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Tag Archives: libertyhorsemanship

The Project:

Horses from many walks of life, communication through body language, tools used only for safety, never to train.

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The Goal:

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

Playing With The Foundations Of FBT

My beautiful dapple-grey partner for the day was subtly and gently displeased with me, and I was not sure why. From reading her body language I knew she was displeased with me, because there was no yield in her movements, and I was working hard to figure out where to be in the spaces around her to find the partnership where yield became easy between us.

I was standing about twelve feet from her shoulder, out in an arena that was next to the stable where she had been eating hay for the last couple of hours. Lily was watching the neighborhood around her paddock and I was watching it with her.

Without any warning I could see, Lily turned directly spinning on her haunches so that suddenly I was at her tail and she was walking away from me. That was a movement I had no way of keeping up with, and there was no way for me to continue to hold the spot twelve feet from her shoulder that I had chosen to be, so faced with this communication from Lily, I walked around her (in the opposite direction of the spin, so I was not chasing her head as she turned) and look for my next spot to choose, hoping that it would be a place she appreciated my company more.

If I got it right I would know because Lily’s movements would start to show yield and become softly easy for me to match step for step. This is the simple quiet communication horses are always giving out.

The horse says to us: If I make it easy for you to move with me, or stand with me, you are in a reasonable place in relationship to me and you know this because of the yield in my movements.

If I move in a way you cannot hold the place in relation to me that you chose, you chose the wrong spot, or you chose to be there too long. You will know this as I try to get away from you and show some small degree of flight, or I push into you and show some small degree of fight.

I believe horses broadcast these messages to each other and us perpetually, but sadly, often, no one is listening.

On this day, I had decided to give myself fully to understanding Lily and listening to her for eight hours.

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Why eight hours? Because it was a length of time that challenged my stamina and skill in a reasonable way, and I have found something often changes for me and the horse together in a particularly beautiful way somewhere between hour six and hour eight.

In this particular moment of our session (about two and a half hours into the day together) we had spent most of our time in the stable as Lily ate hay from the hay bag on the wall, and interacted with the horses around her. Now we had taken a walk out to the arena for a moment and Lily was telling me that all my choices of place were wrong, or too long.

I determinedly tried to do better, circling around her until I saw that change of focus or ear flick that gave me a hint she was thinking more, and I might be in a spot that was acceptable to her. When I saw that flick of an ear from Lily, I came back into flow matching her feet and her focus, only to see her spin slowly away from me again letting me know I was wrong. Wrong place Elsa, too long.

Each time I walked a circle around again looking for the right place and thinking I had found it I would come back into flow, and again Lily would spin slowly away from me.

Frustrated with my lack of understanding as I listened to Lily, I kept trying to get it right and after five attempts to explain it to me, Lily decided to get more direct in her communication. Turning her quiet flight away from me into fight towards me, Lily pinned her ears to her neck and marched directly toward me in a threatening way, forcing me to put my arms out to defend myself as I skirted past her.

Then the light bulb of understanding turned on for me. I was too close!!! My adjustments from twelve feet away to fourteen feet to sixteen feet and from left side to right side and back side were all good tries, but not actually the right answer. Lily at that moment wanted me a good sixty to a hundred feet away.

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Why didn’t I figure that out sooner!

I fully believe if I had intuited that “right decision” of where to be and taken that choice of place, then Lily would have felt like I really was listening and I really understood her in that moment. As it was, we had to work at communicating until we figured out how to be together peacefully.

Once I adjusted my position to one much farther away, Lily’s movements became much easier to flow with and she let me know I was on the right track to understanding her in that moment.

However, just to be sure I got the message, Lily did something I have been noticing frequently when horses don’t want to have a close partnership with someone. Lily went and found her other friends, Mouse and Koa, and she placed herself directly between them in a way that made it very difficult for me to even try to get closer. Message received loud and clear Lily, I am listening and I will respond in a way that lets you know I am listening.

Because Lily was in the stable at that point, I chose to be her partner from outside, standing in the aisle of the barn. I was outside the bars and I did my best to move positions on the momentary signs of thought I could see in the flick of her ears, the theory being that noticing those thinking moments and responding to them with finding a new place of harmony, before I wore out my welcome in the place I was standing, was perpetually proving to Lily I was listening and I was responding to her. Even from outside the bars of the stable, I can listen to Lily, and I can respond. If I do it right, and I make the right choices, Lily will let me know by showing more and more yield in her movements so we can go places together when she chooses to move. If I do it wrong, there will be some degree of fight or flight letting me know I need to make better choices if I want her voluntary partnership.

