I described in the introduction how Oliver was like this giant gangly teenager who didn’t know where his body was. He was oblivious to his ability to hurt people in his oblivion of where HE was and where WE were. It’s like he was disconnected from his own body as well as from the people around him. In hindsight, this was a large part of what had made him dangerous.
So Day 1 of bringing him in from the herd to feed him separately, God sent me biting flies to start fixing that.
That makes me laugh to write that. That is Steve’s influence. Steve, the guy who has been working with Oliver for a couple of years, is a strongly committed Christian and an elder of his church and I am deeply spiritual and more likely to use the words The Universe than the word God, although we are both describing exactly the same being. Steve and I have enormous respect for each other which has developed over the time that we’ve been working with Oliver with such pleasure.
What we noticed so strongly, was that time after time, we were given opportunities for progress that looked like crappy things at first glance and yet were really gifts from God to help us along. And these biting flies that we’ve never had on this farm before OR SINCE… were one of those lovely opportunities.
Oliver’s disconnection from his own body needed to be addressed somehow. TTeam / TTouch would have addressed it by bandaging in certain ways to bring his attention to different parts of his body. We could also have used my special version of the Parelli Friendly Game, which is about getting the horse happy to be touched all over, but my special version of that is using Inner Awareness, following the good feelings and using the Not Quite Right for change and waiting for The Chew.
Oliver had a distinct aversion to being touched, that I have since “seen” came from a human’s touch being forced on him – maybe in foal imprinting. He also has the feel of a horse who has had natural horsemanship techniques around touch being forced on him – way beyond him saying or wanting to say No.
But in Oliver’s case God sent me biting flies that I swished off him with my stick while he was eating, relieving his need to stomp and be irritated by them – so that he could relax and eat comfortably – and just coincidentally 🙂 , increased his awareness of his body AND where I was while he was eating.
The technique was simply to stroke his body all over with the whip – sometimes with gentle energy, sometimes more vigorously as I needed to chase a fly off him. I remember that there was lots of focusing the stroking on his legs and belly.
But here’s a big deal – because of the biting flies, the technique had a PURPOSE. Can you see where I’m going with this as such a wonderful opportunity to help Oliver start to solve a problem, while at the same time being a bonding opportunity AND at the same time achieving the goal of “pay attention to me please, so that we can keep each other safe”?
I think it was because of the PURPOSE, that the whole experience had a very relaxing feeling. Clearly I was doing him a favor, keeping these biting flies off him while he was eating.
I like a horse to ALWAYS be aware of where I am at feed time – it’s a key part of “Pay attention to me please so that we can keep each other safe”, so when we can have a very gentle awareness of each other around times of high natural instinct like feed times, it is a VERY good deal. We want it to be a very gentle awareness though, building on that naturally over time – because we don’t want to put tension into their digestion at feed time!
The lesson here is not about the technique, although keep in mind the three ways that I’ve talked about that can help a horse become aware of their own body and then be aware of their own body in relation to where the human is standing.
This lesson is about being open to the possibility of the RIGHTNESS in every seemingly crappy thing that happens – looking for and noticing and taking advantage of the opportunity that is inside every crappy thing that happens.
Steve coined this expression “Don’t argue with God”, which he and I shake our head and laugh about, every time we catch ourselves missing the RIGHTNESS and thinking that something that’s happening is crappy – thinking that some lameness was crappy for example or the storm in the video below.
Don’t argue with God
Although this video footage is from Day 71 of Steve working with Oliver, it is another huge example of the benefits of looking for the Rightness in everything that happens and I really want to put a HUGE emphasis on this philosophy right at the beginning of Oliver’s Lessons. I think this is right up there as one of the most powerful things that Oliver taught us.
I made an executive decision not to include all the walking in and out of the shed and all the standing and waiting for Oliver to lick and chew and then walk forwards – the video would have been far too long, so just be aware that we probably worked for nearly an hour.
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