As I am enjoying my work with the horses and children a lot and feel like I am learning ever so much from that, I want to collect some of these lessons in this thread. I will start by copying an older post from Titum's diary and will add more of our experiences later.
This one is about the Aylin lessons, describing how a young girl made me see how to inspire my horses to show more energy again.
I have had some weird days with the horses - or with my own behaviour actually, the horses were just very clear in pointing that out to me.
Titum had given up on me again one or two weeks ago already and often preferred eating fresh hay to training, but lately I had even managed to kill Pia's playdrive. In the first days I had still told myself that it was just the horses being busy with something else and thus not that interested in training per se. However, when even little rocket Pia started our sessions being very interested and playful in the beginning and then after some minutes decided that hay was more interesting than me, I could not deny anymore that something was wrong with me
There's nothing new in this post, just the same thing we are having again and again: me handling our training like chores, being not motivated to put enough effort into it, not being flexible enough and not being interested in their offers enough, no matter if I had asked for them or not. Or in other words: I was asking either too difficult or too boring things, did not care enough if they did them and was not interested in hearing the horses shouting at me that something was wrong - or actually NOT shouting but shutting up more and more.
The tricky thing about those situations is that when they happen, again and again the little voice in my head starts nagging: "That's all because you don't train with pressure. Horses need some boundaries. Without them they will lose all their interest and energy. Many people who once started training in a completely free choice way, some among them who you really admired, have gone back to leadership ideas. Now that's what you get for being too stubborn to do the same."
One thing I replied to this voice within me was that with Pia I have never ever used pressure as a motivator to get a training result, so if the detrimental effects of this started showing now, 2.5 years after I got her, this was a bit late. But then Pia is at least as stubborn as me, so maybe it just takes longer with her.
Lucky as I am, I had many children visiting us on Saturday. One of them was Aylin, a girl you also see in last year's riding video with Summy. Aylin used to be completely hyperactive. Now that she has been living with my mother for about two years she is doing much better, but still she's a wild child. All my horses adore her. While I was preparing things for my birthday party, I watched her train with the horses out of the corner of my eye. And what I saw was a Titum (aka "He who is pretending to be an old man") canter up and down the pasture with her.
In the first instance I was happy to see they were having fun, but there also was some jealousy and disappointment: when has he cantered as happily as that with me the last time? Of course he canters with me on cue, but in such a happy and playful way? When I thought about this again tonight, I started feeling like an awful horse person, even being able to kill the motivation of great horses like the ones I am privileged to share my life with. I mean, how bad can you be if you even get a Pia to be uninterested?
I was already preparing to go home, bathing myself in self-pity and telling myself that maybe I was just a bit overworked and needed some rest, when another voice within me started speaking up. It was the gift I had gotten from my mother when I was a child, the "Pull yourself together and stop whining, you can do everything you really want to do." So I started asking myself what Aylin had done to make all three horses, especially Titum, that interested in playing wild stuff.
First, she loves the horses. She is happy about whatever they offer. Second, and this might sound contradictory to the first point but I think it really isn't, she just doesn't have the patience to sit and wait for the 500th repetition of an exercise. Once something got done, she needs a new task. Third, she never uses pressure with the horses. She just never learned about interacting with animals in a pressure-based way (and after watching her I can say with absolute certainty that she also hasn't taught herself to do so
). Fourth, she LOVES movement. She doesn't run with the horses because she wants them to run with her, but because she wants to run with them. The difference might sound very negligible, but I think that's basically what it all boils down to, and it makes a whole world of a difference to my horses.
I decided to do an experiment: if I could not get the rather uninterested Tit to be interested again, I could still go home and complain, but maybe I could... So I went towards him, gave him a treat and then started imagining that I was Aylin, with everything I just described. To cut a long story short, within less than two minutes he was chasing me over the pasture in canter.
Sometimes I think it's just good to have children visiting me who remind me to become normal again.