Over the next month or six weeks, as I work to develop my personal stamina for my next year long Taming Wild project, I have decided to take one day each week to spend with a new and different horse.

During this day I am not aiming to change to help or develop the horse I am with, instead my goal is simply to hold space for them and be WITH them in the best ways I know how. My job is to observe them deeply and learn who they are in each moment we are together. As I grow to know them better, I can anticipate what they might choose to do next and I can place myself in the best location to partner them in their moment-to-moment choices.

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The theory of Freedom Based Training® starts NOT from a place of changing the horse, instead we change ourselves and hone our skills of where and when to be around the horse so that they become more and more interested in partnering with us.

We are attempting to change our own skill of body placement around them so they are in the frame of mind where they start to voluntarily develop into easier partners.

Later, from that foundation I will be able to more directly ask a horse to develop good partnership skills. Today’s task with Lily was simply to hone my own partnership skills while listening to Lily’s feedback deeply.

I noticed that Lily started the day in self-focus and I was making my responses as she made subtle focus shifts from one version of self-focus to another. Such as, pulling the hay out of the hay bag in one moment, to chewing the hay she had just pulled out in the following moment. Even though there was no obvious change in the ears or the eyes in the difference of those two actions, I would chose to respond to Lily’s small change of thought, moving to a new place around her.

If I could change places around Lily in a moment I thought there was more thinking, I would move only briefly returning to harmony as directly as possible.

If I had no thinking change from Lily and I had to move for any other reason, I would continue to walk around her until she showed me a thinking moment to let me know, THAT spot of physical relationship is one that might work for us.

My job was to listen to Lily and do my best to respond to her subtle body language conversation. I was not just doing whatever I felt like around Lily, I was taking small actions in response to her positive communication.

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What happens all too often in relationships is we do what we feel like until someone gets irritated enough to yell and get our attention that we should have made a different choice. In contrast to that, passive leadership is about making responses to positive communication (those subtle thinking moments) because I believe if we deeply listen and respond to the positive communications, there is less and less need to for the louder communications of fight or flight.

Lily showed me this throughout the day as she was mostly self-absorbed and did what she felt like as I shadowed her to the best of my ability. Every once in a while, Lily would put herself in a place that irritated Lovey, or Koa or Mouse and would get chased or threatened with some intensity. I could see it coming and would be for the most part walking away before it happened (leading Lily by good example that she could choose to follow or not).

Horses crave social interaction, and they seem to often feel much better after some conversation with each other. The problem is, if no one makes the effort to respond to subtle positive communication, they are going to have to push on each other harder to get any attention from their friends.

After every negative interaction with her paddock mates I observed Lily markedly happier with more thinking moments and more focus changes, with signs of licking and chewing and yawning and deep breaths. In a strange way irritating her friends into chasing her was rewarding for Lily, because she felt much better after they paid attention to her and gave her some response.

My job was not to change this, my job was to observe and learn and continually show Lily that I was responding to her small thinking moments, so she didn’t have to get loud or irritating to get my attention.

Throughout the day, slowly and surely, there was more and more yield in Lily’s movements, less and less pushing on and irritating her friends and each of my next responses to Lily started becoming easier to gauge and choose correctly.

The important thing for me is that I was not trying to make this change happen in Lily, I was trying to train my own awareness and responsiveness to her. Lily’s positive changes were an accidental by-product of my practice.

It was hugely gratifying in this situation to see the partnership with Lily grow easier for us both as the day went on. From the deep self-focus of the morning I watched Lily vary in thinking patterns, changing between patterns of more or less diversity as she focused around herself on a greater or lesser variety of things. As I observed and responded I saw a gradual overall change in the way Lily thought about and considered the world.

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As Lily’s thoughts became more diverse and had a wider range of interest, it became easier for me to be in the right place at the right time. I could see the eyes and the ears change first, and then the feet would start to move following her thought. This was very different from the beginning of the day where thought changes were very subtle and Lily’s feet seemed to move, propelled with no thought or plan behind the movement. In those moments I felt forced into supportive leadership where I had to keep moving my feet until I saw some sign of thinking change again, that led me back into Flow and Passive leadership.

