Photo: Holly is an incredible artist. You can see her work on her facebook page here.
Grain feeding time with Gunny was the source of much angst in our relationship for over eleven years. And because feeding grain happens nearly every day, I feel that it made a huge negative impact over the years. This has recently changed for us. I feel that it has been a culmination of many things that I have done over the years brought together by a few missing tidbits that material from Jenny Pearce helped me to identify and put into action.
The most recent changes are the result of applying Jenny’s Key to Happiness Number Six, which is about using boundaries to create safety and relaxation at feeding time.
The picture of how it used to look goes something like this: I would walk towards the pasture with feed buckets in hand. The horses would see me or hear me coming and start jockeying for position complete with a lot of foot moving from the other horses and ear pinning and maybe chasing and biting from Gunny as he made sure he got to the “primo spot”. I would feed two horses at the same time first and two others would have to wait their turn. There might be attempts to sneak in and steal feed at this point or other impatient behavior such as head tossing and pinning ears at each other.
When I would get to Gunny and approach him with his feed, he may or may not have an unhappy look on his face. This unhappy look could range from looking slightly concerned all the way up to totally pinned ears. If the ears were pinned I would send him away and then come back and feed him once he had a better expression. I was always having to watch him really closely and try to decipher what his expression meant and the crummy attitude was always just under the surface. This went on this way for years and years.
The picture of how it looks today (a mere 6 or 7 months later) goes more like this: I walk towards the pasture with the feed buckets in hand. The horses see or hear me coming and they each calmly and politely walk to their spots and stand and wait their turn to be fed. I feed the first two horses and the other two horses calmly wait their turn with feet still. When it is Gunny’s turn to be fed, I pick up his feed tub and take a moment to listen inside and check in with myself. I then turn and walk towards Gunny with feeder in hand. 99% of the time now, Gunny chews at this point and remains relaxed as I approach. I reach him and pet him on the neck and he softly begins to eat his grain when I give him the signal. We finish our feeding routine and I leave with the feeders with everyone content and happy.
The general topics that led to this huge change are:
My plan—I made a plan to know how I wanted things to look and I took into consideration what I had to begin with and started there. Read more about making a plan here.
Figuring out what my early NQR was and teaching myself to listen and act on it
Religiously waiting for a Chew after every NQR, even when it was windy and snowing out and I didn’t want to wait!
Recognizing and remembering to listen to my own NQR’s too
Making space when needed with a SLOW helicopter or waving of my stick and string and pausing or retreating on any NQR’s here too.