Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Respect, Trust, and Journeys

Everyone in this picture looks contemplative, 
even the dog who is on her first pony ride.

I was thinking today about Lily.

I've been working with her to get better about lifting her rear feet, something that has been sketchy for a while.

It got me thinking about how I can get her to do things that she's otherwise reluctant to do with others. This time I am focused on working with the farrier to bringing her along.  Last time she danced around like crazy and it took a good deal to get her to a point where he could trim just a bit on her hinds. This leg sensitivity all started when her shoulder went out, I suspect that her lameness had made having her hinds stretched back painful and she's guarding against it.

She has that kind of reaction to things. Guarding.

So I've worked for a few days on getting her to let me hold her leg against mine. We've come a long way over the last few months, she never yanks her leg out of my hand any more. She now offers them a bit more politely. But the minute I touch them to my leg she worries and pulls, somewhat gently (in horse terms), putting the hoof down, always careful not to step on me.

This is how I know it's not a mean spirited thing. She practically falls over to avoid stepping on me.


I'm at the ranch with the farrier. It's beginning to rain, dashing my hopes for a leisurely training session with the three of us. There is no real shelter where we are, so we have to be practical.  I hold her hooves while he uses the nippers to cut off the worst of the wall. She holds her hooves nicely, only one pull away, which we attribute to fatigue. She won't rest against me at all. We're not there yet.

He straightens up, the half moons of her trimmed toe littering the ground around us. Her hooves are a bit ragged, but as usual he's done an amazing job. "They aren't pretty, but they will be fine," he says of her rear trim. His Spanish is lilting, his handlebar mustache accenting his perpetual smile.

 We are working to bring her to a better place together. It'll take time. "Es mucho mejor," he assures me. She's much better.


It's got me thinking about respect. To be honest I don't know if Lily respects me.  She trusts me, but that's different, isn't it?  She knows that I won't let anything bad happen to her.  She knows that my requests will be pretty reasonable. She knows I will pay attention when something is bothering her and I'll react appropriately, I'll take her concerns seriously, dismissing them only when they are unreasonable (we do not spook and resist the canoe. it's a canoe. deal with it.). The rest I'll work with her to get through it.

 Like the time she was nervous to have her teeth floated. She had usually had a little calming med beforehand, but the dentist was just taking a quick look. No way, Lily said, head held high, eyes wide, searching me out. At first I tried a stern approach and then woke up. This is Lily. That doesn't work. I took the file from the dentist and gently touched Lily with it.  She calmed down. Then I handed the file back. She was ready. We proceeded to get it done.

Now I lay her hind leg against mine to clean out her hooves and she goes longer and longer each time. Each time we make it past another goal post.

I need her to move past  trusting just me to trusting the farrier and the dentist. Not sure how to get there, maybe since her shoulder is better that will help. But I imagine it's a lot of what we are doing now. Taking time. Doing things step by step, not skipping a single thing. Only then moving on. Horse rules, horse time.

What we have going on, it doesn't seem like respect at this point. It's not that level of surrender, or maybe my idea of respect is a "I will do what you say no matter what" kind of thing, part fear, part dread, part discipline.  Maybe what we have is a step on the journey. Maybe it's a whole other journey.

Damned if I know which. But it is something to think about.


Anonymous said...

Trust is a journey, not a thing - every day it is added to to or subracted from. I don't like the word respect - it sound too much like dominance or force or submission to me. I like the word partnership, where one listens to and responds to the requests of the other. It takes time, and care, and that's exactly what you're doing - I like it but it's more important if you and Lily like it.

Allenspark Lodge said...

My somewhat limited experience with horses seems to say that horses have 3 different ways of dealing with influences in their lives.

1) Fear (predators, scary things, mean or crazy herd members)

2) Acceptance of greater position (leaders in herd)

3) Trust (herd members that are not crazy, things that have never hurt you)

I like to have my horse respond to me with 2's and 3's. The brain often turns off and goes to fight or flight when 1's are involved.


cheyenne jones said...

Never seen anyone use Velvia for ages! Good transparencies!

Shirley said...

Each horse has it's own issues, and it's own way of teaching us to be better horsemen. I'm wondering if some TTeam work would help with Lily.