Every moment I could see clearer thinking from Lily I wanted to jump up and down and cheer, and then I would remember, that isn’t the goal today that is the side effect of this work. The goal is for Elsa to get better and better at responding to the positive thinking and yielding signs. What Lily chooses to do with that is not my job to change; it is simply feedback on how well I am doing making my perpetual choices around her.

Still, when I get positive feedback that the general trend between us is better… I want to jump up and down and cheer.

But I don’t.

Instead I breathe, and match Lily, and think deeply about how I might do it better in the next moment and the next moment and the next.

This is my work, and I love it.

Hooves and Heartbeats,

Elsa

TamingWild.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Project:

Horses from many walks of life, communication through body language, tools used only for safety, never to train.

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The Goal:

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

 

The Eight Hour Challenge

How deeply do any of us know our horses?

 

I once read that to feel loved is to feel known and I think there is some truth to that. To really know someone requires an intense curiosity and an experimental willingness to take action and adjust action depending on the response received.

 

I believe there is some degree of love in every relationship, including our relationships with our horses.

 

In most horse training we ask a horse to know us and pay attention to how their actions and choices affect us as humans. We expect a well-trained horse partner to be in the right place at the right time and to adjust their behavior to suit us perpetually.

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In Freedom Based Training® I start from the other side of the equation. How well do I know my horse? How well can I express that understanding to my horse?

 

If I know my horse doesn’t like it when I stand too far away, then a short amount of standing far away may be interesting to them, but if I stand far away for too long or too often, my presence becomes a burden on their experience. If I deeply know my horse I will know how long it is appropriate to do anything, and where the line is between interesting and irritating. I will be able to take action before I become irritating, and I will be able to regain our state of harmony in good places and ways frequently.

 

To really know my horse, I have to put aside my personal desire that my horse know me. In Freedom Based Training®, I have to trust that what I give will come back to me. Or more directly, once I have given enough of my attention and I know my horse deeply, I have earned the right to ask them to know me in return.

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This depth of relationship building is the foundation for what I do in Freedom Based Training®, and I have found there is an awesome side effect to this work. The more time spent really knowing a horse, and taking actions in a way that prove to them that they are known and understood, the more they seem to make this same effort towards others. Then all their relationships improve, both with people and other horses. This deeply affects the quality of a horse’s life with the other horses in their herd.

 

This week I noticed my mare Cleo had gotten in an emotional rut. I don’t know why, I just know that as I was watching the evidence of action in the herd, I was seeing a downward spiral. Cleo was angry and quick to pin her ears and push the others, then instead of yielding to her and finding harmony together, the other horses in the herd would simply walk away from her to find harmony with someone else instead. Cleo was so grumpy and unpleasant no one wanted to be with her, no one wanted to be curious about what she needed and no one wanted to help her lower her stress by being her partner. The more disinterest the horses showed, the more ugly Cleo’s behavior became and the more ugly her behavior was the more disinterest it created in her friends.

 

I do work with Cleo for an hour or so each day, but my usual Freedom Based Training just wasn’t seeming to make much of a difference to Cleo in the rest of her life this week.

 

I decided this was my perfect opportunity to prove my worth as Cleo’s partner and see what happened with some intense investment in attention from me.

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The challenge:

 

Eight hours in one day spent in the best mirroring, matching, flow and harmony I could manage.

 

The means for me to do this were based on the first two leadership styles in the leadership spectrum:

 

Passive Leadership and Supportive Leadership

 

Passive Leadership is the most important, because it is where I am curious about how to shape my actions around Cleo to know her deeply.

 

Where can I place myself in harmony with Cleo and then when it is time to change, where is the next place I can place myself in harmony with Cleo. If I know her, I can make decisions of where to stand and they will feel good to her, if I do not know her well enough, she has to move her own body until I am in a place that works for her. By deeply knowing a horse we take the pressure off them to make themselves comfortable and we take the responsibility to be in the right place at the right time. The more consistently we do this, the more they feel they can trust us and the lower their stress levels become.

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Sometimes though, I am going to make mistakes and the place I choose to be will cause Cleo to make a counter decision to let me know I was in the wrong place for the wrong amount of time. That is when I would get moved into supportive leadership.

 

Supportive leadership is where I start taking action, by walking around my horse (or stroking or petting or rocking my horse), experimenting with distance from my horse and my style of action. As I experiment with all this I am aware of the surroundings and being deeply curious about which place I am in when Cleo starts to think more and show better feelings. When she does that it is my clue to come back into harmony with her.

