So, your horse was "with you" today . . .
Some days your horse is more with you than other days. You’ll go out to get him and the way he is really looking to you for direction, and seeming to read your mind about how to go through the gate, to move off to one side or to leave the tasty tuft of grass. You say to yourself, “Gee, Z is really with me today” , and you feel so appreciative and loving and in awe of the perfectness of you horse.
Then, it hits you; it’s not so much that your horse is with you; it’s that you are with him! The truth is, that your horse is right there with you a whole lot more of the time than you realize. It’s just that since you are not with him, you think he is not with you. You don’t see every time he looks to you, or reacts with a defensive stiffen of his jaw, or he reaches forward with that questioning look, “Do you want me to come forward?”, so trusting and honest. You don’t notice him reaching out to and reacting to you because you are not WITH him. You are somewhere else, missing these many, many opportunities to answer your horse’s question, “Are you with me?”
As soon as you bring your gigantic and flighty human attention back from where ever it was talking to itself, or planning tonight’s dinner, or rehashing a spousal spat, or looking at the watch and wondering if there’s time for a ride. As soon as you draw inward to the circle that is filled by your horse and yourself, you get the awareness of the possibilities when your horse is with YOU and you are with HIM.
That’s the kind of day when progress is made.
I had that kind of a day with Z today. I almost kept up doing what I was doing too long, but I was smart enough to stop at a really good place. Z is such a willing horse that if I reward him for his willingness, I get many fold more back from him.
But conversely, if I try to make him move his feet somewhere before he is willing to do so, he gets a bit confused, or even resentful. I think a horse can often be resentful of you moving its feet when you don’t have his attention. On the other hand, if he is refusing to bring his attention away from something outside the paddock or such, and you have to get bigger than the draw of that attention, then the unpleasantness that the horse experiences by basically being “rudely” Interrupted, will make him more likely to remember that lesson and be less likely to move his attention off of the handler for very long or very hard. Hopefully, once that brisk lesson is learned, you can work softly enough to have him thinking about what you want (becoming willing) before you ask him to move his feet.
Today, when I realized this about Z, I really tried hard to remember to direct his thought before directing his feet. Man , what a great time we had!