If you have a pushy or aggressive horse at feed time, then you are not on your lonesome. These wonderful beings who can do all these amazing things for us, can also act with competitive kind of instincts at feed time that can have us feeling pretty uncomfortable and even be downright dangerous.
Relax, it’s easy to fix.
But hey, our relationship with our horse is about a lot more than just fixing any feed time crappy stuff happening, isn’t it?
What about if we could fix feed time in such a way that everything else with our horse was improved as well?
Holly has written about how she fixed her feed time blues in such a way that she improved her all over relationship with her horse Gunny and she did it by using the principles we’re talking about here in the Foundation Principles
Feeding Time Aggression Resolved Peacefully
I remember reading the description for Jenny’s class, which is now called Fast Track. It had a very long and specific list of what would be covered and explained that we would be systematically resolving all the things that were getting in the way of your dreams with your horse. I began crying as I read the list because I was so near the end of my rope with my horse Gunny. We had been struggling for too long. My very supportive husband encouraged me to sign up. So I did.
At that point, my relationship with Gunny was broken. He was very defensive, sullen, and unwilling. We could no longer even do the simplest things with any harmony or ease.
It was much worse than that though. He was hard to move away and would pin his ears as you approached with feed, or if you tried to approach while he was eating. Because this happened in all situations regarding feed, I felt that this was undermining our relationship constantly. He even broke a feeder one time when he kicked out, double barreled, and missed my kneecap by inches.
I decided to focus just on our feeding time issues. This was an area that had been difficult for the whole twelve years that I had Gunny – from day one, despite continuously trying to resolve the problem in many different ways. I felt that if I could resolve this issue, it would have a positive impact on the rest of our relationship too.
Within six months of applying the lessons in Fast Track, Gunny and I had harmony at feeding time nearly every day! This success was especially remarkable considering how long-standing the issue had been and that I had been “working on” it in some form or another those entire twelve years.
Here is a short clip of what our feeding time looks like these days:
Jenny: How cool was that video hey? It’s hard to believe how terrible the situation was at the beginning.
Holly’s first and most important key to success with Gunny is one that is so automatic for her that she didn’t even notice what a big key to her success it was. She didn’t blame Gunny for being a bad boy. She knew that there had to be something behind his bad attitude and she loved him enough to go looking for it.
Holly: The things that I did that made such a big change were: I sat down and defined what I wanted feeding time to look and feel like. (that’s the last lesson in action, especially the boundary part of deciding what was acceptable for each of us)
Jenny: Holly thought through what she wanted feed time to look like. It’s impossible to to let you horse know what you want, if you don’t know yet. This might sound kind of “derr…”, but I remember back in the bad old days just not having a clear enough picture in my head. And that clear picture in your head is an important part of your communication with your horse.
Safety should be a deliberate part of that picture too. You want to be achieving your goal with gentle-ness, but you also need to do whatever it takes to BE and FEEL safe as well. You’ll see how you can do that in the video of The Sixth Key.
Holly: To focus on one area to begin with, because this took the pressure off of both of us.
Jenny: Holly talked about taking the pressure off herself by focusing on just this one issue about feed time. This is worth fixing as being more important than riding. Your riding is affected by what happens at feed time – yes I promise you that is the case, you AND your horses behavior around feed time has it’s effect on confidence together, trust between each other, your leadership being able to be subtle and gentle and yet effective, I could go on and on…
Holly: Trusting and committing to the process. This was our last chance, I had decided that if Jenny’s class didn’t work for us, I was getting out of horses.
Jenny: That made me smile. Holly is so gifted, that I brought her into our trainee teacher program. I am not such a fan of the word “trust” either. It implies making a commitment to something without any proof that it’s going to work. I would rather work with validation personally. Even worse, in our society the word “trust” often implies ignore your fear and “trust” that your horse won’t hurt you – ignore your fear and do it anyway. And that is the exact opposite of what I teach you to do.
Holly: I paid close attention to the feelings in my body and noticed what feelings seemed to connect with what actions from Gunny.
Jenny: an awareness of what is happening in OURselves is a key to being really good with horses. That is the basis of our sensitivity, without which we will be acting like a bull in a china shop. People experience their feelings differently and that’s one of the special things about our program, helping people to develop their Feel and use it sensitively with their horse.
Holly: This allowed me to begin to notice my early warning signals, and to act with better and more effective timing. (That’s the early warning signal that you feel, that something is Not Quite Right. )
Jenny: Holly decided that she wanted to notice her early warning signal that something was Not Quite Right, so that she could take action BEFORE things got really bad. The power of that intention is HUGE.
Noticing that early warning signal is only the first step – then Holly took action on it. You will see all kinds of gentle actions as examples, in the video of me feeding my herd of 12 horses in the previous lesson. But the big deal here is, it’s not just to feel that early warning signal that something is Not Quite Right – you have to take action on it!
Holly developed her connection to her horse stronger and more sensitively as she practiced noticing and taking action on that early warning signal that something was Not Quite Right. As SHE got more sensitive and more delicate in her signals, GUNNY improved too. That was not coincidence!
Holly: As Gunny was eating I would occasionally remove the feed and wait a little bit before allowing him to eat again, gradually increasing the time I kept him away (she adapted a variation of the My Grass game)
Jenny: This action won’t suit every horse as well as it suited Gunny and Holly’s circumstances together. In our programs we give you a heap of different techniques, and you use the awareness that you learn, to see which is most useful to you in your circumstances.
Holly: I retreated and waited for the Chew with every instance of “Not Quite Right” and no matter how long it took. Sometimes this meant waiting for fifteen or twenty minutes! Not Quite Right was anything that didn’t look or feel like my definition of how I wanted things to be.
Jenny: The next lesson coming up, about waiting for your horse to lick and chew is a VERY big deal. Having the patience and understanding to wait for Gunny to lick and chew Chew no matter how long it took was a HUGE key to Holly’s success.
It’s easier to have the patience when we understand that our horse processes and releases all kinds of old crap from the past and gets to think his way through what is happening in that time that you are waiting for The Chew. This waiting turns out to be a big short cut in the long run.
Jenny: When we are overwhelmed it’s easy to forget what we are meant to be focusing on.
Holly: So if you have difficulties with your horse at feed time, the philosophies of and then the application of those philosophies will walk you through figuring it out and resolving it for good.
Jenny back again:
If you want to be gentle with your horse, if you want a strong bond, if you want to be a confident rider on a confident and happy horse, if you want to be knowledgeable and know how to fix any problem that comes up with your horse – and if you’re open to doing things a little differently – then my programs might just be for you.
What we do is both revolutionary in the WAY that we achieve our goals and yet classical in its outcomes of a lovely rider in a safe and secure riding seat on a happy confident horse.