Liberty and Escudo ( Andalusion/quarter horse) go together like cake and icing.
I smile to myself, standing patiently, feet planted in the sandy arena as Escudo contorts his body, showing off what he knows. He expresses himself with an splash of exuberance, offering me a stretch, a bow, a spin, a rear, or the spanish walk. He likes to please me, and he also likes to do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. When there are no strings attached, a horse can stay with you, leave you, or decide he has his own agenda.
How do I make my idea my horses idea, when I need it most?
"It's time to be more serious now, see if you can follow what I'm asking of you Escudo", I say with a little sternness in my voice. I lift up my life energy and ask for 'circle on the move at liberty'. He does it with impulsion and joy. I then asked for him to move sideways, while I stand beside his belly with my hand placed on his ribs. He immediately responds with eagerness and respect, except, he doesn't move sideways, he starts to move into a spin.
This is not the first ( and won't be the last) time he has disregarded what I asked of him. It's not that he doesn't know sideways, or that sideways gives him anxiety, it's more like, he's saying, " I think spinning is way more fun, Sandy, and I think you'll like it".
I never want to take the try out of Escudo. I want him to feel successful, and enjoy being with me. How do I balance the need for him to offer me what he likes, and me to be able to ask him for what I want? My goal is to be in the leadership role and have Escudo respond like a dance partner rather than him decide to go into his solo dance act.
How do I achieve connection of minds?
I have a couple of choices.
I could put him on-line to bring immediate clarity to what I'm asking, or I could remain at liberty and try to express my desires with a clearer, more focused intent.
Staying at liberty is what I choose. I guide him through the exercise, by placing my hand gently on his nose preventing it from turning away from me (if he chooses to go into spin mode). I focus on my life energy, assert more will and intention, as I touch his side and ask for sideways. Like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, dancing on the silver screen, step by step, we float sideways together.
Party time! It's these moments that are precious and need to be recognized. When we celebrate a horse's light bulb moment with sweet words and a scratch or two, we are spreading glue along the framework of his education, sealing a memory of success and comfort. Hopefully this moment will make a lasting impression on Escudo.
Sometimes it's the littlest things that make the biggest difference. Detailed guidance, more intention, plus focus on where I want to go, and a strong will and belief, is sometimes all it takes to bring the respect, and understanding to a whole new level.
I try to be creative, and light hearted with my approach to teaching. After all, I am the director of Escudo's education - I hold all the cards. Maybe a few of them tossed his way will give him a little more freedom to exert his creativity, and by him being more creative, he will be more content, and with contentment blooms a more settled heart.
Finding the balance of giving more freedom to a horse and still being able to steer the horseman ship, is not always easy. However, I believe it's achievable when there is a language between the human and the horse. If this language is clear enough for the horse to understand the difference between expressing himself when the time is appropriate and following his humans suggestion when asked, a harmonic series of balanced moments of mindfulness and emotional fitness unfold.
These days, my intentions seem clear. We sometimes play a game called, 'tit for tat'. Escudo offers want he wants to do, and then I ask for something I want to do. Escudo loves this game. He gets to think and project his creative side. When I really need for him to follow my direction, I get clear with my intentions, he feels the difference, and it's as if he can't help himself but follow my suggestion.
Escudo has developed the respect and understanding that there are times he needs to follow my suggestions. I have learned to be clear in my intentions, and directions.
Together we make our ideas each others ideas, as we work towards harmony.