When we systematically attend to all the things in our horse’s environment that make them nervous or anxious or scared, in the manner in which we talk about in this lesson, then eventually (sometimes quite quickly) our horse will actually look to us when they scared and ask “is this OK?”.
And this is a VERY good deal.
AND this also means that we can have our horse out and about in all kinds of strange and new situations – and still have our horse in self carriage and have both of us able to actually show off our lovely riding together as one being in public. 🙂
This is a lesson done over a long period of time
This is a lesson done over time, with vast amounts of relaxation and confidence and occasionally new things put into your horse’s Comfort Zone. It’s about balance, balance, balance – with the balance always weighted to relaxation and confidence.
I personally prefer to do most of the tasks in this lesson naturally, as opportunities arise to get a new scarey thing into my horse’s Comfort Zone. However some of the things that our horse is a bit nervous about or is scared of, wants attention BEFORE we are out and about – like the umbrella in this cartoon.
So you could get at least some of these tasks done ahead of time, getting you and your horse more and more solid, more and more dependable.
Imagine what it will be like to ride your horse KNOWING all the way to your bones, that when they are scared of something, that they will look to you first, to see what you think of it… before they react.
Take a moment to imagine that… Ooooo…
Here’s what it will take…
Get your horse in their Comfort Zone about a whole heap of possibly scarey things that they may come in contact with in their lives and even add some that are less likely. Things like tarpaulins, umbrellas, children’s prams and strollers, push bikes, floppy hats, garbage bins on the side of the road, colourful signs, different feeling things under their feet for bridges, jumps if you are ever near them.
Get all of these things with your horse being able to look at them comfortably and be close to them, sniffing them happily and then increasing the energy until they can handle these things in at least medium energy and maybe even in high energy too. This would eventually mean tarps flapping, umbrellas popping open, prams rolling along, bicycles whizzing past – you get the idea.
When you are looking for things to address, you will find them in some places that you wouldn’t think of. I had one horse, Matt, who had some tension in his yard – yes the same yard that he got fed in every day. Go figure! We had to approach and retreat using Not Quite Right and wait for The Chew to get rid of that tension – that tension had him already in the Not Too Sure Zone the whole time he was in his yard.
Celtic Peace had been stabled for vast amounts of his life, but he had a tension as he walked into a shed that needed defusing and releasing too.
So look around your riding environment at home AND look around where you expect to be – out and about on the trails or at events or whatever you plan on doing with your horse, Feel gently inside yourself with soft eyes and notice everything through your horse’s eyes that might cause them to be out of their Comfort Zone – and get those things into your horse’s Comfort Zone while you are still on the ground.
Remember the three stages
1. RELEASE any old causes of anxiety or fear about whatever this is, by backing off when you feel Not Quite Right and waiting for the Chew no matter how long that takes – and at this stage it can take quite a while.
2. Then RE-LEARN that this is something that really is safe, that has no need to have fear attached to it, by breaking whatever this is down into baby steps and getting each baby step into your horse’s Comfort Zone – backing off when you get a Not Quite Right or continuing if you don’t get a Not Quite Right (as per Fast Track lesson about world class Feel), then waiting for The Chew.
3. RE-PROGRAM by soaking up every good feeling together, appreciating every tiny step forwards, so that the good feelings far, far outweigh the Not Quite Rights. The better you do the Release, Relearn and Re-program where necessary, the more you soak and appreciate and make every feel good feeling you and your horse’s new “normal”, the less you will have to repeat things to get solid. Enjoying any good feelings that arise during this whole process is the key to speeding up a new feeling good, confident, curious, muscle memory.
When you get really good at this, you’ll be able to help your horse put something new into their comfort zone in ONE SESSION. Yes that IS right, no it’s not an exaggeration. 🙂
4. There’s a subtlety in this work, when you’re getting REALLY good at it, where your horse is actively seeking the Release of something too, where they really get into the spirit of what you’re doing. To achieve this, you’re probably going to have to think about “what’s in it for the horse”.
