I don’t think I’m alone when I say I often feel guilty when it comes to my horse. I feel bad when it rains, and he can’t go outside. I feel bad when I don’t have time to exercise him, or when I don’t spend time with him outside. Of course, most of this is driven by the weather, and not always my inability to get to him. I always go outside when the weather is fine, and if I don’t get to ride, I take him for a walk, and we go exploring to the neighbours farms.
But I still can’t help but feel I am neglecting him. He recently had his vet visit for his shots, and in passing the vet said his topline had gone down and I then felt guilty that I had somehow done him wrong. I wasn’t feeding him properly or exercising him enough. I know I am doing a lot for him, but I still can’t help but feel bad when things out of my control impact on our time together. So, like the crazy person I am, I immediately spent the next few days researching food, and talking to equine nutritionists. I changed his food and am now officially on the newly concocted food and mineral/supps program which I hope to write about soon.
Lately, my horsemanship journey has been a lot about energy. And I don’t know if that is solely as a result of my active awareness of it, or if it is occurring as part of some kind of awakening and level of understanding I am developing with my horse. When he had his vet shots, it was about energy. And recently, when I wrote about the farrier visit and giving your horse a voice, it was also about energy.
So, it isn’t unusual I don’t think anyway, that today’s story is also about energy transference, and how it levelled up our relationship.
As part of our walks around our property and getting desensitized to new sights and sounds, I often walk Moose around to the neighbours. I do this for a number of reasons. Mostly it is for desensitizing, but also, in the instance of our back neighbour Richard who is on 5 acres behind us closer to the creek, he can see Richard and Pepper (the dog) often between the trees. Richard has been given the name ‘scary shadow man’ as a result. And because this is where most of the sounds and shadows occur, it’s best to get him used to learning to deal with things even if they aren’t right in front of him to process.
Recently, Richard has been working a project to extend his arena and fence off some paddocks for his QH Lenny. Because of this, he’s had a little dingo machine and a small tipper and a guy working. He’s had a few burn offs, some sawing and cutting of trees. And whilst none of it has been overtly noisy, it’s been the shadows moving between the trees that have caused Master Moose most alarm. He will often get so focused on what is happening over in the distance that he freezes, and so in my head I think that if he knew what that was, he may process it better.
In my post on giving your horse a voice, I specifically talked about this at the mounting block issue I had. When I revisited the next day, it wasn’t the mounting block nor me that was his issue. I then realised it was the fact that the shadows were there, and he wanted to look at them because looking at them gave him control over how much impact they would have on him.
So, I took him once around to Richard to say hello and to meet. It went well, and despite him being a bit antsy, he was very polite. He mostly gets antsy when he’s hungry or its near dinner time, so I have learnt to structure certain things at different times to get the best result because he is a true demon when his primary focus is food.
The other day was the second time we went around. I didn’t even intend to meet up with Richard as we were only going on a walk. As per usual, he stopped at James’, and had a good look at what was happening there. It’s mostly nothing, but James has a lot more machinery and crap around than what we do, and so it’s always interesting for him to see what is there. As we were approaching Richard’s, he called out, “Hey neighbour!” so I met him at the fence. He greeted Moose and let him sniff him as we chatted.
After about 5 minutes, Richard told me to watch what he was doing. He grabbed Moose by his head and drew him down slowly, before putting both hands right at the base of his ears. Initially Moose was thrashing about a little, which Richard said was normal. But he kept at it, moving one hand down to his mouth and one hand stayed on his ear. He only asked me to hold the lead rope sturdy. The hand that was by the ear was just squeezing and massaging, but very lightly.
After a minute, Moose started to release and let himself down. There were almost immediate licks and chews, chews so loud we heard his teeth grate. He kept licking Richard’s hand, and when he turned he’d yawn, and lick his lips. I mean this is something I encourage a lot and hope to achieve with him, so seeing that Richard could give him this release was amazing.
He kept doing it for about 7 minutes and I was utterly enthralled. Then he showed me another trick. Being very careful, but putting an index and middle finger underneath his top lip and tapping the top of his gums. This in turn caused even more of a reaction, with massive blow out snorts with snot going everywhere, and Moose sucking on Richard’s hand. Moose did this about 5 times before the next trick.
Finally, he did another tapping on his eye, at the corner of his inner eye. This encouraged him to totally lower his head into Richard’s hands and continue to lick and chew.
