Finding my way

A good few years ago I read a book called ‘The Adolescent Psyche’ (work related). I re-call one vignette in which the author described a film he had seen (called Gangs I think). In it two teenage boys were running across a busy street. The first boy was seamlessly weaving his way through the cars. The second boy looked clumsy and as if he could be knocked down at any moment. The point of the example was that the first boy was following only himself and so could move with ease. The second boy in trying to follow the lead of the first boy, was clumsy. He was not making his own way. He was following the way of another.

It is always interesting to me just what one remembers. Out of all of that book, which featured one of my heroes, Winnicott and his view of the adolescent psyche, what I recall is that small vignette. I am not even sure how it fitted into the text.

I feel I have been clumsily dodging obstacles and moving without feel recently in some areas of my relationship with Ben. I wanted guidance in how to do the right groundwork for Ben that would strengthen his back. What led me to clicker training was an attempt to motivate him to do work he clearly could see little point to. What started out as a potentially useful tool became a major obstacle between us as his tension and aggression mounted around the treat delivery. (I am sure I have made many trainer errors in this regard; many, many errors and points missed, despite the coaching I had at the Alexandra Kurland clinic.)

I have read others’ blogs who have been having similar problems. I have also read debates about the science of training, about whether to use pressure or not, about whether to train or not and so on. I have come across SATS which has added a nice dimension to communication.

But – something has changed for me and I am running across that street now following my own path and in my own way. I am returning to Ben with no expectations or agenda, with a renewed readiness to be open to the present. I am not worrying if I apply pressure or not, reinforce or not, train or not.

Here is an interaction from today: it is sunny and both ponies are resting in the picadero. Cloud comes out to meet me as I arrive, sniffing hopefully for treats. I ignore and when he gets persistent, send him away. He goes off to nibble at some grass behind the picadero. Ben looks over towards me. I go in, and aware that I have limited time, invite him to move. He stays standing. I ask again. He still does not move. I stand as well and then make some movement with my head of which I am unaware until he seems to mirror it. Ok. He is more aware than I am of my gestures and just does not want to move.

I sit down on the warm pea gravel of the picadero. In contact with the ground I become aware of how stiff I feel. I move my shoulders and back and then stretch out on the ground, resting my head on my arm. It feels warm and incredibly peaceful. Ben moves and lowers his head and paws at the ground as if he wants to roll, but he doesn’t. He makes the same actions again. I wonder if my lying on the ground is somehow preventing him from rolling. I sit up and start to stretch and move around. As I move my body, Ben comes down to roll. It seems as if we somehow move in unison. I do a cat stretch and Ben sits and his back seems to mirror mine as he moves his body across the ground.

I feed him treats, I feed Cloud treats. How wonderful, for the giving of treats to once again be a joyful thing!

Cloud comes into the picadero. He moves Ben; herds him out and round the track. I follow. Now I am herding both of them. We all walk calmly, steadily on this peaceful afternoon. I feel my energy rise. I run and both ponies trot ahead. Ben enters the picadero, Cloud stays outside. I follow Ben in and, with both our energies up now, movement is easy. I run and he trots. I draw back and he stops instantly. I go up and give a lovely long scratch. I leave him dozing once again in the afternoon sun.



Filed under books, ground work

12 responses to “Finding my way

  1. June

    You’ve spiraled your way back to where you want to be!

    • June, yes exactly! Back to listening to myself, the ponies and the present moment again. Clicker definitely got in the way of that, despite wanting it to only be a tool.

  2. Interesting – some of the best schooling sessions I had were when I forgot about my planned agenda and worked on what the horse seemed to be telling me he needed!

  3. This is so beautiful. Maybe the key is just to be YOU and that is what they respond to. And I too love Winnicott. 🙂

    • Billie, it is of course – and for me, that means body awareness for myself as my head can definitely get in the way. I thought you would be a fan of Winnicott:)

  4. I wonder sometimes if we over think things too much or read too many books etc. maybe we should just do what our instincts tell us is right. Horses in their herds really aren’t all that complicated when you think of it they’re pretty straight forward.

    • June

      I think you’re right about that. I was “practicing” the SATS stuff with some horses I was trimming and then realized that we’d been having a perfectly good conversation before I tried implementing a “method” and that the method actually was getting in the way. It does seem to be quite useful for focussing the conversation when teaching new (and, especially, silly) things – it was great for teaching the pitbull to high-five, and it seems to be helpful for encouraging the dogs not to bark.

    • Arlene, that is so true. I am sure horses would say to us (to me anyway) – stop reading and thinking! Just come and have fun.

  5. June

    My daughter teaches special ed (mostly high-functioning autistic kids), and the teachers do have “techniques” and “methods” for dealing with the kids. But I’m learning that they are constantly innovating and refining how they work with the children – they do not mindlessly apply the same technique over and over again. The techniques can help them deal with difficult situations (e.g. if a kid bites the teacher), and some methods are useful long-term (like rewards for certain desired behaviors), but the main thing they try to do is CONNECT with the kids. I know my daughter comes up with new tricks and approaches all the time – she’s looking at the individual child in front of her and thinking, “How can I get through to this kid in this moment now?”

    • And to complicate matters, when learning any new method, for a while maybe one is like that second boy, clumsily following the first one’s path. But if it is a method that one can own, then it will quickly become natural. Otherwise the connection between two beings, which your daughter is focussing on with her kids, is lost.