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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.

 

Boundaries

Little Errai seems to be as precocious as he is adorable. Myrnah continues to be the perfect mother and the picture of unconditional love and adoration toward her little one. This week is all about boundaries- recognizing them, expanding them, and laying down new ones.

As we live in community, the boundaries we create are all about the comfort of the individuals within the group. If the individuals are comfortable, then the group is comfortable. However, coming to some decision among individuals about where those boundaries stand can be a work in process and change from day to day.

Because Errai is so precocious and social, we hope to move him and Myrnah out into the herd sooner rather than later. It seems like he is just dancing with excitement over the idea of thirteen aunts and uncles to bounce off of in his process of growing up. In preparation we have been putting horses in with Myrnah and Errai in small groups of ones, twos, and threes, allowing Myrnah to get used to the idea of sharing her colt with the larger group and allowing her to set whatever boundaries she needs to feel comfortable.

For the most part Errai is so excited to go visit with the new horses and Myrnah chases them away, making it clear she is not ready for him to socialize with the equine herd just yet. She lays the boundary close around her foal with people and herself the only approved playmates for Errai. When Errai is asleep, the other horses are allowed to graze quite close to him and Myrnah seems completely relaxed about it; she has set the boundary and is confident they will respect it, not touching him even if they come close. When Errai is up and about, though, Myrnah has less control of the situation and sends the horses farther away to make it clear to Errai they are not for him yet. Myrnah expresses unconditional love and appreciation for her foal with a fierce control of the outside world, setting it up in Errai’s best interest.

Interestingly, on Tuesday this week, Myrnah started to let those boundaries stretch. Errai, wanted so much to go talk to Saavedra and Theo, so he would give a little whinny and take a few steps toward them, and then pause and do it again over and over until he got within a couple of feet. Myrnah grazed calmly a little ways away not interrupting this time. However, when he got there, Saavedra pinned her ears and shook her nose at him, and he spun around galloping back to his Mum, boundaries remaining intact.

Later that afternoon the big gelding, Ram, was in with mare and foal, and finally Errai was allowed some outside contact. Nosing at Ram’s tail and back legs in his ever curious way, Errai was allowed to stretch his boundaries a little farther this time. Ram, however, seemed to recognize the boundary being stretched and wanted nothing more than to get away from Errai and out of that paddock. I guess a protective mother is something to be respected, and, even if she looks calm and allowing, the other horses recognize they are in delicate territory talking to her precious little one. Little by little and day by day I am sure they will come to an understanding of boundaries that is comfortable for everyone.

The boundary that has focused my attention most this week is the one between Errai and his devoted following of people. Everyone loves and adores him, Myrnah is completely at ease sharing him with people, and Errai is thrilled to have people around to amuse him, showing it in so many ways. The conversations he and I have back and forth when I show up are so much fun! A whinny from him, a greeting from me, another whinny from him, another greeting from me, and so on for sometimes five or six repetitions. When Errai sees someone enter his small pasture, he will leave his mother at a gallop to come visit. That sight of a horse galloping straight at you with no hesitation, just pure joy that you are finally there to see him, is quite something.

Once Errai gets close though, there is a boundary to be set. Biting and striking, while natural, fun, playful actions between colts, have no place in the horse-human relationship I aim to foster. So no matter how adorable his draw to people is, Errai must be pushed away if any of those dominant behaviors come into play. The question is: How to set a boundary without using fear to get respect for this boundary? Right now I aim not to startle or strike, just to simply and firmly push Errai away to make it clear he crossed a line. The theory is “backing cures biting”. If I can find ways to cause Errai to back off if he crosses the line without threatening or startling him, that is my preference. Then I just hope we develop good habits and patterns before he gets too big to affect this simply.

The most fun and effective application of this boundary, however, was set between a visitor, David, and little Errai the other day. David and Errai met at the fence to greet each other. I asked David to walk away if Errai started to bite, allowing the fence to be the clear boundary. The inevitable happened, and David walked away to re-approach farther down the fence line. Little Errai figured out after only a few repetitions that he only got to keep visiting with this fabulous person if he kept his teeth to himself. David’s timing must have been just right for Errai to understand that day because Errai became instantly smitten with this new person, following him along the fence line, attention riveted, and so quiet and respectful whenever David did come close. A beautiful demonstration of reward (having your new best friend stay close when you treat him well) can work ever so much better than punishment or negative reinforcement.

The other boundary that has been stretched this week was that of territory Myrnah and I ride in. Stepping outside the gates of the orchard nursery into the larger field to ride was wonderful. The chance to stretch legs and move in longer straight lines was appreciated by Myrnah and Errai and myself. While a walk and trot and a little canter is plenty to keep Myrnah and me happy at this juncture, Errai was thrilled to stretch his legs to their fastest speeds. It will be wonderful to see him out with the larger herd in the larger pastures all the time soon.

So here is to boundaries- set, stretched, enforced, and discussed among individuals. Ever evolving, they keep us comfortable, living together in community.

Elsa Sinclair

EquineClarity.com

4 Comments

  1. Elsa,

    What an incredible testament to the love and respect you and Myrnah have for each other. To see you cantering off on her with no tools with a foal close is pretty amazing!
    Thanks for yet another heart-pinger!
    Maggie

  2. Wow—Triple WOW! It’s as if you planned this…wait, you did. And documented those plans at the beginning of these ‘Meditations’.
    “Pleased but not quite satisfied”, or “leave it wanting more.” I kept thinking about that….
    Either way, this is what I meant at Plum Pond awhile back, by “Look at what you’re doing—LOOK at what you might do when you connect, get energized, turned on.
    Yet, the wanting more is good, also. 😉 😉 😉 Michael

  3. How great to read about these boundaries, by the example of this brave little colt Errai :-)!

  4. Liziee-
    Over the past weeks, I see what you mean by allowing boundaries to exist, and elating that they are only that, just boundaries, ABLE TO BE CROSSED, able to be modified if desired and able to stay low enough as to not be barriers. You have a delicate touch for the uniqueness of life and all that lives within its boundaries. The sights of your Progression , Understanding , Will to change, Direction to travel and Passion to exemplify,,,
    are truly a vivid canvas we all should learn to paint in our minds & hearts, the lives of the ones we care about and truly the ones we love.
    You and your patience are undoubtedly a wonderful inspiration to many you reach out to. Your horses and your family are lucky to have you in their lives.
    C~


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  1. […] bond and friendship between individuals. If a question asked has a no answer, you end up with a discussion of boundaries, as I explored in last weeks blog. All questions are valid and develop society as a working whole. […]

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