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.