so they could get a good view'! Thankfully it was our old welsh boy who has never been anything but a perfect gentleman but I really couldn't believe anyone could be that ignorant. Even non-horsey people generally know that they can kick!

Jan Blawat said...

I have owned Tennessee Walking Horses for 40 years. I have also had not one, but two, Reiki masters. TWH are notable for being one of the easiest breeds for novices, not just because of easy gaits, but a doggy disposition. Both of the geldings I now own were trained by a QH trainer. She only had them a month and sent them home because they were already dead broke. They were. Anyone who can turn one of these into a problem is hopeless and shouldn't have a horse.

MichelleL said...

There are people who should not own animals. There are people who should not have children.

There are people who should get therapy...a lot of one on one therapy before they have children or animals.

Sad reality is that is not going to happen. So you end up seeing, the sort of things that you described in the past two postings, everyday.

The horse I have today is the last one I will own. I don't ride because I lost my nerve decades ago after a fall off my pony put me in a wheelchair for several months. Riding is not what makes me feel whole with the horses, it is the care taking. The problem the heck did you do THAT?! Why are you doing THAT?! What does that MEAN?!

You ride? Cool. You hand walk your horse for hours? Great.

You let your horse bite, threaten, kick, stomp, lunge at, or allow them to be a rotten, spoiled brat then you are failing them in a big way and I am not OK with that.

Your horse is two humans removed from taking a long, scary ride to Mexico. You can't handle him because he is a brat and you sell him. Next person "knows" what they are doing and buys the brat you made. The Brat you made breaks that persons leg. Brat goes to first Auction that will take it. Too many good horses at
the Auction. No one wants a Brat. Brat gets on the "wrong" trailer for a long, scary ride across the border.

It would have been kinder to have the Brat you made Euthanized.

But then I don't have to tell any of you that.

longinthetooth said...

After some health issues, including some surgeries that have taken a long time to heal, I've been a walker for the past 2 years. Somewhere in there, I lost my nerve- found fear- experienced my own mortality- what ever you want to call it. So in some sense, I relate to these women... but in all reality, while I love my horses and will gratefully cry in their manes, I demand good ground behavior and respect. That good ground behavior is what is going to get me back up on their backs, with confidence, so I can become the rider I used to be and want to be again.

Valerie said...

The difference I am reading is that if you walk your horses do to confidence or physical ability you STILL require your horse to respect you and your space. No nibbling, pushing, etc.

Ive seen the "walkers" who don't ride because the horse is no longer ride-able due to behavioral issues, and the ground manners are horrendous to the point that they are dangerous to be around. The people are all about love and feelings and the horse choosing to be with them. Of course they are the first ones to rip me a new one for riding with spurs and "pain" devices. While I can walk my horse to the pasture with no lead rope and he respectfully moves out of my space with a glance so.....

The other thing ive noticed is that 9/10 the horses are overweight too because snookums needs his grain!

Killing them with kindness is still killing them

Heather said...

I tell the kids I coach: "If you never want to have to get mean with your horse, don't ever spoil them." And then I explain that, I don't mean that they can't hug on them and love them. I hug and love all over my own horses and they see that.

I explain that, horses need structure and discipline. As long as you maintain that structure and discipline, they'll respect you and that's what matters. After that, you can hug them, braid ribbons into their manes, paint them pink, or whatever.

But they must respect you. And that is all.

I think this goes back to a comment I made a while ago about "RTFM".

PonyFan said...

I am currently boarding at a barn that has a reputation of being a "walker haven". Most of the clients are retired ladies who are committed to their horses, but have other priorities. The younger crowd seems to stay here just long enough to move on to the next big thing.

Mostly, because I work there on weekends, I have to laugh a little bit whenever I hear them talk. Those old ladies who never ride? Make it out to the barn five times a week, and usually ride at least three days. They're retired, so they have lessons and are gone before noon!

The "serious" riders who mock them? Are never out before noon on the weekends, if they show up at all.

The older crowd doesn't ride "old", "dead", or "pokey" horses either. So and so's big lazy gelding? Is 17 plus hands of young warmblood. She handles him with ease, while kicking his ass every time she rides.

Her shiny chestnut trail-blazer? Is an OTTB. Nuff said. He's sure gotten supple to the right now.

