Monday, April 19, 2010

Learning to Speak Horse

Horses have their own language—primarily “spoken” with their bodies. Everything from flattened ears to a well-timed kick communicates something to another horse. Many times their language is more subtle than that, and I can’t begin to decipher it. But I’m learning.

Saturday my riding buddies and I participated in a Parelli clinic at our barn. Parelli is one of the big names in what is known as “natural horsemanship”—a system of training that, among other things, teaches horse handlers to work with horses using body language. According to practitioners, it’s useful for any type of riding or horse discipline, and for all breeds, because it deals with horse/human communication and builds a trusting and respectful relationship, instead of an adversarial—predator vs. prey—one.


Yes, I am very handsome, aren't I?

I won’t bore you with details from the clinic…only let you know that in this I am back at square one with Tank. I am learning his language, and as yet I haven’t mastered it. I’m lucky that Tank is a mellow and forgiving fellow, and any mistakes I make likely won’t hurt our relationship. I am awkward and unsure as I learn the techniques and “games” that will build our levels of communication, respect and trust. Some things I’ve done have sent the wrong messages to him and I have to unlearn some things.

What I’m learning from this is that sometimes you have to take a step backwards to take two steps forward. I’m willing to do that with and for the horse I’ve dreamed of all my life. I’m willing to make mistakes and look foolish if it helps me towards my goal of being the owner he deserves.

Is it dinnertime yet?

What about you? What big, hairy goal would you like to accomplish—and what steps, even steps backward, are you willing to take to get there?

Share/Bookmark

12 comments:

Laure Ferlita said...

Great post! Big, hairy goals - learning a new language, traveling to the land of that language and making an idiot out of myself trying to speak it; winning an national/international art show; learning to be a kinder, gentler person day to day.

Meredith said...

I love it! Tank looks so gentle and careful, I must ask: How on earth did he get the name Tank? ;) I'm sure he's thrilled that you're taking your relationship to a new, more respectful level. F. and I are learning to do that, too (not quite five months married now, LOL.)

As far as Big, Hairy, Scary Goals, I suppose finishing the novel manuscript is the one that looms large right now. Everything else in life seems to be rolling along rather simply and easily. :)

"JeanneG" said...

This reminds me when we went to a stable to paint. One horse was trying to rub her rump on the opposite fence. I told her if she would turn around and back up to the gate, I'd scratch it. Well she immediately did what I said so she got her rump scratched. I'm not a horse person but a promise is a promise.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Laure--Great goals! I saw a PBS special some time ago that discussed ways to learn a foreign language, and there is a book in our library system by the presenter. It was a great program (I took notes--learning a foreign language is one of my goals, too) and if I can find them, I'll send you his name.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Meredith--Tank is very gentle and sweet, and he came to me with that name already. I speculate that he got it because he is tall for a Quarter Horse, or possibly because it was so UNfitting for him (you know, like calling a Great Dane Tiny).

A novel! What a wonderful goal. How do you have time for it with the new husband, the blog, the garden and everything else you do?

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Jeanne--Good for you, keeping a promise to a horse! How did the painting go? I haven't tried painting Tank yet--but Laure said she'd help me, so I will take her up on it one of these days.

Kelly said...

...beautiful, beautiful horse, your Tank. Hairy, scary goals? Oh my gosh...getting better with the paintbrush...and trying to get more sleep!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Isn't he, though? Good luck with the paintbrush and sleep...I could add both of those to my own list.

Helsbells said...

I really like your blog, your banner is beautiful.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Thank you so much, and welcome! I hope you'll come back again soon.

Claire M said...

Oh - seeing and hearing about your horse bring back my little girl fascination and dreams of horses. It even makes me chuckle now. I wish you the best in training him and nurturing your relationship.

"Big" and "hairy" goals for me? -- trying to be a more patient and understanding parent with my 3rd child who is nothing like his older brothers!! I have to find a new path!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Thanks, Claire! I only have one, but I've heard from others that no child in one family is like any other, and they all require different paths! I'm sure you're a wonderful mother to all three.