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The Project:

One Mustang directly off the range, One trainer, No tools, Just body language

The Goal:

To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.

 

The Beauty of Adrenaline

 

It was a classic Pacific Northwest day: a light and steady rain all morning followed by a pervasive mist falling from the sky for the rest of the daylight hours- a damp, yet beautiful, February day. On this particular day, Myrnah and I had an adventure planned. Sometimes, stepping outside the normal patterns can change the way you look at everything. Step too far and the change feels stressful; step just far enough and the thrill of energy that courses through your veins is intoxicating. Myrnah and I needed something new; we needed to feel the beauty of adrenaline.

 

Without tools to push development on a faster track, we have found ourselves practicing the same tasks over and over for months. Go, stop, turn, back up, walk together, trot together, get on, get off- rinse and repeat. We have often changed the location of practice in areas around our home, but have been cautious about straying into unfamiliar territory. More specifically, strange dogs and random cars in our neighborhood have been seen from a distance and that has been fun- a moment of intensity as I wonder what Myrnah will do about the stress, and she wonders if she needs to do anything at all. Then the moment passes leaving just a little extra energy in its wake.

 

This week Myrnah and I were going somewhere different: a trip in the horse trailer, her first since traveling from southern Oregon with Cleo as wild horses. Myrnah has breakfast in the trailer most days of the week (she has local hay available all the time, it is just the richer eastern Washington timothy hay that gets doled out in smaller quantities in specific locations), so getting in the trailer is nothing out of the ordinary. Driving away and leaving all her friends behind was a completely new experience however.

 

Our destination was a three-acre lot at the San Juan Country Fairgrounds. Used for parking during the fair, it remains empty for the rest of the year. A beautiful combination of woods and grass, well-fenced so encounters with cars and dogs would be limited to what we saw through the fence, it was a perfect first destination. A big thank-you goes out to the caretakers who allowed us to come use the space.

 

Margaret came up from the city to film the event, my daughter, Cameron, walked up from town after her swim lessons to see how it was all evolving, Myrnah and I were there for as long as it took to get home again- that was the thrilling part of the adventure. I really didn’t know how soon Myrnah would be willing to get back in the trailer to go home after the trip to town. I didn’t know how much this adventure would push the edges of her comfort zone. I had a feeling we were ready though.

 

Eleven-thirty on Thursday morning, Margaret pulled in the driveway, set up the video equipment, and we were ready to roll. Myrnah hopped right in the trailer for breakfast. Cleo knew something was up when I brought over one of the school horses to be in the paddock next to her for the day, and we were off.

Traveling, Myrnah did nothing but impress me as usual. She stood loose in the three-horse stock trailer with the relaxed grace I have come to appreciate so much about her. I felt her turn around a couple of times when we were stopped at a stop sign, but, other than that, she seemed to just stand quietly observing the world go by.

Once at the fairgrounds, I let her be in the trailer for a few moments while we got gates closed and the space organized. Myrnah seemed still and patient with a soft eye, licking and chewing as she watched and digested all the changes. I opened the door and she came out gently, yet so beautifully alert. There really is a beauty to adrenaline.

 

For the next hour and a half Myrnah and I alternated traveling and exploring the space together and letting her graze the grass that was far lusher and greener than anything we currently have at home. My favorite moment of the day was when I discovered she would follow me, with ears pricked forward, at the trot when I started to run. The added energy of the new location made speed feel fun for Myrnah instead of the disliked task it usually presents as at home. So we weaved through trees and ran across meadows, played with circles and stops, back-ups and the best part- grazing the green, green grass everywhere underfoot.

The interesting part of the day was when a group of children came out to play in the school yard on the other side of the fence. They were far away, yet the racket they made put Myrnah on high alert; and then, to my dismay, she took control of the situation and trotted off with me running behind until Myrnah had gotten us as far away as she could from the disturbing chaos. I have to admit I was glad for the fence that stopped her; I am not sure I am fit enough to have run as far away as she would have wanted to go. Once she felt safe enough, she reconnected to me, and, little by little, we made our way back to the center of our play area. Our bond felt tenuous after that, as though Myrnah wasn’t sure she could trust my decisions as a leader; but she didn’t distrust me either, she just held tight to her right to leave if the children or the basketball players across the field scared her too much.

