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PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:05 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:37 am
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Location: Guisborough, England
I've read a few things about NLP in humans and are looking for someone to learn it! However, I see that there are people who use NLP when training horses, although I don't understand how! Is it an interaction between them and the horse?

Has anyone got any experience with NLP, both with humans and horses, and can let me know whether its really worth learning?

Thanks!


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:44 am 

Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 10:10 am
Posts: 184
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Here's some refs:
http://web.archive.org/web/200212160946 ... rt_nlp.htm
http://www.skepdic.com/neurolin.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/ ... son1/print
and the Wikipedia article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuro-ling ... rogramming
which seems quite balanced.
It seems to have been based on an idea to harness mental practices to "succeed", principally in business. Money appears to be heavily involved - which doesn't mean there's nothing in it, but does make it dubious in its applications to relations with other species.
Hope this is of use.
Rita

_________________
"There is always an alternative to every cruel act".


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 7:06 pm 
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Hi Andrew,

Like Rita, I'm not completely certain about NLP, but I did think this was interesting:

(from the Wikipedia article she referenced above)

Quote:
They claimed that there were a few common traits expert communicators – whether top therapists, top executives or top salespeople – all seemed to share:
• Everything they did in their work was in active pursuit of a clearly held goal or objective, rather than reacting to change.[52]
• They were exceedingly flexible in approach and refused to be tied down to using their skills in any one fixed way of thinking or working.[52][53]
• They had a strong awareness of the non-verbal feedback (unconscious communication and metaphor) they were getting, and responded to it[52][53] - usually in kind rather than by analyzing it.[54]
• They enjoyed the challenges of difficult ("resistant") clients, seeing them as a chance to learn rather than an intractable "problem"
• They respected the client as someone doing the best they knew how (rather than judging them as "broken" or "working")
• They had certain common skills and things they were aware of and noticed, that were intuitively "wired in".[53][55]
• They worked with precision, purpose and skill.[55][56]
• They kept trying different approaches until they learned enough about the structure holding a problem in place to change it.[52][53]


I think these are all great insights, and most are very helpful to think about when you spend time with horses. (Though I personally think the first one, about clearly held goals, is less relevant.) I don't, also, think that they are insights unique to NLP.

I guess my suggestion (which you can pay attention to or ignore at will -- which is one of the things I love about this forum! ;) )
is that if you're seeking a way to engage with your horses that is deeper, keeping ideas like above about listening, respect, learning, metaphor (i.e., what insights can you gain from your interactions with your horses that aren't literal, but instead connect to other "big ideas" in your life or their lives), etc. in your head makes a whole lot of sense.

And I think that some of the techniques that are utilized in NLP are also relevant to work with horses, for example:

• Learning what you can about body language and energy and such (which is at the basis of their "rapport" technique and something that people have been doing for a long time) is key with horses -- this is their most obvious form of communication with one another.
• "Reframing" -- which, as that Wikipedia article suggests is not their original idea, can also be really helpful. It can help you step back and think about your assumptions in a given situation with your horses, which can help you see all sorts of possibilities. It can be equally helpful, BTW, to think about how you can reframe a horse's experience -- for example, with my horse Stardust, who came to me very traumatized, we've done a lot to reframe almost everything in his life -- what it means to have human attention, what human touch means, how he can make decisions, etc.

But, NLP, or any other defined "system" that claims to fast track anyone into success or big comprehension about themselves and their world is, in my opinion and experience, overstating its abilities. Building awareness of and outside of ourselves takes time and commitment.

And, at least with horses, the whole "get other to do what you want" layer to NLP feels inappropriate to me, for what I'm working on. It's not what I need to learn about with horses -- I know how to demand from them, I know how to pressure them (even subtly) into responding to me. The great uncharted territory that is AND to me is about stepping back from that and instead learning to actually ask what THEY want and then start to have an actual conversation about what WE want...

Does any of that make sense?

Bottom line, nothing, in my mind, replaces calm, quiet, loving TIME with my horses to actually get to the kind of interactions I'm looking for...

So, I guess my question back to you, Andrew, is what is it about what you've read about NLP that's interesting to you? What is it offering that's attracting you?

