Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesdays with Tex

Brett told me that you all are going to wonder about my sanity, with all my commentary about conversations that I have with Tex.  I do believe that horses talk to us, if we listen.  Sure, they don't speak in English but they speak to us nevertheless.  I don't know how many of you read Gullivers Travels when you were a kid, but I did (numerous times).  Gulliver visited a land populated by disgusting, human-like yahoos and also with rational, intelligent horses called houyhnhnms.  Initially, the horses were so disgusted by Gulliver that they wouldn't talk to him.  Gulliver was equally disgusted by the yahoos -- and preferred the company of the houyhnhnms.

I think the same holds true today.  Horses speak a subtle language but most of us humans are too literal to hear them.  We behave like yahoos -- pushing and grunting, yanking and yelling, to get the results we want. I've noticed, in my riding, that when I am able to ride softly, with focus, that harmony and communication increase astronomically.  If I'm upset, or angry, or stressed or otherwise firmly distracted by my own world and emotional state, I cannot communicate with my horses at all.  Lucy will pin her ears, give her head a shake, and leave.  She's definitely got houyhnhnms blood in her.  Tex just looks at me sadly, and quits communicating.  Flash ... he tries to bite you.

So, when I "talk" to Tex it is really an expression of my energy, focus and intent.  I look for subtle communication from him: the flick of an ear, the wiggle of his lower lip, and the softness of his eye.  Tex is protective of his thoughts and feelings and, for the longest time, he didn't show anything.

I tend to chuckle or laugh when Tex reacts with suspicion at me rubbing my neck, or the crunching of the velcro on his fly mask.  He jumps away but immediately comes back.  A chuckle means "I'm not mad at you.  You are safe.  Let's try again."

I'm also very verbal and generous with neck rubs.  I never pat Tex; that is too much like hitting.  I rub his neck and tell him he is a good boy, a beautiful boy, and super smart.  When I rode him last weekend, we built on our language.  I chuckled when he rushed.  And when he relaxed, I reached down and rubbed his neck while telling him that he was a good, good boy.  "Look at you!" I said, "What a good boy you are."

And Tex's ears got soft, his eyes shone and he walked proudly forward.

That is how I "talk" to Tex.

20 comments:

  1. Sounds like wonderful communication. I try to laugh too when Oak spooks or reacts to me, and stay soft even when he is tense. I agree he seems to respond to me when I am calm and happy more than any other time. :)

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    1. Its easier to relax and stay soft when you are laughing, right? I have this mental picture of a horse going rodeo or bolting and the rider (not you or me) laughing hysterically. LOL

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  2. You are so right about "talking" - tell Brett he's off the mark on this one. All sentient creatures "talk" - we humans just need to learn how to listen - and look how hard that is for us: we can barely manage to listen to one another.

    When Red's nervous, or spooks or bolts, I often laugh at him for being so silly - that seems to relax him a bit. I also rub or verbally praise all my horses, and Red particularly seems to like/need this. It's always bothered me when people get done in the ring and vigorously pat/slap their horses - how is this a reward?

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    1. Hmm, I clearly did not explain Brett's comment well in this post. He is completely on board with communicating with the horses and does that himself. He was teasing me about literally having a Dr. Doolittle or Mr. Ed type conversation with the horses.

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  3. What a great comparison! I'll have to reread Gulliver's Travels with that in mind. I'm with you on talking to horses. I sometimes sing to mine, too. 14 years ago, I used to board Cowboy at a nice barn with a pro rodeo size arena and we were able to use it whenever we wanted. They always had country music going, empty or not. Cowboy always got spooky in the corners where they usually kept the cows before release. So, I'd ride and sing along with the music. It always relaxed him, and me, too. For non-verbal beings, they sure seem to enjoy soothing sounds.

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    1. I often hum when I am nervous or my horse is nervous. It is impossible to hum and not breathe so it helps me not hold my breath, and it seems to help the horses too. Maybe it just distracts them (I am a pretty poor singer) and they forget about the worrisome whatever; it does work though. Lucky you to have a rodeo size arena to work in; you guys must have loved that!

