Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dancing With Kanani:

My handsome dance partner is focused on something he's not too sure about. If I'm reading him correctly, he's trying to decide if whatever interests him is a threat or not!, what can I do to set his mind at ease?

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After many years playing with horses, I have a bag full of tricks and techniques designed to help me convince a horse to do what I want. They work pretty well--except for when they DON'T work. As almost anyone who dreams of "dancing" with a horse can attest, tricks and techniques are not a substitute for speaking fluent "horse."

I need to know how to "read" my horse because horses never lie. Their body language can tell me exactly what they are thinking/feeling if I know how to read it properly. Of course, I also have to know what my own body language is telling my horse! And then I have to know how best to use my body, mind and emotions to influence my horse to dance with me.

What I have learned so far is that there is ALWAYS more to learn.

Yes, I know the basics--but it's the mastery of subtleties that separates the gifted dancer from the clumsy hoofer. It's what truly allows a predator species (me) to climb on the most vulnerable body part of a prey species (the back of my horse) and perform a dance of grace and beauty, seemingly effortlessly, to our own special music.

Now, I know how to get a modicum of respect and be the dominant horse telling Kanani what to do, when and how to do it. (I learned all this a long time ago in a round pen. And I know almost all the cues that supposedly work when riding. Heck you can read about 'em in a book. Sort of like how you can learn how to be a good parent or a golfer from reading books. Right?)

The thing is I also want to earn/keep Kanani's trust and maintain our friendship. I want him to continue to want to be with me and be my buddy. I want him to WANT to dance with me. And that's not so easily accomplished.

Here's what I know: Just like people, horses really don't like being dominated. Over time, a dominated horse can become dull and resentful. He may even embark on a course of continual, escalating challenge. In a dominance relationship, partnership/friendship definitely flies out the window and pretty soon, the horse will run and hide every time he sees his human coming. Someone--probably the human--may even get hurt settling dominance challenges.

Now, I don't want to be a pushover either. When a human behaves submissively, often unwittingly, and relinquishes leadership to the horse, even a well-trained horse can become pushy, spooky, flighty and in charge. Not only will he NOT do what his human wants, but he will be afraid to even hang out with his human because the human doesn't offer security. And horses--being a prey species right down to their bones--most of all want to feel safe and secure. Even the most dominant horse still has a little foal inside him that wants a leader to look after him and make him feel safe. That way he doesn't have to be scared and on alert all the time. (Bullies usually are scared to death at heart!)

To complicate matters, every single day that I go see my horse, I find a new horse waiting for me. And I'm a new/different person. While we both remember things, have developed habits and "know" each other, we still change from day to day--and on any given day, one of us could be having a really bad day and be in no mood whatsoever to be in partnership and "dance" together.

So I am brushing up on my skills and (yes) reading books, watching DVDs, etc. where the horse whisperers of the world--or at least the self-proclaimed gurus--are supposedly sharing the subtleties of communication I yearn to more fully master. Since I left the horse world some years ago, I am happy to report that horse training has continued to evolve and progress toward a more compassionate, benevolent and informed leadership role for humans.

A few enlightened gurus are even going back to the old ways that indigenous peoples who first tamed wild horses had to master. They are closely studying how horses talk to other horses and what even the slightest move, stance or gesture means to a horse. And it is really coming home to me that EVERY move I make means something! As does every move HE makes.

If I want Kanani to truly dance with me--and LOVE doing it--while we both endeavor to keep from stepping on one another's toes, achieve unity and maybe even progress to fine art, I need to master ALL those moves and what they mean.

I can't ever forget that Kanani's toes are lots bigger than mine. (Which is to say that I have more to lose than he does if I fail to master fluent horse!)

The dance classes are well underway and progress reports shall be forthcoming.

Kanani's ears are back, "listening" to me. That's a good thing. But why on earth am I leaning to one side, potentially throwing him off balance? Not a good move for a dance partner. Aaaargh!

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