Often, I think that's the more interesting question, because it gets you past someone else's system and into your own life and desires and patterns.

Would love to hear what you're thinking about this! :)

All the best,
Leigh

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"Ours is the portal of hope. Come as you are." -- Rumi
www.imaginalinstitute.com


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:24 pm 
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Among other "systems," I studied over the years as a mental health specialist was NLP. As you say, Leigh, it has it limits for me too philosophically and in tune with my personal goals with others, including animals.

Of all the many systems I did study, both professionally and personally outside my work, the one I found worked best for me was one that indeed held "the other," in respectful neutrality.

Being something of a literal thinker (probably a bit of my own developmental limitations akin to ADHD and similar 'disabilities') the one that worked so well for me was Dr. Thomas Gordon's "effectiveness training," in it's various permutations.

I think he wrote (he's deceased in the past few years) with some struggle with the issue of "control of others," and strict relationship building as it's opposed to "control."

But I know his vision about it was sound. I was trained by some of his collegues who generally had that same deep empathic connection to people in their lives, including their students, and it tends to rub off. ;)

In my work with disturbed children it was the treatment tool I came back to time and again, the child did not make himself behave as he does, but as the universe made him. If you wish to change him then you will fail. If you wish the best for him, and wish to RELATE to and with him, he may just choose to change on his own.

Bonnie reminds me of that daily. Just the challenge of putting on the halter. If I try to push it at her she rebels and pulls away. I've slipped enough times that it's still a challenge. I do better when I remember that the halter, no matter how badly, and how good my motives, is HER CHOICE to put on, not mine.

I know many tricks that would subdue her, and end with her submitting to the halter out of defeat rather than willingness. I saw many children become less themselves, and in a sense less the human they had the potential to be, by the use of coercion in treatment. As with them I will do the same with Bonnie.

We will relate about the halter. She loves the "treat," games. And is addicted to scratching in various places on her body. Of course she likes food treats too, and is very connected to the click sounds I make.

She comes to have her head rubbed if I simply hold up the two finger target. And we talk a great deal. Sometimes human talk, and sometimes equine talk with our breath, and our bodies. I'm learning to use the mother's communication skills, even the more rough ones. If Bonnie is pushy my arm is a mare's tail, or neck and head. If I want her to move over and stop crowding me, turning my hip into her, just as mother does at the feed bucket, works very nicely.

Gordon points out in his books that the methods he offers are about relationship, rather than getting something by coercion, from the child.

My training taught me a large repertoire of things to do to get the other to comply ... and this extends, for me, to both human behavior, and equine behavior when I worked professionally with horses.

My learning, in contrast to my training, taught me that I don't want to sacrifice relationship for compliance by the other. Not with humans, not with horses.

AND has been rather consistent in the support of relationship over compliance as the objective.

When I completed the second training I took from Tom Gordon's staff I understood that relationship building skill training should have been started for all human children at about the age of four. (Developmentally this is when social learning begins for human children).

How far are we from this?

When I asked my local school to consider a simple lesson plan on relationship building the asst. principle answered that they had already a very good language program. In other words, he did not hear me, and no matter how much I explained what I meant he either continued not to hear me, or to humor me as a liberal nut.

So how to relate to each other seems to take place in the hallways and out on the playground during recess. :D

I found NLP to be too much an extension of that same kind of thinking, and with a bit of self delusion that one is working on "relationship," when the task are in fact product outcome focused. Getting the other person to do what YOU want.

The Effectiveness training, at least the way I applied it, was and is focused on mutually satisfying outcomes. Which, as many AND style practitioners of horse handling learn soon enough, means I must sometimes change what I want, or even let it go.

That tickles me.

Donald

_________________
Love is Trust, trust is All
~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:45 pm 

Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 10:10 am
Posts: 184
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Somewhat akin to what I take Leigh and Donald to be saying about control and manipualtion in relationships is Martin Buber's thinking in "I and Thou" - an excellent guide to conceptualising our relations with other beings. It's a short read and might help balance the NLP viewpoint. He's rather neglected now, I think, but I'd be very surprised if anyone on this forum who's read "I and Thou" wouldn't say it was a turning point in their thinking in this area.
Rita

(P.S. Buber wrote some wonderful stuff about education, as well, and ethics. Is he perhaps still read in the US?)