What about the "schoolmaster"? Sure, he's had ten years of eventing experience, but that little old lady got him for a song, because he's way too much horse for most riders; he came here with a contraption you'd have to see to beleive, and he still had no brakes!

It goes without saying that all of those horses lead well, tie well, stand for the farrier, load, etc. . .

Scamp said...

I'm a bit prejudiced against anyone who does reiki, I'm afraid. I think for good reason:

My husband knew a woman from college who, because she had horses, he was convinced would become a great friend of mine. I tried to tell him all horse people are nuts, but he wouldn't listen. :)

Anyway, she lived in Florida, and we went to see her one year, while visiting with my dad.
She was a "reiki master" (studied with the ONLY REAL reiki master on the continent, the rest of them are hacks, don't ya know?) AND KNEW EVERYTHING about horses, or so she said. She had cured her TBs white line with 100% chondroitin (or was it glucosomine? I forget which she said) which she had to buy direct from a pharmaceutical company because none of those crap supplements you can buy provide enough. She maintained them by doing reiki on them. My County saddle was crap - I needed to have an Amerigo, they're the only saddles worth anything. And she was best friends with the leading dealer in the US of course, and he gave her the best price.

I listened to her and just kept my mouth shut. Her husband, who was deaf (probably a good thing) and an artist (he actually is responsible for the Captain Morgan rum Captain Morgan) was nice, so I concentrated on that.

When she brought up the fact that my husband was limping, he claimed sciatica. Which she, of course, could cure with reiki.

She also had taken up bagpipes when my husband knew her, and had been playing ever since. She wanted to show him how she'd now become a bagpipe master, so her husband was volunteered to do the reiki.

My husband was stretched out on a massage bench, and her husband started to move his hands around my husbands butt. Then, with an ungodly screech, the concert began.

It may have been the most surreal moment of my life.

Anyway, my husbands hips were replaced (it wasn't sciatica it was dysplasia) a couple of years later, and we never went to see her again.

mugwump said...

Scamp - A bit?
My daughter coaxed me into trying Reiki. The reason? Nerve endings gone nuts that make any touch painful.
She gave me two sessions for my birthday.
So I went.
I'm not going to promote, explain or suggest anything, but it's been a dramatic step in the right direction.
She doesn't perform Reiki on my horse.

Michelle L said...

If it works it works. I don't have to know why. I just have to know it does.

I have an intuitive that I LOVE who also does energy healing. I have been to see her several times over the last two years but I found myself skeptical of the energy healing (yeah I know...)I called her in a really tizzy last month and she suggested an energy healing session. I was so stressed out and unhappy that I agreed.
By the end of that session I felt SO much better. I don't know why. I don't care. I felt better. I am a believer.
There are people who can train animals that no one else can touch. There are people who can use the energy of the Universe to heal.
Recognizing the genuinely gifted amongst the wannabe's is not always easy.

Helen said...

This really belongs in the "For goodness sake, knock it off" thread, but that's gone off the front page... I thought you would enjoy this dressage vid, which is featuring two things I don't normally associate with dressage: casual fun and a good sense of humour! The next vid with a bay mare is lovely as well.

Scamp said...

A bit. :)

I'm glad it works for you, I don't have any personal experience with what you're going through and I should probably have kept it to myself.

Probably if she'd been less abrasive and not a complete know-it-all, to the point of ridiculing any other opinion about horse husbandry, I'd have at least tolerated her. She really was such a piece of work I started having doubts about my husband's understanding me at all. :)

And then of course there was the bagpipe concert...

mugwump said...

Beautiful video Helen

Clancy said...

There are many ways of teaching horses to have good ground manners and be gentle around people, not barge them, etc. Release of pressure is one way, positive rewards (treats, scratches, praise to train verbal cues and no, don't need to provide treat every time we request the behaviour after the horse learns the cue) is another very effective way of training horses, and may sit better with people like the lady with the horse she walks.

SInce I have moved to using positive reinforcement with my horses they will back on a verbal request, come when called, walk with me off-lead in our paddock (not sure it would work out of our home paddock yet, working on that) and they have become much softer and more careful of me. I am very happy for them to be in my space as long as they are suitably gentle. :) I am not riding, that may or may not come in the future, doesn't matter.

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