Another excellent session today. I'm going to give you my notes -- most of it direct quotes from Mark as he worked with Brett and Mufasa. Brett brought Mufasa into the arena, without tacking him up, expecting to work in the round pen. Instead they worked a bit in the arena, reviewing and adding to the work from yesterday:
Mark: "Move with him and towards him. Don't act like there is a problem. He feels the need to flee. He has learned to move away from people when worried. He needs to learn to come towards people when worried. Moving away should not give him a release. (Mark had his hand lightly resting on Mufasa's neck or forehead). Go with him. Don't add pressure but don't release. Release when he comes back to you. Your hand is following; not pushing. He is learning a different way of helping himself."
Mufasa initially moved away from the contact by turning his head or stepping backwards; he didn't flee. Mark stayed with him, and Mufasa turned and moved towards to Mark -- getting an immediate release.
Mark: "You see this a lot with dogs. Horses don't want to feel how he feels. Whatever happened in his past, happened. We can't change that and the details aren't important. Don't reward him for being scared (it's like dogs who are afraid of thunder). Mufasa's response has been to escape/run when he gets worried. If he is allowed to go (if the hand is released instead of following) then he is being rewarded for the escape. It's a double reward."
"Today, he isn't head shy. The work yesterday, moving his head and the energy work, helped with that. Today his energy is toward us. All he wants is to feel better. This is a tribute to how good a horse he is; that he doesn't hurt anyone."
Mark moved his hand over Mufasa's body, stopping with it resting on Mufasa's back. "My hand stays on his back until he finds a way to stop moving and relax. Inadvertently, he has been taught to feel bad. He doesn't want to feel that way. He's nowhere close to where he was yesterday. This is big improvement. Today we can do more. Don't tiptoe around him."
Mark felt his shoulder and noted that it was very tight. He proceeded to massage it and Mufasa shifted so that Mark could get his fingers in deep, behind the scalpula. Mark was impressed that Mufasa was doing his part to help find the release of the muscle tension.
Mark continued "He can't distinguish between how he feels and how he acts. We need to break that pattern. We are trying to make everything easier so he can learn that it can feel good to work with people."
There was still about 20 minutes left of the lesson so Mark sent Brett and Mufasa out to tack up. Mufasa was very relaxed -- the most relaxed I have ever seen him. Amongst the auditirs, there wasn't a dry eye.
Brett asked how he much he should work with Mufasa on the touching and release exercises. Mark said that Brett should note how Mufasa is, each step from haltering to saddling to riding. If it is worse, stop and address at that point. Having Mufasa relaxed on the ground first will really help.
Meanwhile, Brett and Mufasa were walking around and Mufasa was yawning and stretching. The nest step, which they will work on tomorrow, is for Brett to be a good leader. Brett needs to be nice about it; but he needs to give direction.
I can't wait for tomorrow's session. Brett is on cloud nine. His eyes were pretty leaky too.