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    2. I often hum or doing while I'm riding too. Especially at the trot as singing engages my core and requires me to breathe correctly. My trots are always better if I remember to sing!

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    3. I didn't think about the breathing part, but you're both right. We should all be "singing cowboys." ;) Yes, the arena was amazing. I miss that part of boarding--and the camaraderie. I had good friends there and it was always nice to share horse time with them.

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  4. If Flash gets a little nervous or "prancey" on a ride or deployment, I sing to him too. He loves Bob Dylan songs. Makes him mellow.

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  5. I agree with the talking. I talk to Carmen and it does work. The laughing works- I think they feel our breath when we laugh. I also tell her I see something or apologize for a poorly timed aid.

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    1. I do that too -- "oops, sorry" to Lucy when I'm not clear or don't get the timing right.

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  6. Harley and I have lots of conversations. What he says is a feeling not words. I usually respond with words and try to translate what he seems to be feeling into words. This is just my human habit though. You are so right about being in the right frame of mind to with your horse.

    My favorite is when I think that it might be nice to canter and he understands immediately. Then I have to tell him to wait for me!

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    1. Lucy understands the thought "canter" too. Sometimes she gets overly excited and I have to quickly change my thought. Its very cool when they understand our thoughts.

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  7. An American in TokyoAugust 17, 2016 at 5:19 PM

    I used to get yelled at by one of my instructors whenever I would laugh at some silly mistake I or the horse made. I never understood why laughing was not allowed. You can bet I didn't stay with that instructor long after that. ;)

    I try to express my feelings and thoughts whenever I can. I think it helps communicate what you are trying to do, even if you don't get there in that particular lesson.

    Thank you for sharing about your journey with Tex! It's very educational for me and I appreciate it very much. =)

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    1. I'm glad you didn't stay with that instructor who criticized you for laughing. Horses are very honest and we need to be honest as well, if we want to be in relationship. I'm glad you are enjoying my journey with Tex -- I am too!

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  8. I've always had great conversations with my horses and still do. I think they understand more than we think they do. I am guilty of singing or laughing when one or the other of us gets a little nervous and it seems to work. I can honestly say I've always rewarded with a neck rub and never slapped them for reward. I could never understand that and it was brought into focus for me once when my granddaughter asked me at a horse show "why is that guy hitting his horse on the neck, (after a jumping round), did he do something bad?"

    p.s. I might be a little crazy but I sometimes think they are physic and can read my mind. And no, I don't wear tin foil hats, I let them read my mind!

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    1. I'm convinced that they can read our minds, too. I purposefully send thoughts and messages to them, and I believe that they respond. Maybe I'm crazy, but it has happened more than once.

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  9. Awww. That's so sweet of Brett to look out for you.

    It never once crossed my mind to question your sanity.

    In fact, your approach to Tex is exactly what many of us would do were we in your boots.

    I'm using these techniques on my 8-year-old yellow lab. I got her 9 months ago. She was a breeding dog in a kennel, and was never socialized. She was terrified of everything and today? She's a happy-go-lucky lab, typical of her breed (except for the cat, whose presence terrifies my dog. We're working on that.) I used methods similar to the ones you use with Tex. Why? Because they work.

    So looking forward to your next advances with Tex.

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    1. How wonderful that you were able to find, and release, the happy dog inside your lab. Funny that she is terrified of the cat... But, come to think of it, our lab is afraid of the chickens.

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  10. Oh, I totally get it. I've always talked with my horses, dogs and all animals. In many ways, body language, words, chuckles, and yes singing too. :) My horses don't even object to me singing, so it's all good! We do need to learn to listen more and really, intently listen. We're usually in too big of a hurry, or distracted by all the time we spend inside our own heads. I feel so much better, grounded and relaxed after spending some time with my horses. Always works!

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.