5. That’s also why it’s so great to take advantage of and flow with what The Universe brings up in the moment – like I talk about in your lesson about the rightness of everything – the one Steve and I laughingly call “Don’t argue with God”.
The more of these potentially scary things that you either release and or help them get in their Comfort Zone, the easier the next one will be until you will come to a point where your horse will actually look to you and ask “Is this OK?” BEFORE reacting.
And this is a VERY good deal.
Keys to Success
1. During whatever it is that you decide to work on – bring yourself into that place of Inner Awareness where you can listen to your horse – using whatever technique suit you best – scanning your body and noticing how you feel right now so that you can notice any changes that happen that may be your horse – quietening your mind if you need to, noticing your breathing, listening for your heart beat or noticing the energy moving around your body.
2. Be aware of using low medium and high energy as in this lesson.
3. Make sure that you are using Not Quite Right and the Comfort Zone Model to help your horse put these things into their Comfort Zone – NOT desensitising them as we talked about in this lesson about desensitisation versus our Comfort Zone Model.
4. Click here to review the lesson about the healing opportunities in waiting for a lick and chew – don’t take it personally if they take a longer time to lick and chew and release on one or more of these things as they process and defuse something that happened in the past. it’s a gift of healing for your horse.
5. You can also do the approaching and retreating with a scarey thing in the way that I talked about with old Peppi and his fear of the stick way back in the lesson about a comfort zone with any tools.
6. Or you can use a combination of things like Sue did with the 4 wheel drive in preparation for riding out with fun and safety.
7. Review that key to world class horsemanship in this lesson – using ALL the ways that you may be feeling Not Quite Right to know when to stop, and more importantly, to know when to keep going AND being aware of and noticing any or all of the five ways of Feeling that might come up as a Not Quite Right.
8. During this work, you can also use the pay attention to me please so that I can keep you safe and pay attention to me please in the halter.. The ideal that I am looking for in the end is that no matter what is going on around them, your horse always knows where you are and has part of their attention on you.
9. Review the Fast Track Lesson about fences and ropes and take it a bit further, to include rubbing them all over with a rope, throwing the rope over their back and gently swishing the rope around their legs.
If you rush from one task to another, you will risk your horse not wanting to come out of the paddock or yard. Make sure that you spend lots and lots of time chilled out and happy, enjoying the sunshine or doing other things that are already very comfortable for them to do.
This is not the kind of lesson that you want to get done in a hurry – this is a LIFE lesson, an on-going ting to do.
Remember folks – this is about FEELING GOOD. And you can’t feel good at the end of the journey unless you’ve been feeling good along the way. And this Lesson brings that concept “home” to our hearts.
Like people, some horses are more easily scared than others – past history, their old type of training, stuff that has happened to them – even genetics can play a part in this. Some horses will respond to this work by looking to you when things go wrong after just a handful of tasks have been put into their Comfort Zone – other horses may take dozens of exposures to scarey things to get to the same point.
Some horses will need to release only one or two traumas or frights by waiting a very long time for The Chew. Some horses will painstakingly need to wait a long time for The Chew for many things. Don’t take it personally.
With Bobby, I desensitised him to a bunch of things when I was doing natural horsemanship – and I did it in a way that I no longer find useful. (Aussie understatement there!) So I needed to wait for The Chew for a long time on all of those things, in order for him to release the shut down that I had pushed him into. If you’ve done natural horsemanship then I suggest that you read this again and soak up the difference between making whatever it is a positive and confident experience and just making them stand still and put up with it.
It’s an enormous difference and your happiness with your horse will depend on understanding that. 🙂
And for those of you who have done that like I did, remember we only did what we knew how to do at the time. Desensitisation did the job for us back then in the only way we knew how – but now we’re looking for a relationship beyond mere obedience. (Or I am anyway! 🙂 )
If you have any photos or videos that can add to this Lesson – send them on in – remembering that contributing videos demonstrating what you are doing, (sometimes for constructive comment) adds to the Program for everyone.