 

If I deeply knew Cleo I could have gone right to that spot directly before she got uncomfortable. When my feel and timing is off, Cleo shows that discomfort by moving in ways we cannot move together. However, knowing someone is always a process of experimentation, and if we don’t know where to be we have to simply try things until we get positive feedback from our horse that we are now in the right place where harmony can resume.

 

Every “right place” we choose to be with our horse has an expiration date. Our job is to change places of harmony before the one we are in becomes stale.

 

This process of choosing the next best place of harmony and flow with a horse perpetually is an awesome challenge. Try doing it for eight hours and you might be amazed with what you learn.

 

Now, this is not normal behavior in a horse herd or between a horse and a human because this intensity of perpetual awareness and responsiveness is exhausting. I actually have only attempted this intensity of training and relationship a few times in the many years I have been doing this. Even when I was in the depth of training in the first movie, my norm with Myrnah was between four and six hours a day, not eight.

 

Watching the development in Cleo blossom in this eight hour challenge this week changed my mind about my personal willingness to dive deeper and work longer. The results were so interesting with Cleo, I find I want to try it again, with different horses and see what happens.

 

For the first four hours Cleo was often grumpy with her horse friends in the herd, and I moved often and experimented heavily to find the right places to be. After the first hour, I was exhausted from the effort so I chose to go have a bit of a nap in the shade of the hedgerow. About fifteen minutes later I was wakened by a soft nuzzle from Cleo on my leg. It was interesting to me that of all fourteen horses in the herd, Cleo was the one who came over to wake me when she felt I had slept long enough. I stepped back up to my challenge and resumed my efforts in matching, mirroring, harmony, and flow with Cleo.

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Then, all the horses took a nap under the deep shade of the cedar trees and my job got much easier, standing in harmony and flow with Cleo as she slept. When all the other horses chose to leave the shade and move off to their grazing on the other side of the pond, Cleo chose to stay in the shade with me, sleeping longer than everyone else. I believe it was my company that allowed her to stay longer and rest more, without me there I don’t think she would have taken that time as I have never seen her off by herself, she always goes where the herd goes.

 

After that nap Cleo’s mood improved dramatically and she seemed appreciative of a greater variety of things. The better her mood was the greater likelihood I had of making the right choices and being at the right place at the right time. We rejoined the herd and then Cleo spent the rest of the afternoon taking me away from the herd to graze in odd corners of the pasture away from everyone in a way that seemed very unlike her normal behavior. We would be off by ourselves for twenty minutes or so and then wander back and pair up with one of the others for a while, before wandering off by ourselves for a few more minutes.

 

Cleo’s mood and positive outlook on life seemed to perpetually improve all day. By the time it was getting dark and we were in the last hour of the challenge Cleo seemed happily paired up with her best horse friends in a way I felt deeply good about. It was time for me to walk away, find my bed and think deeply about all I had learned.

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I hope my personal challenge inspires you.

 

How well do you know your horse?

 

How many hours would you be willing to spend with your horse without asking anything of them, and challenging yourself to your best feel and timing, resulting in the maximum amount of flow and harmony possible? What would you learn if you did that?

 

Are you willing to take the eight hour challenge?

 

Or perhaps six hours, or four hours would be a good challenge for you?

 

I picked ten hours the first time I did an intensive session of passive leadership; you can find the blog about that here:

https://equineclarity.org/2016/11/29/it-takes-time/

 

Eight hours seemed more manageable this time with Cleo.

 

Just remember, this work can be subtle, and sometimes you won’t see much change in the first few hours. So if you are interested and you can dig a little deeper, spend a little more time, and see what happens.

 

If you find yourself inspired to try it, I would love to hear how it went for you. Perhaps you could write down your experiences and share them here as a guest blog?

 

Hooves and Heartbeats,

Elsa

TamingWild.com

 

The Project:

Horses from many walks of life, communication through body language, tools used only for safety, never to train.

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The Goal:

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

 

The Uniqueness of Now

I have been on this incredible teaching tour through Europe for a little over a month now and I have only a few more weeks to go. Nine clinics in seven weeks across six different countries and so many interesting horses and humans to study everywhere I go. I am in my element and I feel like I am being flooded by a sea of new ideas and understanding every day with every new situation I get to be part of.

