Being in relationship!
I’ve been around horses my whole life. As a child it was natural to want to be in a good relationship with my ponies, sitting on them bareback in the field, riding them bareback in a headcollar. My pony fulfilled every aspect of having fun, going on rides together, playing games, jumping over home-made obstacles in the field and going to local shows to compete in gymkhana games and jumping.
I saw misbehaviour as communication. What was my pony trying to tell me – how could we work it out together? What worked? What didn’t work? Be firm – but gentle. One of the ponies that I bought to retrain and sell on wouldn’t allow my Dad to get anywhere near her. What could she sense? What had happened to her before? Time, patience, clear consistent handling and training, love and a deep desire tounderstand my pony’s needs helped us to develop a wonderful relationship based on trust and respect.
I was always looking for ‘another way’. If one approach didn’t work I would try something else, until I found a way that suited each horse. The irony is that my critical-self told me that I ‘always wanted to find the easy option’ and that ‘I wasn’t brave’ enough to face up to the problem!’ But, by nature, I didn’t want to have a problem in the first place, that’s the whole point, I wanted to avoid confrontation.
I found that a consistent stream of mares with ‘difficult’ or ‘quirky’ behaviour came my way. By working with these horses, and seeking a common goal, or finding a goal that we could achieve in a happy, enjoyable way together I learned as much from the horses as I was teaching them. It was a two-way relationship. I learned to be calm, patient, kind, assertive, clear and consistent. I also went through the turmoil of frustration, self-doubt, self-criticism and failure. What kept me going? My deep desire to succeed.
But not to succeed, by winning prizes, even though there were any prizes along the way. The success I was seeking was that of a more understanding, happy and fulfilling relationship with each horse.