Do you remember starting a new job and meeting the group of peers for the first time? The very scenario happens to cross my mind quite a bit lately.
What did that feel like? Where you coming into the space as a peer or higher up the chain of command? What energy did you bring into the new dynamic? Did the dynamic change as time and experiences went along?
I’m pleased to introduce Rio. A well-trained, 13 yr old Paint, Andalusian cross gelding. He is bold and confident in both in the indoor, and out on the trails. Ridden dressage by a confident, competent owner. All of his training has been under her with excellent instructors over the years. They have a good sound foundation in dressage and have explored Natural Horsemanship as well as clicker training and other positive methods of training together. He lives with his owner, along with the horses occupying the two stalls in his barn. He has been the constant over the past decade or so, having moved in as a 2.5 year old. The barn CEO. Observing Rio in the herd leads me to believe him to be a dominant horse that asserts himself sometimes forcefully around resources and will boldly come up to investigate any new comers, of any species. He has a delightfully high play drive enjoying all sorts of props, puzzles, and playing with herd mates out in the paddock.
Rio’s owner has generously allowed me to explore the exercises in the FDhorsemanship liberty module and post our journey here. Rio has very strong opinions, and while he can be considered safe to ride and work with he can be difficult to engage with at liberty up close, becoming very pushy and mouthy. Occasionally he will simply balk, and not move forward, choosing to face and hold his ground. He is a quick learner, with he and his owner able to do quite a lot under saddle and in ground work. New persons, looking to connect, and request. Not so much.
I feel like a new manager walking into an office with established hierarchy and set routines, where my ideas are not always met with enthusiasm.
Where to start? At the beginning of course. We’ve done a bit of sharing territory and companionship during which I found he was either very pushy with me around me, my pockets, notebook, anything I had with me. When I set the code of conduct rules in place, he would not move off or away easily and carrying a dressage whip right now is necessary to avoid a bite or grab to my hands or jacket sleeves. He moved easily, with haste when a tool was present, however not without a negative energy feel to it. Afterwards leaving to stand away from me appearing disinterested, or rebuked.
If you feel the need to use a whip, carrot stick, or rope, please remember the following guidelines~ The tool is an extention of you, not for punishment. It should be used in a firm but none threat weilding way to assert your territory or boundries. Use in a thoughtful way starting low and rythmic, moving the air around you or between you and your horse. Sending away should feel a bit like sending ripples of water not big splashes but perhaps waves that increase in size or energy if needed and decreasing or ceasing as horse respondes correctly through movement or softening. Using your hands and tool in a raised “stop” or “halt” gesture if your beastie is coming in hot or lording over and above you can be helpful. ONLY contacting when absolutly nessesary and with out malice. You may want to consider hiring a proffesional to work with you if it feels unsafe.
For now I will concentrate on keeping my energy un-demanding with kind firm conviction when reminding him the code of conduct. Keeping my sessions short in a “nothing personal just good manners” tone.
When opportunities arise to practice mutual approach, I’ll do so, being mindful to observe his body language for any and all “no thank you” messages backing off before they become a “buzz off” command. Furthermore, I will endevor to convey to him that I am fair and consistent in my expectations that he approach and engage with me in a more soft and gentle way. My hope is in the up coming opportunities he and I reach an understanding that he will be listened to long before a big NO is needed, and that his play drive can have an outlet with me that does not involve his teeth and any part of me.
A working partnership in process.
Video’s to follow.
Where can I find the IT dept?…