“It is hard to believe that something as ineffable as a persons’s inner state can have any influence on a massive horse.”
“Togetherness is the foundation from which everything else proceeds. Togetherness – not hierarchy…”
Imke Spilker, Empowered Horses (p. 28)
A post from Lynne brought me back to this book, which I read when it was first published in English (courtesy of Amazon thinking I might like this book). In my opinion, this is a seminal work which goes beyond any other book on being with horses that I have read. The photos in the book are gorgeous with much to learn from and the text is worth chewing over many times. I almost feel I dare not attempt to sum up the book as so much would be missed, but the second quote above is, I think, a key to this book. I went out to Ben and Rosie on Thursday morning thinking of this book and the conversation relayed in the post on Lynne’s blog.
Now as I have mentioned, Ben can get quite impatient holding up his foot for anything other than a quick going over with a hoof pick. I have needed to treat his hooves for thrush and this week I was at work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and therefore went out to Ben in the dark after the usual bustle of homework, dinner, bedtime in the house. I was tired with a tired mind as well as body and a sore shoulder. Ben’s jerking of his leg was not appreciated by me.
I wondered if I should try a clicker training approach to help us both.
On Thursday morning I was not at work. I went out to the paddock having relished the silence of the house which had already restored my mind. I went up to the shed and sat outside. Rosie over by the trees looked up. I felt I could somehow signal a welcome to her silently as I sat and she seemed to feel this and walked over to greet me. Ben, up the back, approached as he heard Rosie moving and in his turn greeted me also. Then he went back up to his favourite resting spot.
I looked up at him, aware that somehow my mind and my heart felt open, expansive and, on a whim, I picked up the hoof implements and went up to Ben. There in his resting place, at liberty, he lifted up each foot in turn and held it patiently whilst it was cleaned and treated.
I could have tried a clicker approach, and I am sure it could encourage Ben to cooperate with the hoof cleaning process. But what happened was both simpler and more profound. There was no hierarchy here; no “you shall” of a dominant stance or training of a positive reinforcement approach. There was harmony between horse and human, my inner state influencing Ben and creating the togetherness of the moment.
I like to think that Ben is waiting for me to have this inner state to which he can respond.