_________________
"There is always an alternative to every cruel act".


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 12:08 am 

Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:37 am
Posts: 20
Location: Guisborough, England
Leigh wrote:
Hi Andrew,

Like Rita, I'm not completely certain about NLP, but I did think this was interesting:

(from the Wikipedia article she referenced above)

Quote:
They claimed that there were a few common traits expert communicators – whether top therapists, top executives or top salespeople – all seemed to share:
• Everything they did in their work was in active pursuit of a clearly held goal or objective, rather than reacting to change.[52]
• They were exceedingly flexible in approach and refused to be tied down to using their skills in any one fixed way of thinking or working.[52][53]
• They had a strong awareness of the non-verbal feedback (unconscious communication and metaphor) they were getting, and responded to it[52][53] - usually in kind rather than by analyzing it.[54]
• They enjoyed the challenges of difficult ("resistant") clients, seeing them as a chance to learn rather than an intractable "problem"
• They respected the client as someone doing the best they knew how (rather than judging them as "broken" or "working")
• They had certain common skills and things they were aware of and noticed, that were intuitively "wired in".[53][55]
• They worked with precision, purpose and skill.[55][56]
• They kept trying different approaches until they learned enough about the structure holding a problem in place to change it.[52][53]


I think these are all great insights, and most are very helpful to think about when you spend time with horses. (Though I personally think the first one, about clearly held goals, is less relevant.) I don't, also, think that they are insights unique to NLP.

I guess my suggestion (which you can pay attention to or ignore at will -- which is one of the things I love about this forum! ;) )
is that if you're seeking a way to engage with your horses that is deeper, keeping ideas like above about listening, respect, learning, metaphor (i.e., what insights can you gain from your interactions with your horses that aren't literal, but instead connect to other "big ideas" in your life or their lives), etc. in your head makes a whole lot of sense.

And I think that some of the techniques that are utilized in NLP are also relevant to work with horses, for example:

• Learning what you can about body language and energy and such (which is at the basis of their "rapport" technique and something that people have been doing for a long time) is key with horses -- this is their most obvious form of communication with one another.
• "Reframing" -- which, as that Wikipedia article suggests is not their original idea, can also be really helpful. It can help you step back and think about your assumptions in a given situation with your horses, which can help you see all sorts of possibilities. It can be equally helpful, BTW, to think about how you can reframe a horse's experience -- for example, with my horse Stardust, who came to me very traumatized, we've done a lot to reframe almost everything in his life -- what it means to have human attention, what human touch means, how he can make decisions, etc.

But, NLP, or any other defined "system" that claims to fast track anyone into success or big comprehension about themselves and their world is, in my opinion and experience, overstating its abilities. Building awareness of and outside of ourselves takes time and commitment.

And, at least with horses, the whole "get other to do what you want" layer to NLP feels inappropriate to me, for what I'm working on. It's not what I need to learn about with horses -- I know how to demand from them, I know how to pressure them (even subtly) into responding to me. The great uncharted territory that is AND to me is about stepping back from that and instead learning to actually ask what THEY want and then start to have an actual conversation about what WE want...

Does any of that make sense?

Bottom line, nothing, in my mind, replaces calm, quiet, loving TIME with my horses to actually get to the kind of interactions I'm looking for...

So, I guess my question back to you, Andrew, is what is it about what you've read about NLP that's interesting to you? What is it offering that's attracting you?

Often, I think that's the more interesting question, because it gets you past someone else's system and into your own life and desires and patterns.

Would love to hear what you're thinking about this! :)

All the best,
Leigh



The thing that interests me with NLP is the reading of body language and the unspoken "language" so to speak. I already do a lot of my horse communication through body language and whilst NLP doesn't target horses, I wondered if learning it would somehow improve my reading of their subconscious movements?

If I go off to learn how to "read" a person through their movement/position will certain parts of this translate to horses etc? I'm not entirely sure and have only heard of a few people utilizing NLP in their training but I'm interested! ;D


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 1:19 am 
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One of the most powerful of our survival skills is one we rarely actually practice. We simply do it without thinking. Reading all the communication from others is the skill.