Then, amidst all this brilliant travel and learning, while in the outstanding beauty of Ireland, I got a cold. One of those “tickle in your throat” that starts and you are sure it will just be momentary, and then the words coming out of your mouth start to break up and rattle and the frightening truth comes up hard in your face. The gift of being able to talk isn’t granted permanently, it can be taken away.

What happens if I lose my voice? I still have four more clinics scheduled, what if I can’t talk and no one can hear what I have to share? What if I have to cancel and let everyone down?

I would love to tell you I handled all this gracefully, but I didn’t. I excused myself early in the evenings and tried to sleep as much as I could, however, I also found myself in the usual trap of shame and guilt. I thought if only I had slept more, had more water to drink, eaten more carefully, exercised more, this would have never happened. If I had been a better person, I would not have been looking down the throat of failure. While all that may have a grain of truth, in those moments of trying to sleep and attempting to find my health again, it wasn’t helpful.

Then I arrived in Portugal and the wave of heat that met me outside the airport doors was like a new lease on life and my stuffy head started to clear.

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As with most things, once we see the light at the end of the tunnel, we can see how to get there. What if I treated this as a unique experience? Not something I was afraid would last forever, ruining everything. What if I could be truly curious about what I experienced? I can breathe out of my left side, but not my right… interesting… but when I turn my head something shifts and it changes, I feel like one side of my head is a big as a balloon, while the other feels normal, interesting.

However, it can only be interesting if we start to believe it will not last forever. What if this tightness in my throat was a unique experience? What if today was the last time I got to experience it in my entire life? Would that make it more worthy of study? Instead of worrying that it would keep getting worse until it killed everything good in my life, what if I treated it as the only time I might ever get to experience this phenomenon of being human.

Here is where my personal revelation bridges into my work and something I have been thinking about a great deal over the last couple of weeks. This is where I get to step back into my comfort zone and start talking about horse training again.

I think this fear of something lasting forever and ruining everything is one of our biggest problems in relationships.

Whether it is a horse running and bucking and pacing endlessly because it wants to be somewhere other than with you, or a horse that stands like it is made of stone seemingly oblivious to your company, these sorts of situations seem to bring up the fight in people. I will be honest, they bring up the fight in me as well.

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I find I want to fix it, I want to make it change, I want to do something that makes the horse want to be in a good relationship with the human. I want to sweep in like the knight in shining armor and slay the dragon of bad behavior so horse and human can live happily ever after.

But that isn’t how Freedom Based Training® works, and I have embarked on a different journey here. Not one of knights, princesses and fairy tales, but a journey where we get to be deeply curious about whatever is currently happening. We get to pay attention to it, and respond to it until the inevitability of life happens and things change. I truly believe that paying attention and responding appropriately will nurture any experience into slowly becoming better. We don’t have to fight the bad to win the good, we just need to pay attention and nurture what we like in life.

What if we don’t like anything? What if it seems like there is nothing to nurture? What if it seems like it is only getting worse, not better? In these situations the instinct to fight or to freeze and give up becomes strong.

The solution? Fight needs to gently be nurtured into curiosity. Freeze needs to be gently nurtured into thinking.

How do we do that? Pay attention and count.

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If we see the horse is running then we walk back and forth around them. If the horse is standing without acknowledging our presence then we stand next to them. Regardless of how we need to be around them, we count our breaths. We need to be curious, how many breaths will it take until the next change in the situation?

Be in the present moment with curiosity and thoughtfulness and respond to every subtle change. The more responsive we are to change, the more change we will start to see.

If you have trouble like I do sometimes, wanting to fight for faster change, or wanting to give up and disappear because it feels hopeless to make any effort at all, consider this:

Every experience is unique in some way. This is absolutely the last time you will ever experience this moment. If you don’t pay attention and notice every detail, it will be lost forever. This is your one chance to experience this particular event.

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to take the instinct of fight and turn it into play… or curiosity. Take the instinct of flight and turn it into yield where you make room for (and pay attention to) whatever is happening instead of running away from it. Take the instinct of freeze where you give up and disappear in your mind and turn it into the thinking and awareness your mind was designed for.

When you start to reach for the functional side of the stress spectrum you will find life gets better, and as it gets better and you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, then you will know where to go and what to do next.

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To quote Mary Oliver,

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

Hooves and Heartbeats,

Elsa

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The Project:

Horses from many walks of life, communication through body language, tools used only for safety, never to train.

