No, no video at the moment
-- I need to get better about this!!! We finally had big rain over the last couple of days, so my fear of dust disintegrating my camera is lessening -- now I need to get better about remembering to bring it!
Andrea -- another thing that just occurred to me is that I've also begun, some days when we spend time together, to do so not in the regular arena, but instead work with them in another turnout paddock that has a bit of grass and they can graze. I'll go in with treats (and sometimes the target stick or some other toy, but sometimes without anything) and wander around near them and let them decide if they want to engage. I'll get one's attention and we'll play for a few minutes, and then the grass is interesting, so then I'll wander to the other one and invite him/her to play. No stress at all this way -- and sometimes both of them are more interested in eating grass than playing, which is good, too!
This is an even lighter version of the arena/paddock combination play we're doing.
I've been enjoying being able to relax into what the day will bring us when we work this way -- nobody is pressured to do anything particularly focused unless they want to (including me!)
It's been a great way to engage gently without an agenda -- they get to call the shots about what we do -- and I'm learning a lot about how our rhythms together can shift and change, and that I don't have to show up with a big plan in mind.
This has been really helpful to me as I break out of old training expectations, and I'm finding that coming with a variety of ideas about what we might do and where we'll do it (all together, one on one, in the arena, in the paddock, or out wandering around the ranch and just beginning to venture off onto the trails, etc.) but also being completely content to do the lightest kind of relaxed interaction depending on their mood and focus levels is really rewarding. It keeps me from getting into a rut of over planning our experiences, and is, I think, teaching them that when I come we will have some kind of interaction, but I won't always be asking a lot from them. So they're anticipating doing something, and are eager to see what it might be. I figure it's good for them to have a lot of different rhythms and experiences.
One of the "truths" that I've been taught about horses in the past is that routine is really good for them -- and I've struggled with this. While I totally agree that there is comfort in the familiar, I think that this gets taken waaaay too far sometimes, and horses learn a certain kind of helplessness from this when their experiences get too narrowly defined. So part of our goal is always to be shifting the familiar a little bit, thinking about the pieces of continuity between our experiences as well as how they differ. It's part of why I am working to define a series of different ways that we interact with each other as a herd, too, in terms of how I'm cueing and who gets attention when, etc. This may not be the fastest way to get this to work, but to me, it makes the most sense for their psyches -- so different experiences become a part of their vocabulary. (And different places, rhythms, etc.)
When I think about horses in the wild, I think their lives are a mix of this familiar and new all the time -- they have patterns and certain places that they go, and certain dynamics within the herd, etc. But this is all against a backdrop of a much larger territory than most domesticated horses, and needing to pay attention to potential threats, etc.
When Stardust first starting coming out of his trauma/being shut down, he would get really frantic if anything shifted, or was unexpected. It's been really interesting to watch his confidence grow as I've been more consciously working to expand his world. (Actually, the same is true for Circe, even as a happy young girl.)
Part of my consciousness of this is because my guys aren't in a big pasture: they're not getting the opportunities that they should to interact with their world more broadly than by being housed in a small paddock, so I feel a responsibility to help shape this broader range of experiences when we work/play together. So I try to be really conscious about not always setting up one particular way we do things -- whether it's who comes out of the paddock first, or who gets played with first, or who even walks on one particular side of me when we're walking together on the lead ropes...)
I'm digressing a bit from the original topic, but it's part of why I'm not trying to define one particular way that we all three work together.
I'm a big believer in the quote "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" from Emerson!
I'm watching for the patterns that they're developing and feel comfortable with, and as long as I feel like those will work well for all of us, I'm happy to build off of those. I'm trying to be very light with what I expect in terms of consistency from them right at the moment, and am experimenting to see what emerges from them as feeling comfortable rather than assuming I'm going to have the best patterns to impose on them. (Acknowledging, of course, that some of my impositions, like the "thou shalt not squish the mama" rule are completely reasonable!