All our senses, that we know of and possibly more, are used to do this.

You may not notice the pulse of another person but you probably often read it and react to it not knowing why.

The horse, as a prey animal (as we once were prey animals ourselves) have to develop it to a high degree.

A recent study showed that if a rider believed someone was going to jump out of a bush they were riding by, even though no such person was there or jumped out, the horse picked they rode picked up the rider's anticipation and reacted to it with their own heightened excitement of pulse and respiration.

I laughed when I read it because having been around horse for so very many years I became acutely aware that I was reading them without even thinking about it. Saved my life a couple of times with truly dangerous horses (ex broncs I was rehabing). Nothing quite like surviving a lightening strike kick by moving into it, and then wondering why you made that particular move when your reactions should have made you try to move away. I could not have survived if I'd moved away and likely would have taken that kick to the head or upper body, whereas moving into the horse allowed me to take it on the outside of my thigh almost totally harmlessly.

That horse had maimed a few people before I got him.

That was the day I respected my own survival skills and ability to not only read the horse unconsciously, but to act upon that information intirely without thinking about it.

This isn't special. Nearly everyone that is around horses for a bit of time acquires this same skill. They know what the horse is going to do before they do it.

This is why when someone new asks about how to deal with a horses behavior I so often suggest they first go with their feelings, and that they seek congruence between their own feelings and their behavior.

If the horse can read you, and you are being honest, transparent, and congruent (laugh when you are happy, cry when you are sad) the horse cannot help but feel safer.

You cannot lie to a horse. You cannot fake him out. But you can confuse him enough that he will come to distrust you. If I pet and stroke the horse to sooth his excitement, but in my heart and mind I am terrified and wish only to control him, he is unlikely to become calm.

One of the things about NLP as I learned it was being deliberately manipulative of the other person toward some end you desired.

If one was moral and ethical then I see how that could work, but more often than not the motives of a person toward another can be coercive and exploitive, and with the horse? We have used the horse badly in this very way.

So I would hesitate to teach NLP to someone to use with horses without teaching them the moral concepts of being with another living creature without exploitation. Even now I teach riding. Even somethings I'm not, myself, fully committed to doing, such as jumping. But how I teach these things are what matters to me.

I move the horse toward the center of the owner/rider's awareness with a mind to more moral and ethical behavior. My riders must often ride by getting off the horse. They are required to know when there is something wrong with the horse, so I teach them to identify the footfalls from the saddle when riding, and to notice when there is unevenness in patterns of movement.

Making them more conscious of the horse in new ways tends to move them away from using the horse to being with the horse as a companion. More as an equal in the sense of a right to life and the pursuit of happiness.

So then, as to NLP: it might be very useful, but effectiveness is not my goal. Unless of course my goal is a higher quality relationship with the horse. And this is hard to come by, just as it is between humans. I think for humans, since we evolved both as predator and prey it is rather a difficult task for us. We need so very much to feel in control.

Can NLP improve the quality of my relationship with my horse? I think you have posed that very question. And I'm glad you did. Every reminder of our relative position, horse to human, that points to quality is important.

Too often I forget. Too often I demand. I've too many tools to control the horse as it is. My focus must continually be turned to what I can do with my companion to be her equal on the planet from our so very disparate positions relative to each other, she the owned, I the owner.

Donald

_________________
Love is Trust, trust is All
~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 8:41 am 

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Indeed, Donald - it is the manipulative aspects of some of these "successs" programmes that looks a bit dodgy. That's why Buber's insights are so valuable - the point of "I and Thou", although it's not a book to encapsulate in a sentence, is that it recommends seeing (other humans, he would say, I would prefer -) other sentient beings as though from their own viewpoint - a treatment as between "I" and "Thou", as contrasted with the "I" / "It" treatment we deal out when we consider others as having interests less valid than ours.

Buber insists that this takes place as soon as we categorise someone else as "other" (colour, gender, height, species, whatever) and I think he's right that this is an automatic human reaction - a mental change that we asume to reflect some sort of reality - after all, we are programmed to conceive of the world in contrasting categories - me/not-me,stuff/not-stuff etc. Well before his time in terms of neuroscience, Buber was telling people that these mental reflexes are programmes we run (and are run by) and that ethical behaviour - standards we have elaborated to engage in the external world without destroying it - has to see the bigger picture of how humans fit into the world. Even if it looks as though our interests should come first, we may well be mistaken as to the nature of these interests and under no circumstances do our interests confer on us the right to override that of other sentient beings.

