There was a discusion in Patricia's diary about becoming emotional with a horse, and I thought we could just continue it here...
In this first post I just quote the corresponding posts, because I didn't want to cut it out of Patricia's diary:
When I first came back to riding after not doing it for a long time, I was working with my friend's horse David, who was a very smart, very clever Thoroughbred who had been treated harshly and learned that if he got big and aggressive, he'd scare people away. Susan had done a lot of work with him before I started working with him, so most of his panic was quieter than it had been, but he still knew that this was his best defense if something freaked him out. He would kick, bite, and rear if he felt the situation called for it. Unlike Stardust, who would run away emotionally when he was scared, David was ready for a fight -- sounds very much like Tir. And he was genuinely scary!
Between he and Stardust, I learned a lot about letting their emotions blow through me and never getting emotional back at them. It helped in two ways: we didn't get each other more upset, and they both learned that whatever happened, I wasn't going to be big and scary.
So -- I think your question about not getting emotional with Tir is a really good one, and my experience suggests that it helps to keep it as light and non emotional as you can, always. The less scary energy he has to push against, I think, the better. And I think, like all of us, he's looking for calm safety, ultimately. (That's what his herd brings him, and that's what he's beginning to learn he can find with you -- the more you can bring it to him, the more likely he'll begin to expect it with you, I think.)
Here are some videos of Hempfling working with horses who were aggressive and dangerous -- he never, ever responds to them with anything but softness:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LsoDoC9 ... re=relatedhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N4aM-ts ... re=relatedhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMBncWJc ... re=related
His energy is clear, but never big and emotional. And his energy is really grounded! He holds his space, flexibly, and he is totally focused on the horse with great, but quiet, confidence. And the look of relief on all three of these horses faces is just amazing as they begin to trust him.
Hope this helps! I think you two are making progress -- it just never seems to go in a straight line!
Oh -- one other thought. Hempfling is my favorite trainer this week :-) and I just read something yesterday from his book What Horses Reveal
-- he has a theory that the horses we are drawn to reflect a part of ourselves, our personality. I've been thinking about this with Stardust and Circe (who reflect my schizophrenia, I think because they're so different!) :-) -- but, seriously, this has actually been a really interesting idea for me, because I can see Stardust's sensitivity/uncertainty and Circe's wild enthusiasm both in myself, and thinking about it in this way has helped me to imagine how to talk with them, because I know how I want to be treated when I am thinking in those ways.
From a distance, it feels to me like you have instinctively found a horse who has the fire and passion that you have, but he's far more afraid of the world than you. What helps to calm you down when you are scared or angry? What responses, emotions, thoughts back to you help? Thinking about that might help you think through how to work through this more with Tir.
Oh, I liked those videos.
For me Hempfling is a great inspiration when it comes to horses, mainly because of those body language and energy things.
However, there is one thing that I can't totally agree with: the statement that people shouldn't become emotional. This is because emotion is not only anger and aggression. In fact I think that it is very important to be emotional. Surely most trainers do mean that you shouldn't become negatively
emotional when they make that statement, but I have also met people who told me that you shouldn't become emotional, negatively as well as positively, because horses can't deal with that, no matter in which direction. And that's the point where I have to disagree.
Maybe there are some situations when a horse can't stand any emotion whatsoever. But in general I believe that it is one of the most important aspects of my training that I am very emotional with them. Haha, sometimes I really can't stop laughing because they are so wonderful. In our normal training anyway, but also in the time when Summy had been dangerous last winter, I found it to be of enormous importance to show love and joy. When I tried to watch our training a little more consciously at that time, I remember that my smile and open attitude disappeared for the moment when he was rearing and then suddenly reappeared again when he came down. So I guess that in that very moment I became unemotional, but directly afterwards I was back.
For Summy it changes everything and I guess if he could, he would laugh and squeal just as much as I do in those situations. But also for Titum whose feelings are less directed outwards I see the importance of that. We can push each other so much sometimes that I am afraid that one of us will be exploding soon.
Surely nothing you want in a horse like in those Hempfling videos, but there is also this very calm but still highly emotional interaction in other situations. And I have to say that I do miss this a little bit in his first video when the horse finally opens himself up for him. He remains tepid.
There are as many ways as there are trainers and obviously he gets along extremely well. I just wanted to add that there might be some more possibilities than just turning off emotions.
However, there is one thing that I can't totally agree with: the statement that people shouldn't become emotional. This is because emotion is not only anger and aggression. In fact I think that it is very important to be emotional. Surely most trainers do mean that you shouldn't become negatively emotional when they make that statement, but I have also met people who told me that you shouldn't become emotional, negatively as well as positively, because horses can't deal with that, no matter in which direction. And that's the point where I have to disagree.
Maybe there are some situations when a horse can't stand any emotion whatsoever. But in general I believe that it is one of the most important aspects of my training that I am very emotional with them. Haha, sometimes I really can't stop laughing because they are so wonderful. In our normal training anyway, but also in the time when Summy had been dangerous last winter, I found it to be of enormous importance to show love and joy.
Oh, Romy, you are SO right! When I was thinking about emotion, I was thinking about negative emotion -- but that is only half (or less) of the spectrum!