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The Goal:

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

 

Coming Home to Freedom Based Training

 

This is the hundred and fiftieth blog written for Meditations on Equestrian Art, and it seems momentous. Because of that importance I have sat down to write it a million times and a million times I have stood up and decided I have something else that needs doing.

 

After filming “Taming Wild: Pura Vida” and walking across Costa Rica, my public persona went a little quiet as I pondered, Who am I and what exactly am I bringing to the world?

 

After Costa Rica I found myself on a teaching tour through Australia and New Zealand and then back home to the lush green of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, all the while pondering, Who am I, and what am I sharing?

 

Here is what it comes down to.

 

I will be me and you will be you.

 

Out of that a relationship will develop.

 

The horse is perfect just the way it is, regardless of whether the horse is happy or unhappy, more stressed or less stressed.

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The human is perfect just the way it is, regardless of whether the human is happy or unhappy, more stressed or less stressed.

 

How is it that I can have a job if everything is perfect just the way it is? What is my role in the world? When I teach a course or a clinic or a workshop, isn’t my job to create change for the better?

 

That is often what I have thought, but I am coming to realize my job is not to create change. Change is inevitable; in fact, change is one of the few inevitable things in the world.

 

My job is simply to shine a light and develop the awareness of options.

 

Specifically, I choose to shine a light on the options that most people do not talk about in horse training: personal choices. Not the choices we make for our horse, but the choices we make for our own bodies.

 

When most people think about training horses or developing relationships, the goal is to change and develop the horse into being more of the horse you want. It becomes about limits, boundaries, direction, and teaching the horse right from wrong.

 

Often humans want the same kind of learning structure. They want to know the right or wrong actions to take in training their horse.

 

Freedom Based Training is different though. It isn’t about changing the horse or changing the human. It is instead about finding the harmony between horse and human exactly as they are.

 

THEN and only then do we start to consider what personal actions we might take that evolve and develop and grow the partnership into a greater variety of harmonious Flow states.

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This is the slowest possible way to train a horse because the primary focus is not on changing the horse, or even on changing the human. If neither the horse nor the human changes, we find there are actually a very limited amount of things horse and human would choose to do together.

 

So this is why I filmed “Taming Wild: Pura Vida”. I wanted to show the human world that I understood human needs with horses: to set a goal, work towards a goal, and achieve a goal, all within a shorter time frame.

 

I learned so very much in the process of doing that!

 

Exploring the grey areas of what is, what might be, or what could be, when we use tools to get a partner to an end goal with us, I realized I wanted so much more Freedom for the horses in my time with them.

 

I don’t want to have to make it to camp by nightfall, I don’t want to figure out the best way to manipulate the horse so that it makes it to camp by nightfall. I don’t want to use everything I know about lowering stress in horses to then take advantage of their lowered stress to cross terrain that possibly should never be crossed with horses.

 

Did I do all those things? Yes.

Did I learn important things by putting myself in that position? Yes.

Am I glad I did that? Yes.

Would I do it again? No.

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Now I feel a need to take a step back into who I really am and what Freedom Based Training really is.

 

I want to live a life where my horse is in a safe enough situation that they can make their own choices about what they want, and as the human I work within the range of what I want for my own body in time and space. Eventually, those choices I make for my own body will prove my worth in the relationship and I will earn the right to start asking for things from my partner.

 

The together part of the equation where horses do things that humans want – that goal is still there, but in Freedom Based Training the time frame gets taken away and we figure the relationship takes the time it takes.

 

This is the most important piece of Freedom Based Training for me. Taming that wild streak inside myself that wants what I want when I want it.

 

Costa Rica was an amazing adventure, and I am so glad I learned so much doing it. Now I am settling in to the purer practice of gentle evolution between horse and human.

 

My wild streak wants the world to appreciate the slow process with horses right now. My wild streak wants to please people and give them answers that train their horses faster. My wild streak wants to take the slow process of relationship evolution and make it faster. My wild streak is contradictory and wants all the things right now!

 

My wild streak is perfect exactly the way it is, and slowly, as I tame that wild streak that wants all the things it doesn’t have yet, life gets more enjoyable. Slowly.

