I’ve noticed lately that Ray Hunt’s words: “Set it up and let the horse find it.” have been crossing my mind in a new way. Those words are less prominently a directive as to how to achieve some movement (although, of course, that is what they are) and more of a brilliant description of where the fun in horsemanship is.
Vivian has brought a few more thoughts to the surface for me about this because, unless she’s in self preservation mode about the external environment, she seems to be trying with all her might to figure out what I have in mind for her to do.
She’s a unique example to me because I haven’t come across anything yet that she can’t physically do. Everything seems easy for her! (Her capabilities are so surprising, it calls for a whole other discussion in itself.) The point here is that the absolute only thing between me asking and her doing is understanding. I keep saying… “I can’t believe all I have to do is sit here and wait!”
Preserving my little horse’s confidence to guess by being super careful not to punish her for a misunderstanding or less than perfect execution has risen to the surface as mission critical. Because really, if she’s trying, if she’s really concentrating and something isn’t shaping up ideally, I either need to clarify or allow her a few more reps and make a huge fuss about the best result.
As soon as Viv started to believe we were friends and doing something positive together she began to have confidence and interest in guessing at what I want. Now that enough successful guesses have added up, I feel like she’s consistently looking forward to finding out what I have in mind.
Each one of my horses highlight a unique part of my quest for horsemanship and this little mismatched eared, unexpectedly handy horse will surely be one of the best stories. She has definitely amplified my awareness that a magnificent source of fun in horsemanship is the process of being understood. The moments when my horse and I are just really communicating about stuff are the BEST!
Interestingly enough, the most potent form of this is actually not when my horse already knows an answer. That is a great feeling for sure. Amazing really. But, where I feel the most elation is when she and I are in a moment when she’s feeling around but doesn’t exactly know how or what. Especially when she is interested in what I have in mind and knows she’ll find it…it’s like our minds are so close to connecting, we know it’s going to happen.
There’s a kind of glow in those moments. It’s a unique feeling of validation and companionship I haven’t found anywhere else. It’s joyful. And so FUN!
Ps. Here’s a vlog from when I first borrowed Vivian from Harmony New Beginnings Rescue in October 2016. (We’ve adopted her since then.) Kip and I talked about horses having confidence to guess. Ha!
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