We stood for a few more minutes after this lesson and I was totally engulfed, I mean, up until that point Richard was scary shadow man and now he had Moose’s head in his hands and they had big cuddles and a kiss and Moose was totally fine with it. I had never seen anything like it.
We continued our walk around and went all the way out next door, further than what we had been. We came back, and did only 10 minutes of lunging just to release any extra energy and then I put him away. He had dinner later that night, and went to bed with no issue.
The next morning, after he had been fed, I was already sitting at my desk and had been working for a couple of hours. I looked out of the window as I usually do into his arena/paddock to see what he was doing and he was sitting down by the tree. I gasped. In fact, my husband freaked out and leaped out of his chair thinking something was wrong. Now, I had never seen him in that position, sitting or lying down. My husband had seen him snoring his head off and laying on his side one morning after he had been with us about 4-ish months, and so we were so pleased when we knew he was doing that because it showed us he felt safe and comfortable where he was, and considering he is alone, this was a good sign.
But seeing him sitting down, with one hoof forward was thrilling! Not only did it show complete ease, comfort and trust, but potentially the exercises Richard did with him the day before helped him release any pent-up tension he had in him which in turn just allowed him to relax in the present moment. It was the same as if we went and had a massage – well, that’s what I likened it to.
Still, I had to make sure he was ok. Whilst it was likely that the above was the true reason for his calmness, it also could be a display of colic, and due to me changing his food up this was a possibility, so I went out to check on him anyway. As soon as I walked outside, he knew it was me and stood up, stretched his legs and shook his head before whinnying for me. I went over to the arena/paddock and he greeted me like he always does. I walked in and gave him a cuddle, and checked under his rugs and he was totally fine.
It didn’t come as any surprise then, that a couple of days later in the Warwick Schiller group, he posted about energy and showed a video of a recent event he had where this stunning 17hh eventing horse had strange energy with his owner. Warwick said, when he took over the lead rope, he did nothing different, and he never does anything different, so what is it that changes when the owner gives him a lead rope to an apparently uneasy horse?
When you come with no expectation, no need, no preamble, you can greet your horse at a calm level. I remember when I went to have my first rides on Moose, and I was fussing over the stirrups and this and that and in a flurry, went to hop on and his trainer said, “Clear your energy”, and it was timely because it forced me to stop, and take a deep breath. And it was then that I realised I hadn’t taken a deep breath whatsoever and was in a heightened state of anxiety.
How many times do you go to your horse in a heightened state of anxiety? How many times are you out there thinking of everything else other than your horse, and not paying attention when your horse is attempting to communicate with you? How many times do we force our ego onto our horse, or not accept the messages often in front of us?
But how do we stop that? How do we truly act in this lightness? It’s easy to say, I know how to do it theoretically, but then x, y, z pops up and I am off with the fairies again. When I wrote my article on the farrier, and catching myself, it was a leap ahead in my horsemanship journey and a level up for Moose and I.
Because I caught myself having an irrational melt down about a narrative I had created in my head about him. Instead of just saying to the barefoot trimmer, he’s only been started recently, I gave him anxiety, nervousness and bad manners, when in actual fact he has never once shown those behaviours ever, and it was always me projecting this because being newly started must also mean you are nervous and anxious as well. /s
Moose is none of those things. I am. I am the one who is nervous and anxious and want everything to work to plan. I am the one who doesn’t react well when things go off plan, even when I plan for them or know that they will happen. I am the one who is trying to stick to a rigid plan, trying to split my time between being a homesteader, working a Full-Time corporate job, caring for my husband post reconstructive knee surgery, managing all the chores, and training and caring for the animals. I am the one who is putting the pressure on, not him, not my husband, not my dog. Me.
That can be a difficult realization to capture and admit. And whilst I have never been one to shy away from my shortcomings, it has definitely made me a million times more aware of myself when I am with my horse.
The next level up, which I think will be huge, is when I can actively put the things I have seen and witnessed and experienced around energy transference into practice. When I can actively live calmness, and of clear energy, I will have achieved the first of many significant level ups.
I often wonder how I chose my horse and this route specifically. He came to me at the right time in my life. He came to me to teach me a grand lesson about myself, my inner voice, and my ego. And I am thankful for him every single day.
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