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As I get ready to leave for the European teaching tour I am feeling the conflicts of my wild streaks. I want it all, and I want it now. I want to teach people that setting limits and consequences for our horses is one way to teach them, but not the only way. I want to shine light on all the options for training horses and building relationships that do not rely on boundaries, limits, and time frames. At the same time, I want to make people happy and help them get their horse to stop eating grass all the time so they can do more things together.

 

How do I accept everything as it is, shine light on what it could be, and work towards the possibilities without telling anyone they are wrong or bad for wanting what they want? Horse or human! Both the horse’s wants and the human’s wants are valid, even if the horse only wants to eat grass and the human wants to do something more interesting.

 

Between the human’s wild streak and the horse’s wild streak is where the art of Freedom Based Training is.

 

Everyone gets to be exactly who they are with their own personal wants, needs, and wild streaks, and I get to explore all the options for developing endless varieties of harmony between horse and human while letting them all be exactly who they are.

 

If any of this piques your interest, I hope I get to meet you and we can share some of the evolution of Taming Wild.

 

Hooves and Heartbeats,

Elsa

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Upcoming Clinics and workshops:

The Project:

Horses from many walks of life, communication through body language, tools used only for safety, never to train.

The Goal:

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

 

The Big Red Button

 

It is right there – red, shiny, catches your attention. What would happen if you pushed it? You know you shouldn’t, it doesn’t belong to you, but the curiosity flares every time you see it. Big Red Buttons beg to be pushed!

 

Now there are some personality types for whom this is not an issue, but for me this is a lifelong dilemma. When there is a button there and you are not sure what it does, don’t you just want to push it and find out?

 

Or sometimes, even when you do know what that button does… you have to push it anyway, simply because nothing else is happening at the moment and something happening would feel more productive than nothing happening.

 

I am sure by now you have figured out I am not really talking about a plastic red button on an otherwise empty wall; I am speaking as I often do, metaphorically.

 

As I work with a horse, I am working to develop our comfort zones so that we will have more and more things we can do together that bring us joy. There are of course the learning stages of tolerance and acceptance that need to be worked through on the way to joy, and that is what I study and teach in Freedom Based Training.

In this blog post I want to talk about Intolerance – those things the horse says NO to. When the horse says I won’t do that, I can’t do that, I don’t feel like doing that. Most of us horse trainers are taught to find those things and then work them out. That is our job!

 

Most of us who aspire to be horse trainers think this is what horse training is.

 

The common saying is the comfort zone is only growing when you are uncomfortable.

 

I would like to challenge that.

 

A student asked me the other day if she should take it personally that some days her horse didn’t seem at all interested in doing things with her when she came to see him. So I had to turn that question around and ask, should your horse take it personally that you don’t seem interested in hanging out at the hay pile with him while he eats?

 

Part of being in relationship is the basic premise and fact that we will bring interest and diversity into each other’s lives. Taming Wild is about taming that wild streak we all have within us that wants everything the way we want it right away. When we tame that wild streak, we open the door to being curious about all the things we could enjoy together.

 

There is a problem though; we get bored with someone else’s desires and we want them to want what we want.

And if the horse does not want what we want, how many times do we need to ask them and make them say “no” to us again and again and again?

 

I find the horse saying “no” is the biggest irresistible red button for people.

 

If a horse loves to jump jumps, what do people do? They keep asking it to jump higher and stranger things until it says; “No, I can’t do that.”

 

If a horse likes to walk through the fields, what do people do? They want to canter or gallop until the horse says; “No, that scares me and I just want to run home where it is safe when you ask me to go that fast.”

 

This seems to be our human nature; we always want a little too much from our partners.

 

I am as much to blame on this account as anyone is and so I find myself asking WHY?

 

Why do I get bored with what the horse finds enjoyable? Why do I find myself wanting to reach for that “NO” answer from the horse and push us right over the edge of the comfort zone? Why is my wild streak so incorrigible sometimes?

Part of me wants to say it is simply my training, because horse trainers are generally paid to work horses through the things they are intolerant of until they accept or enjoy what was once an answer of “no”.

 

However, I know now for a fact that my best training comes from being curious and gently exploring all the possible fun things I can do with a horse. Why am I always tempted to reach for the red button and make my horse say “no” to me yet again?

 

I think the answer is in our understanding of stress levels.

 

Stress is a good thing, it helps us grow and learn and develop, and when it is at a functional level it bonds us together with our partners.

 

When stress is at a dysfunctional level, all of us will tend to take actions of Fight, Flight or Freeze that alienate us from our friends.