For the most part we worked well together with lots of breaks to watch the players across the fence. Every once in a while though Myrnah would lead me in a fast run across the lot to the far side where she felt safer. She didn’t leave me, because I was right there with her, but it was clear she wouldn’t have stopped if I had asked, she took control of the situation and led us to safer ground.

 

After an hour and a half, the people playing in the neighboring field were not so worrisome anymore, and I decided it was time to load up and go home. Myrnah had other ideas.

 

We could approach the trailer and stand at the open door for a brief period of time, and then Myrnah would take definitive action, turning away to go somewhere else. I can stop her, and turn her and ask her to go forward, but I cannot make her do something she doesn’t want to do. She and I both know that.

 

Early on I wrote a blog: “For Every No, There Is a Yes Nearby”. Thursday, loading in the trailer, I definitely leaned on those ideas. For months I have been telling myself I would really like to spend more time walking with Myrnah. It is something horses do together and I feel we both benefit from it- traveling side by side, stride for stride, traveling miles, not just a few minutes, the rhythm and distance building the bond between us. Well, here was my chance. Walking together was the yes Myrnah was offering me; trailer loading was a no until she decided otherwise. Grazing was over for the day; there was hay and water in the trailer and until she decided to head in there, we were moving together.

So we moved. Sometimes, when Myrnah wanted to emphasize how much she didn’t want to get in the trailer, we ran away from it together. I want to practice trotting with her anyway, so it was a win-win situation. Whenever Myrnah wanted to look at the trailer, standing fairly close to it, we could rest. For an hour and a half we traveled together with only brief rests at the trailer. When we were standing there I would move forward a test step towards the trailer to see if I could walk in first to play with the hay and splash in the water bucket, but every time she would turn her head away and tell me she would rather go somewhere else than watch me walk toward the trailer. So that is what we would do, move together some more.

I have to say, about an hour into this trailer project I found myself considering all the contingency ideas: calling someone to come pick up Cameron and take her home for the night. Saying goodbye to Margret and letting go of the filming aspect of the day, bundling up in all my coats and putting on my head lamp so Myrnah and I could just keep traveling together through the dark until she was ready to load into trailer. I was there for the long haul. If Myrnah needed me to jog a marathon with her before she was ready to get in the trailer, that is what we would do. Lucky for me, just after I had figured out all my contingency plans, Myrnah decided she was ready to go home. We were standing resting, looking at the trailer, and this time, when I began to walk forward into it, she kept looking at me. I walked in and splashed in the water bucket and she quietly followed after me. She wasn’t thirsty, but did munch on a little hay. I walked out and closed the big door, reentering by the side door to sit with her, relaxing and listening to her chew before we headed home.

 

The drive home was as uneventful as the drive out had been. Myrnah was happy and relaxed as she stepped out of the trailer, perhaps just a little more alert than usual with the beauty of adrenaline still coursing through us both. Another challenge conquered, the stress proving energizing and fun, the day bonding us together just a little more.

 

Elsa Sinclair

EquineClarity.com 

 

PS The next day, Friday, Myrnah jumped right in the trailer without hesitation. Completely unscarred from the previous day’s adventure, the beauty of adrenaline seemingly all positive this time around. May we always be so lucky as we push forward into the unknown.

6 Comments

  1. Inch by inch, step by step…..;) Michael

  2. love this..

  3. What an absolutely marvelous and creative adventure! I’m sure the successful outcome of this new challenge came entirely from your absolute willingness to follow Myrnah’s ideas. A classic example of ‘Go with the horse, so the horse can eventually go with you’. Your trust and faith in Myrnah and this wonderful project are admirable Elsa!

  4. Sometimes when you do something new with your horse, and it doesn’t go exactly how you planned it, because your horse said No to something, sometimes the next time, the No has turned to Yes. I will be very excited to see how things go if there is a next time to this adventure. Myrnah will show you just how much she learned from this, that you might not even be thinking about. Her response to this tells us how beautifully you have laid the groundwork for it.

  5. I nominated you for a versatile blogger award – not that you need it >8)
    But love your blog so much

  6. P.S. I considered Myrnah filling the space given and showing her control of the situation. And isn’t it typical, that just when you accept a glitch, it stops? Did Myrnah read some body change, a drop of your shoulders when you finished mentally listing and accepting alternatives? Wow! An instant response. This keeps getting better and better, Lady. And Happy Birthday to Cameron! Michael 😉


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