I’ve brought this lesson here, to remind you that even though horses might be OK to catch and halter, there can still be stress in there. Those stresses add to other stresses that will bite you on the bum one day AND they will make resolving a different problem more difficult than it needs to be.
When Oliver arrived he was a fairly easy horse to catch and halter, but as you will have noticed in the video above, he’s taken being caught to a whole new level of confidence and happiness. I’m sure his old owner would be shocked at how much stress and tension there had been and how much work we had to put into it for him to be actually HAPPY about being caught and having the halter on.
We’d been working with him for a few weeks when one day he was really “off with fairies” around the halter, switched off with a blank, disconnected look on his face. He didn’t respond to any of the normal requests for attention like smooching, slapping your leg, changing speed and direction – he still had that blank look on his face.
We could have just backed off, held space for him with our Inner Awareness and waited if we’d had the time. Michelle was working with Oliver and I back then, doing a 5 hour round train trip to get to Oliver for the day, and time was not something we had much of – so we decided to use food to bring his mind back to the halter.
Note though that we didn’t use food to push past his fear – that’s very important and the reason that I had to use the open noseband of the halter like in the video above to create a Comfort Zone around the halter, because he felt trapped and afraid of the normal way of holding it.
Like the previous lesson in Oliver’s Diary, there are two aspects to this lesson too – the practical “what happened with Oliver and what we did about it” and then the philosophy behind it. So here’s what I think is the important part of this lesson, because what you are doing as you learn how to use your Inner Guidance system, is something very special and very powerful and worth recognizing for how special it is.
There are many options of things that you can do to help your horse. When you are Present, i.e. aware of whatever is going on inside you and around you, the “right” technique for this horse and for you at your level of experience, will pop up into your mind. And if it doesn’t, then stop and Quiet Mind this problem/opportunity until it does – ask a question on the forum or a Live Seminar, do some research – whatever – until the right solution DOES feel good.
THAT folks is a VERY big deal, so pause for a minute and reflect on what that will mean to you and your horse.
This stage of haltering was the first appearance of the baby horse that I talk about in this lesson so that just goes to show how much stress and tension had been imprinted into him around the halter.
While we were doing this work, Oliver showed me a picture of a newborn baby horse being wrestled into a halter. That action had given him a slight tension around haltering his entire life until he came here and the tension of that forced haltering, was a cause of some of his body problems that had been so persistent. We could visibly see improvement in his damaged back after doing this RELEASE, RE-LEARN and RE-PROGRAM around haltering.
The RE-PROGRAM part happened as we soaked up and appreciated Oliver’s progress, filled with lovely feelings.
This appreciation is also worthy of a lot of your attention, as it’s been a major theme of our journey with Oliver. I am quite sure that Steve and Oliver and I working together, actually escalated each other in those yummy feelings of appreciation – it became a routine at the end of a session for Oliver to bask in our appreciation of every bit of progress and was a major feature of the deep bond that he created with both Steve and I.
We had already done the approach and retreat of catching in the lesson about the first approach and hello and it was the actual haltering itself that we had to do in tiny baby steps. I had to back off by dropping my hands with the halter in it and stepping back when he turned his head away from me and wait for him to lick and chew to RELEASE that part of that original forceful haltering. And if I remember correctly, I did that a few times, including at different stages of putting the halter on, following the good feelings, backing off at every Not Quite Right.
Even the way that we held the halter back then was far too much pressure for him and we had to hold the noseband of the halter out like I showed you in the video above, to REALLY give him the choice that brought the RELEASE for him.
Once that RELEASE was done, Oliver was ready for the RE-LEARN stage and this is how we “trained” this 18 hand baby horse to put his nose in the halter and to create good experiences about that.
Of course, then WHAT HAPPENS in the halter is a big deal too . All your good work can get undone if a horse is jerked around and/or made to do things by force without consideration for their fear or confusion.
The forum is where we have the opportunity to turn Oliver’s Diary into an interactive learning experience. So please contribute!
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Recognizing ALL the ways that YOU experience that early warning signal that something is Not Quite Right, is a key to that world class horsemanship that I keep talking about and that you probably doubt me on. We’ll see… 🙂