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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.

 

Life in Questions

Myrnah and Errai are out in the big pasture with all their friends now, and exceedingly happy to be there. Over the last week, watching the dynamics of herd life has made me think about questions. It seems to me there is a vitality and harmony and life in questions. The workings of a herd are all about grace in developing relationship, I believe a horse’s skill in asking questions is what makes for their ease or lack thereof in a herd.

When we ask questions and then listen for the answer it will tend to fall into either a yes category or a no category. If a question asked has a yes answer, you have a developing 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. However, I have observed that the more questions asked receiving yes answers, the greater the peace and feeling of well being within a herd.

Horses ask very simple questions: Can I stand close to you? Can I ask you to move? Can I itch shoulders with you? Can I ask you to go away? Can I ask you to come with me? Some horses ask these questions with tact and build stronger and stronger connections with everyone around them. Some horses have still to develop that tact and get angry responses that lead to boundary disputes. There is every variation of skill in those discussions in a herd and it can be fascinating to watch.

Myrnah, as always, continues to impress me. She absolutely sets some boundaries about Errai with the other horses, yet every day she softens and settles and relaxes the ferocity of enforcing them allowing Errai more and more contact with his new, enlarged family. Myrnah asks questions of the other horses with a mixture of results. Sometimes she gets a no, sometimes she gets a yes; but what impresses me is how, for the most part, she stays in the conversation with an easygoing attitude, regardless of the answers she gets. She has very little emotional angst or upset about the ebb and flow of questions and answers within a herd, and so, you will almost always see her and Errai right in the middle of everyone, part of the group and looking like they are right where they belong.

There are two chestnut Arabian mares that have decided they are the handmaidens of mare and foal. Maharrah and Savannah seem to flank Myrnah and Errai wherever they go. Myrnah doesn’t seem to mind them at all, and they seem completely devoted to their newfound job.

There are two chestnut geldings who vie for leadership in the field just now. Ram is the established dominant gelding: big, powerful and a little insecure about perhaps receiving no for an answer, his questions are more like demands with a dominant push to always get a yes. Theo is new in the herd: alternately very persistent about wanting to be close, and then hyper reactive, galloping to the farthest reaches of the field when Ram says no and draws a boundary. I am sure the two of them will work it out over time. Questions and answers create a conversation: the only way to create skill in that conversation is to keep having it until ease is developed.

This morning I took Myrnah for a ride around the herd. She felt unbelievably happy and relaxed about working with me. Savannah saw our intention to take a ride around and led the way. Myrnah and I followed her along the mown track at the edge of the field; little Errai came along behind us. Part way around we passed near Theo, and he came toward us with a demand to be close. Myrnah pinned her ears to say no and drew a boundary, but Theo would not take no for an answer, Ram overreacted to the dispute and came charging over to chase Theo off. While I was impressed that I never felt unsafe riding Myrnah through all this, I also knew when I needed to get off and ask my own questions (or in this case, make my demands) of everyone. Given the intensity of the situation I yelled at the feuding boys, sending Rom and a very reluctant Theo off in separate directions. Equilibrium restored in the herd, I found Myrnah and Errai again, swung up, and we continued our ride around the field.

I can’t begin to express how impressed and thrilled I am with Myrnah’s development. With foal at her side and the chaos of herd life all around her, she still looks forward to seeing me, she still is happy to take me for rides, and every day she and I get better at asking each other questions in ways that get yeses instead of noes.

Little by little Myrnah and I will push each other’s boundaries. As we feel more and more connected and bonded to each other, we will become more and more comfortable saying yes instead of no. Those lines we drew in the sand to keep ourselves comfortable will be washed away by the trust we develop.

Errai is part of all this too. This evening he cantered to me as I approached, leaving his mother behind.

His questions to me: Can I be close? Will you scratch my back? Can we play? Over the last week my answer has been: Touch my hand gently with your nose and you can be close, and I will scratch your back. Errai’s idea of playing is all about biting and pushing, so I have drawn a boundary there. However, tonight our communication had developed to a point where we could start to play a little. I could run away from him, and he would gallop after me. When I stopped I would turn so he could run past me. Reaching my hand out for him and drawing it softly away in front of his nose as he circled me, gave him the chance to think it through and choose to touch softly with his nose letting us end the game with the closeness and the back scratches he loves best. Sometimes he still gets too excited and wants to bite me or run into me, leaving me no choice but to push him away and create a boundary again. That happens less and less often, though, as Errai learns the patterns, and I get better at asking questions in ways that get a yes instead of a no.

The life in questions is vivid and bright and inspires us to develop our skills of communication. We all want to have friends, feel loved, and feel safe in our community.  I believe questions and answers are the tools that ever deepen that bond with the world around us.

Elsa Sinclair

EquineClarity.com

3 Comments

  1. Very profound and though provoking my sweet. Your understanding is refined and remarkable. As the leader in the field you allow the ability for questions to be asked and never dis-allow in incorrect answer to detour you from the most important task, your endeavour to create the best relationship a horse can have with a person.. You are far more wise than anyone can comprehend.
    Wonderful and very well written.
    C~

  2. Compliance with the herd…sounds like the next year’s “Meditations”! 😉 Michael

  3. Very good blog and beautiful pictures as usual! Thanks!


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