This links up beautifully with the modern ethical consideration of other sentient beings as having interests of their own - in staying alive, above all, of course, pursuing their natural behaviours, and so forth.

Rita

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"There is always an alternative to every cruel act".


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 3:34 pm 
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Rita,

You bring to mind my own exploration of how to implement ethics. It's one thing to discuss and argue them and quite another to act ethically. A much more difficult challenge.

Talking about ethics isn't doing things ethically.

The doing requires intent, and failure to clarify and focus on intent often leaves the actor floundering and very often behaving far from ethically.

Then too focus is not obsession. It is quite easy to become obsessed. More difficult to maintain focus and to keep one's intent within that experiential framework. Focus and intent. If one knows what one is doing one makes choices. If one does then choices arise from urges and urges are driven by passions and wants that may or may not meet an acceptable ethical model.

There are a great many "methods," fall well into that last category, passions rather than ethical choices.

And the exercise of one's passions, without ethical boundaries leaves on unsatisfied, and seeing more excitement of passion to try and find satisfaction.

In my own exercise of my passions I am aware that Bonnie, our 5 month old filly, is quite adorable. It is so easy to play and to teach her given that she is so cute. On the other hand when I consider more, the ethical questions and the demands of those on me for her care, for her future, the game changes.

It's fun to play. I enriching and more satisfying to work toward a safe, healthy, enriching future for her to live in.

These are the considerations that make us plan paddocks that meet the horse's need. To lay up stores of quality hay for the year. To tend to the health needs of the horse. To give them the exercise we know they need to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. To teach them to tolerate things happening to them that help insure they safety and good health, such as giving of hooves and standing for trimming. To be accepting of control of their head and other body parts so that practitioners can tend to them with no danger to the person or the horse.

And with the horse we never escape the responsibility that is similar to that of a good parent. They are never going to grow up and be a facsimile of us, human, but as adults simply horses still needing our ethical treatment and care.

When I first visited AND (and as I do with all persons, groups, organizations) I looked for intent. I found it quite often. Sure I found lots of passion fulfillment going on. But most often with it questions of others, and self, and decisions being made, that had a powerful intent and seeking of ethical boundaries.

Some, many in fact, came here to the AND philosophy precisely because where they previously were did not offer a true ethical environment, and too much control and power over the horse with the end result being the fulfillment of the handler's desire to appear dramatic, exciting, and very powerful.

AND is much more a manifestation of ethical intent acted out by people making companions of horses. This is AND. More satisfying than exciting, more deeply fulfilling than projecting a powerful image.

Which is more satisfying and fulfilling, control, or cooperation?

We heard crashing and whistling noises off in the forest, a herd of Elk on the move, possibly bulls challenging each other for the harem. They can be as big as a draft horse, with antlers that extend to tower over their heads another five feet. Imposing and dangerous in the Rut, though it seems too early this time of year. Possibly just bulls collecting or protecting their harems.

Walking Bonnie and Altea is not only a responsibility, but fun as well. Bonnie, of course, at this time in her life is obligated by nature to explore everything, even her own feelings, and is very likely to express them strongly. Now what could she possibly be feeling and expressing in this instance, :funny: ?

Image


One can see that Bonnie and I are on alert, as is Altea (notice her left ear starting to turn toward the sound of the Elk?).

Image

In the picture below Altea is answering my request for a few small circles at the edge of the forest to burn off some excitement before we venture out on the public roadway. She is excited, as I think we all were, over the crashing off in the forest of the herd of elk earlier.

I believe she is saying "I am ready to leave the forest now, thank you very much."

Image

So of course I honored her request and left the deep dark forest with her, baby Bonnie, Rio the Dog, and the human members of the walking party. We returned to the safety of the barn and paddock.

