For some time now I’ve felt as if I need to ‘find middle C’ with my horsemanship. In piano, as long as you know where middle C is, you can figure out any piece of music as you just extrapolate from there. I mentioned this to Pip a while ago and she said that middle C with the horses is being decided about what you are going to do and committed to doing it! I heard the words but still felt I was missing something..
Having messed things up considerably with my dog of late, my Husband and I got ready for our walk. Before we even left the house we were agreed that whatever it took we were going to lead the walk. It transpires that even when I was using leadership with Brando in the past, I was desensitising him. Instead of trusting him to do the right thing, and then responding when he made a mistake, I was walking along with my arms out a little to create a boundary that he was not allowed to pass. As soon as I lowered my energy he would come forwards. Thankfully my friend, who works with Pip, pointed this out to me on our beach walk….even though I didn’t apply that knowledge at the time, it came in very handy today.
So, we set off. I corrected Brando when he came forwards but in between times just walked normally, expecting and trusting that he would walk to heel. When we got to the park I let him off the lead and asked him to wait. I walked on a bit and then asked him to come ‘this way’. Sure enough, he ran straight past us. All we did in response was turn around and walk the other way. We didn’t use our voices, or arms, or anything else. We didn’t feel annoyed, we just changed direction. Each time Brando ran past us, we did the same. This happened numerous times and yet, we just calmly turned around each time. After a while, we noticed that we hadn’t had to change direction for a bit. Next thing, he came past, so we turned once again.
In a short period of time, Brando was walking around the park behind us no problem. I wasn’t having to hold arms out, use voice or put loads of effort into trying to keep him back with my energy, as I have in the past…..he made sure he stayed behind us. It was the most peaceful walk we’ve had in a long time, in fact probably ever! A bit later on, he ran ahead to run up to some dogs. At the yard when he is inappropriate he has to be tied up for a bit as a consequence, so we just put him on his lead for a time. By the end of our walk a chap walked past and Brando just ignored him.
I now understand what Pip means about ‘middle C’. I’ve often thought, when I watch Pip work with the horses, that she is like a slow moving train. Utterly unstoppable but calm, persistent and allowing time for the horses to respond without escalating or becoming aggravated. I now understand what it is to be decided and determined and yet in the most calm of ways. It’s a revelation!
The lessons I have been learning from Brando of late have been painful and yet now I can see they have been invaluable. I used to ask the horses or my dog to do something and, when they didn't comply, I would become despondent and stop. I now realise, that I just have to be persistent. They will acquiesce in the end and will trust me more as a result. As Pip once said, even if the horse isn’t committed to what we are doing, I must be! When I prove that, they will know I am reliable, consistent and committed. That I will not give up, or give in. Just like that slow moving but unstoppable train...