When Kate suggested reading a bit of Harry Whitney, this particular area of the website really caught my imagination.
The exploding box.
First Harry explains how to recognize confusion:
How do you know a horse is confused?
A confused, resentful, or anxious horse may pin his ears, brace his neck, tense his back and his topline, and swish his tail. Those emotions may also manifest themselves in something as subtle as a peaked eyebrow, distorted nostril, or a flattened chin.
A horse who is feeling those emotions will also show mental symptoms. He'll take his thoughts elsewhere so he doesn't have to deal with the question that he has not been able to answer right no matter what response he gave. Some horses will escape their lack of understanding by pretending that the question was never asked; they do nothing. Other horses make extremely large escapes. They run off, or buck, do whatever it takes to get the person asking the questions to shut up!
I see this in Lilly a great deal. Somewhere in her life she got a great deal of mixed signals. She's always worried that she's not responding correctly. I'm working on relaxing a great deal around her, being very consistent because when it gets confusing for her you can see the panic rise.
I'm not saying she's eager to please. It's more like she's eager not to displease. Which is something to unravel if we're going to get that connection. Which is why I'm interested in trying the exploding box exercise with her - and with Cibolo too, actually. Whitney explains the steps in the article, and I found it fascinating. I always have to understand the why of what I do (yes, i was an annoying child), and he takes the time to do that.
What I hope to achieve with both horses is a sense that with me, there is peace.
I wonder how many explosions it'll take to get there.