Donald

_________________
Love is Trust, trust is All
~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 3:52 pm 
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andrewclark wrote:
The thing that interests me with NLP is the reading of body language and the unspoken "language" so to speak. I already do a lot of my horse communication through body language and whilst NLP doesn't target horses, I wondered if learning it would somehow improve my reading of their subconscious movements?

If I go off to learn how to "read" a person through their movement/position will certain parts of this translate to horses etc? I'm not entirely sure and have only heard of a few people utilizing NLP in their training but I'm interested! ;D


Hi Andrew, I can't add to what has already been said about NLP and am in agreement with most of it if not all. As both Leigh and Donald have said the best way to develop awareness of your horses body language is to spend time with them and it just happens.

Over the years I have come across some good books and web links that help us to understand how our horse thinks and acts by describing what certain vocal sounds mean, position of ears and tail etc. If you would like more info on this then pm me and I will dig it out for you.

Eileen

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:31 pm 
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These are lovely, thought-provoking posts! Yum!

Showing Emotion

Donald, I think I need to tattoo this on my forehead:

Quote:
If the horse can read you, and you are being honest, transparent, and congruent (laugh when you are happy, cry when you are sad) the horse cannot help but feel safer.

You cannot lie to a horse. You cannot fake him out. But you can confuse him enough that he will come to distrust you


Lot of things spurred by this thought (including, "how many times do I need to hear this before I really trust it!" :roll: ;) ), but also -- as adults in Western culture, we are really taught how to mask and deflect our feelings when we engage with others.

Some of this is healthy, no doubt, allowing us to interact in complex social settings, but I think where it gets dicey is how entwined it gets with power -- we mask because it allows us to hold and/or take power in a relationship or interaction.

So many horse trainers talk at length about not showing emotion with horses. Where this makes sense to me is as a reminder that our emotions are not the only thing in the equation. And I think most often, they are talking about negative emotions along the anger/fear matrix. And I think learning discipline with this is important, in the same way that it's important when we engage with other people. (BTW, I think your relationship skill curriculum idea is dead on, Donald! Beautiful. And I can only imagine the confusion on that principal's face because it's sooooo far from what we think of as the "basics" here in the US...you crazy liberal hippy dude... :funny: )

All that said, ultimately this teaching about showing no emotion to horses makes me really uncomfortable. I have found that when I approach my horses with an emotional version of a dead pan -- a blank face and body mask with all of my emotions tucked inside -- is not productive. I'm not fooling anybody, and they get wary with me when I try to pretend, as Donald suggests. We are all much better off if I let myself feel it and let them feel it -- especially when I can let it roll out without pointing it directly at them. (More true with the negative stuff, but even true, I'm finding, with the big positive emotions. When I have a huge rush of "I adore you!' I've learned to send it out widely -- if it comes directly and narrowly at them, it freaks them out a bit. Too strong, I guess, too focused, too pointy, if that makes sense.)

So, for me, the discipline is becoming not about either trying to control/hide my emotions (or theirs, either -- Andrew this is where things like NLP feel manipulative in negative ways to me), it's about learning to feel it, let it out, let it be the size and intensity it really is, and, most importantly, letting it come out and exist as some sort of etheric field alongside of all of us, which they can choose to step into or not as they wish. When I do this, we have amazing moments of connection, and more often than not they step into me to engage -- whether it's just to touch base, or to comfort me, or to apologize if I'm angry at something they've done.

And this becomes more true the longer we all invest in actually knowing and enjoying each other. I think that a lot of horses learn survival techniques of putting on their own mask -- doesn't mean they don't see through ours and doesn't mean they don't have emotions themselves, but I think they learn to tune out so all of the stuff coming at them doesn't make them bonkers.

(I'm thinking of the school horses at the last ranch where I boarded, for example. Those poor horses had spent so many years being treated as a means to an end by both riders and ranch owner they folded into themselves and gave nothing away. And they were described as "bomb proof." I suppose literally that's true, but it was the bomb proofing of shut down, not an open, experienced trust in their own capabilities and those of their human partners. I've written before about how Stardust was pretty much catatonic when I got him -- I think horses in these situations go to a similar, though often less extreme place.)