Yes, yes, yes, and you've pushed my thinking beyond where I was. (That's SO cool!)
As I think about it, when I first started working with Stardust, I learned first not to hold negative emotions when I came towards him (fear, frustration, etc.), but also not to have any emotions that were too big. If I came to him with too much joy or love, this would also freak him out. I'm guessing that it was because he didn't understand those emotions, and anything that was emotionally "noisy" got first translated as being threatening. (He was very, very shut down.)
I learned then to just be quiet and open, with offerings of love and joy very, very softly there, under the surface. But never too loud, never too pushy with them. (This took a great deal of discipline for me, by the way, as I wanted to love on him with exuberance! It has taught me a lot about being receptive and patient.)
Then, as he started to feel better, he would occasionally have a burst of energy and joy when he was moving -- these were always a little edgy, as if he wasn't sure what to do with his own emotions. If I got too joyful with him when he did this, this would startle him as well and he'd either get really nervous or shut down again.
As we've played and worked together over the last several years, we've been able to find bigger emotions with each other, and enjoy those. (Especially in the wild playing moments -- these have become big fun, and we can whoop together with excitement, spurring each other on.) But, mostly, he's most comfortable when I'm gentle in my emotions with him -- that open, gentle, positive, loving place that I try to find and maintain -- I think, for him, it allows him to feel things without them getting bigger than he can handle. For him, fun is mostly quiet, still.
Circe, on the other hand, loves it when I laugh with her. She loves to egg me on and be egged on in turn.
And, for both of them, if they are spooked by something, often the most helpful emotion I can have is a little amusement at all of us and how silly we can be when silly things scare us. (And I do try hard to include myself in that amusement, not simply dismiss them as being silly. I try very hard never to laugh at anyone else without also at the same time laughing at myself.)
And, watching Hempfling with this in mind, I don't think he is without emotion -- I put it badly before, and not accurately (again, thinking about negative emotions). I think he's a master at that open, soft, loving, clear energy that allows horses to open themselves and find their own softness. I watch some trainers and they are so cut off from their own emotions that they look and feel extremely cold, which feels like a certain kind of awful dominance -- he doesn't ever feel that way to me.
Thank you, so much, Romy, for pointing this out -- it is a far richer understanding of how we use emotion with horses than I'd been thinking about!
PS: Edited addition: Here's another Hempfling video, where he's playing with the horse in the first few seconds of the clip -- grinning from ear to ear, very playful!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9OUPi8r ... re=related
I think the key with "negative" emotions is to feel them, express them if neccessary in an appropriate way.... and let them go.. Don't hold on.
Sunrise is a master at handling Harlequins annoyingness.. he has a habit of barging up behind to swipe flies off his shoulder.. or nip someone on the butt for a bit of fun. Sunrise turns on her "STOP THAT BUSINESS" communication the moment he enters her space from behind. Her head goes up, her ears go back, and she nods up a couple of times. If there's no response, she goes to phase two, shuffling her butt backwards, from side to side, while maintaining phase one. She looks REALLY serious. If there's still no response (usual
) she goes to phase three, which is cocking and lifting a hind leg.. then phase four, pushing back into his chest with her raised foot.. and finally phase five, pistoning with her raised foot, back and forth into his chest. The moment, the very instant, that Harlequin moves off to the side, looking a little chagrined, Sunrise's ears flop back out to her customary sideways floppy pose, her hindquarters rest, her head drops, and she gets her happy sleepy look on her face.
She is my role model.
She's never really kicked out at another horse in her life, as far as I know. But she can do awesome performances of grumpy mare.
For the hoof lifting though, I don't even think I'd do any correction of the bum turning, even if it was overtly threatening. He's doing it because he feels defensive, so any correction will probably only make him feel more defensive. Teach him the don't turn your butt lesson at another time. I would just really make it my job to keep myself in a safe position, no matter how the horse responds... and if he does respond with aggressive behaviour, move myself, and praise him, scratch his butt.. find a way to put a positive spin on it. "Oh you GOOD horse, you are really so worried about this that it makes you think about kicking, but you controlled yourself and only turned your butt and lifted your leg and pretended to kick me! You're the best!"
I do sometimes use a rope to lift the leg if I really can't stand safely by the hip.. I put a loop of soft rope around inside thigh, then step back to shoulder and let the rope drop to fetlock. Start praising, even if the horse is kicking. Reward when they stand still. When they're relaxed with it being there, use the rope to start signalling gently for a pick up. Up and down a lot, finally when the horse is relaxed lifting hoof up, use the rope to hold the weight of the hoof forward. I don't actually do any work.. it's just desensitization and perception modification.. turning what they first perceive as a bad experience into a good one. THe rope allows me to stand forward and not be scared into responding negatively if they kick and fuss. (Which is hard otherwise.. many times I cursed at Rosie in my fear..and hurt.. few nice hoof shaped prints on my thighs..)
I too love the KFH DVDs and books. Love the way he moves with the horses, love his leading methods. I reckon it's really worthwhile to watch his second DVD a few times to really absorb that body language of leading.