What have I been doing without any saddle?
It has been a long wait for a saddle ordered at the end of April and since I discovered that my current saddle is pinching, I will not put it on Ben again. So what have Ben and I been up to together? Well partly I have been enjoying those spontaneous moments of connection that are one of the pleasures of having Ben and Rosie at home. With no programme or time schedule, I can enjoy a moment as it presents itself and stay in it and play with it. I have also been exploring some more ‘formal’ connections as I read Jenny Pearce’s book and listen to her audio. It is called ‘Zen Connection with Horses’ and seems to really suit both me and Ben. She recommends backing off at the slightest sign of stress and then waiting for a lick and chew sign of release.
For example, one exercise is simply greeting your horse. When I tried this a few weeks ago I called Ben’s name and he instantly gathered up Rosie and moved away. At another time I might have responded in two different ways: ‘ok, if you don’t want me, I will move away’, or ‘you want to move? Let me help you.’ This time I stayed back, waited and sure enough he stopped, licked and chewed. We had more times when enormous yawns were produced. So now, when I call his name, he looks up with a soft eye and he often comes right up to me.
Even more rewarding is his response to touch. Ben has always disliked any touch around his poll, his ears, his forelock and even the top of his neck. I have tried approach retreat with mixed success for this. But, by backing off after a touch where he tensed up, and by giving time, he released with a lot of chewing, and we have had some blissful sessions where he just loves being touched all over his head, even those t-touches on his ears which he has never tolerated before. I do all this while he is at liberty so that he could move away if he wanted. The day after our first breakthrough session doing this, Ben came up to me and gently nudged me with his nose. This did not feel like a ‘pushy’ nudge, but more like a request. In fact, he was saying, very clearly, ‘could you do that again please?’ So I did.
Here is a photograph I took at the end of our first session of rubs. He looks so open and soft, almost vulnerable I think:
One of the tasks of true friendship is to listen compassionately and creatively to the hidden silences. John O’Donohue