Horses and Subconscious

Andrew, your statement about being interested in learning how better to read horses' subconscious movements also kicked some thoughts into gear. I think that this is a great goal in lots of ways. But I'm going to muddy the waters for you a little! ;)

First, and I think most importantly, I think horses' conscious and subconscious thought processes work very differently than humans. I think the two swirl in horses, intertwined. I think present time and memory and conscious thought and unconscious thought (including what we humans rather over simply call "instinct") and personal thought and group thought all are cooking in horses all the time.

And while I do believe horses are capable of hiding what they think when they need to (ref. above and lesson horses, for example), I think this is adaptive survival behavior, and I think they just turn inward. They don't do the kinds of role playing people do -- pretending we're outgoing when we're shy, etc. They're not actors in the way that primates are.

Second, if in fact one can differentiate between subconscious and conscious movements in a horse, I think the best way to do so is to focus on becoming aware of one's OWN spit between conscious and subconscious movements.

I think this for two reasons:

1. There is, even subtly, an inherent sense of domination/manipulation about wanting to see, identify, and react based on someone else's (human or animal) subconscious responses. In the poker world in the US, these responses are called "tells" -- you're watching for movements that will give something away about how someone is thinking, whether they want you to see those or not. While what we want to do with this knowledge can be noble -- I want to understand you better -- I think this is where Rita's elegant points about "I and thou" are really important. It is like reading someone else's diary to focus in on and make use of others' tells...it is, in my mind, something of an invasion of privacy. We all do it all the time, but usually on a subconscious to subconscious level, which has a great deal more parity.

2. We truly don't know what horses are thinking at any moment. We can make lots of guesses (some educated, some not) but we can't be any more sure what they are thinking/feeling with any nuance any more than we can be with other people. But -- if we step further into our own skins, learn more about our own "tells" and learn to watch how horses respond to those, this is when we begin to get as close as we can get to understanding others. It starts from ourselves and works outwards.

Does the difference here make sense? It's one of the great, wonderfully seemingly backwards truth about the world -- I learn more about you when I take up the challenge to learn more about myself. When I see where my own warts and wants and fears and desires lie, and own them in all of their delightfulness and prickliness. And I take responsibility for what I'm sending out into the world with as much self awareness as possible.

When we do this, we eventually learn to open to others around us, so they can tell us about themselves in ways they want to.

So, I guess my suggestion to you would be to, rather than look to something like NLP to learn how to read others' (horse or human) language, to look to learning your own as best you can. Self awareness build to awareness of others, and has the capacity to deepen into empathy.

If I were you, in addition to reading/watching other horse people (always open, but always thinking critically about what you agree with and what you don't) I'd be looking for learning experiences in other disciplines about this, both in your mind and in your body. The older I get, the more I realize how the experiences I've had across disciplines strengthens my understanding.

For the body, for example, a dance class... I wrote a bit about contact improv here in the Centered Riding thread for example. Marvelous stuff for riders!! Even a social dance class -- swing or salsa, etc. would increase your kinesthetic awareness of movement and partnering. Or yoga, or martial arts, etc. And then there are lots of things you can do across lots of disciplines mentally/emotionally -- from guided meditation to writing to exploring psychotherapy. Your Reiki training will open up lots of doors, too, I would guess.

All of this can help open yourself to your horses and help you to learn more about them by giving you additional tools. But mostly, they'll teach you about themselves if you let them. Just takes time. I've spent a bunch of years in my life spending time with horses and I still feel like I'm at the beginning of learning what they can teach me. I would guess most people here feel that way -- even those among us who have decades and decades of engagement. It is truly a life long learning process -- and the farther i get into it, the less I'm looking for shortcuts, because the more i am in love with the moment by moment process. That's where the genius, the genesis, the generator all lie -- in the moment.

Well, I've waxed again... ;) As I was writing this, Donald posted more glorious pictures of Bonnie and company. Annaliese, you are brilliant! (Andrew -- another example -- as a professional photographer, Annaliese's genius is in intuiting the movement and moments as they're about to emerge -- maybe we can sweet talk her into talking a little bit about how she has honed her abilities to do that...).

And Rita -- Martin Buber! Serious yum. One of my grad school faculty members was a major Buber addict -- we don't read enough of him in the States, but she got us started. You've inspired me to go after more, thanks!

Best,
Leigh

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www.imaginalinstitute.com


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