 

Recently I have been spending some time working with a beautiful grey Arabian mare. As I do my passive leadership work, I get a chance to watch Lily interact with her herd mates. When she is at a functional stress level she has friends, the other horses will flow and find harmony with her, but, when her stress levels increase beyond a certain point, she goes looking for ways to bring them down to a functional level again.

 

The two things that bring stress down are:

  1. Leadership – Someone who makes decisions that are accepted by others.
  2. Movement – The contraction and extension of muscles in a rhythmic way that moves energy through the body.

 

So when Lily’s stress levels increase, I watch her reach for that big red button just like I do. She walks around the paddock pushing on the other horses until one of them says “NO” to her in a big enough way she accepts their decision. As soon as that happens, you can see her stress dissipate, and she can fall into flow and harmony with the leader she just found for herself.

As a horse trainer I am a little different. I am not going to accept the answer “no” from a horse because I don’t see that as beneficial for anyone. “Yes” answers grow the comfort zone; “no” answers keep the comfort zone rigidly in place. Yet watching Lily lower her stress levels by pushing on her friends until they set a boundary for her makes me wonder if that is why I reach for the red button also? Am I making horses set a boundary for me to make me feel better? Even if I push through their intolerance to get a “yes” answer of some sort before finding harmony with a horse, did I first have to set them up to give me a boundary so my personal stress levels would go down?

 

It is a question worth thinking about.

 

Acting on this premise has led me to a brilliant set of sessions with horses lately. When I am tempted to go push that red button and do something the horse is likely to say “no” to, instead I ask myself the question, what can I do to take personal responsibility for my stress levels.

 

The two things that bring stress down are:

  1. Leadership – Someone who makes decisions that are accepted by others.
  2. Movement – The contraction and extension of muscles in a rhythmic way that moves energy through the body.

 

So I apply those principles to myself. Leadership – make a decision for Elsa that will be accepted by the horse I am working with. Movement – walk rhythmically around my horse until I feel better.

Once my stress levels are at more functional levels, I am more likely to ask my horse for things they will say “yes” to.

 

The same goes for my horses, The more functional level their stress is, the more they will ask their friends for things that might evoke a “yes” answer, leading to harmony and flow.

 

The less functional the stress levels are, the more likely the boredom/freeze, flight, or fight come into play and the horses go looking for those red buttons, those “no” answers, and those boundaries given by a moment of leadership that bring the stress levels down temporarily.

 

What we do in Freedom Based Training is work to bring stress to a functional level for everyone involved by taking personal responsibility for our stress and letting the horses take personal responsibility for theirs.

The other day at the end of a three-hour training session with Lily, I stood with her as she ate some Alfalfa. Then we walked together as she smoothly stepped in on Daisy’s pile and Daisy moved easily away to find a different pile of hay, between them an easy flow and harmony with no need for any display of boundaries. Then you could see Lily’s tension rise; she needed that red button, so into Mouse’s stall we went, too strong, too fast and Mouse felt pushed enough to kick out at Lily, giving her leadership and a boundary and making her back off. Lily seemed to feel better instantly, THEN she took a breath and very gently worked her way into flow and harmony at Mouse’s pile. One step forward and pause, another step forward and pause, one step back to give him a moment, then one step forward again. When she made it all the way to the hay pile, she didn’t eat right away. She looked around for a little while, showed some interest in the hay and then backed off and watched the barn for a moment again before she reached down and took a bite. Before long they were munching side by side in flow and harmony together.

 

Like any good horse trainer, Lily didn’t take “no” for an answer in that situation. She persisted until she got the answer of “yes”. She used advance and retreat (movement and leadership) to lower Mouse’s stress level until his likely answer was “yes”, then she took a bite of his hay.

 

The question simply is: Did she really need to come in so strong and fast in the beginning and make Mouse kick at her before she did it right?

 

How often are we all guilty of the same process where we need to push that big red button and get a big “no” answer before we slow down and develop our relationship and the things we do together in a fully functional way.

 

Perhaps if we put a little forethought into our actions, we might see where those big red “no” buttons are and resist pushing them to ease our own boredom or lower our own stress.

When we refuse to push the button that makes others create boundaries for us, then we truly start to take responsibility for our own stress, our own wild streak, and our own capability to make everything better for everyone.

 

Hooves and Heartbeats,

Elsa

 

TamingWild.com