Starting groundwork exercises with Timmy : The challenge is always to strengthen the trust connection, the outcome of the exercise is secondary
What is respect?
The dictionary definition is:
- A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements
- Due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others
In a previous post ‘ Can your horse go to sleep with you on the end of the rope – May 24 2021’ I said that at one point:
“I kept feeling like I was not coming up to scratch for him, I was being disappointing, even annoying. I was being confusing. My lack of any expectation of him after putting a head collar and rope on him was actually making him anxious, which, in turn, was creating a sense of not being good enough within me. How Interesting!”
After musing and pondering on this feeling what came to me was to start “doing” more with him.
Timmy struggles with coming into the present moment with me. It can take some time for him to be able to allow himself to relax enough with a human to be completely present. He has done (as can be seen from the post mentioned above). But, unlike Querida, who seeks out the present moment and the heart connection, Timmy doesn’t yet. It is difficult for him and brings up too many human/horse relationship emotions, each of which we will need to address at his pace.
So, why start doing more with him if he still has so many anxieties? Because I sense that one of the things he really wants from me is to help him be confident in himself, and in our relationship, so he can feel secure bringing up his emotions, knowing they will be regarded deeply.
What is gratitude?
A strong feeling of appreciation to someone or something
What is appreciation?
Recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something
So what is mutual gratitude:
I am rewarded by him/her understanding, learning, and achieving something amazing. He/she is rewarded with a scratch, a treat, love, depending on what type of reward works best.
The Trust Technique has a section which teaches you how to establish the best reward using the Present Moment connection which is fascinating. From doing the exercises explained, I established that the best reward for Timmy right now is food (whereas with Risada it is a belly scratch although I sense this will change as our present moment connection deepens, and with Querida it is actually getting deep into the connection and sending her a feeling of love). Because Timmy finds it difficult to be in the connection at the moment, treats seemed best to start with. Amazingly this is something I have always avoided but ‘never say never’ is the quote that comes to mind.
So what are the steps:
Invite an action, followed by acknowledgement of the achievement of the action (well done!), followed by gratitude (thank you!) and then a reward. We then need to make sure thinking levels are back at a learning place, not above 4-5 before the next action invite. Then the trick is to progress. The videos are the actual time spent, so about 10 minutes of action time. Short and sweet.
In the videos you will see the first session with Timmy where we are establishing that the reward is for an action, and at the same time we are working out together some spacial respect. For Timmy to take backwards steps, without stamping or rearing, is a huge reward for me. All it took was a ‘well done’, a ‘thank you’ and a reward.
The second session was two days later and already we are both improving significantly in our communication and understanding. For Timmy to come back to me and keep a small amount of space and also not going into nipping and head snaking was another huge reward for me. He is also offering to back up now. Beautiful. Additionally his focus is soft and light, and my weird body and hand stances have softened as I start to be able to ask with energy rather than behaviour. I can only do this because his focus is stronger. Also I have become a little more interesting than his cribbing post..yeah!! A huge reward for me..
The third session was only the next day. And we are now at liberty. This was great because it gave me an opportunity to work a little bit with this technique, with the head collar, asking him to come forward and put his nose in it. So now it becomes a choice rather than me just putting it on. I am still doing some funny hand gestures but Timmy is telling me when I am not being specific and this allows me to change my way of asking. We are still working a lot with personal space awareness but it is definitely improving. At the beginning it was interesting to see what Timmy was offering to get a reward, and I went with this and we did a bit with going around me and giving me a hind quarter yield. I am trying to find a way of asking him to stop next to me without coming round to face me. We did this once – brilliant!. There is no finesse here but it is all about a conversation. Timmy did go and crib three times during this session so I have cut those bits out. It was like he needed to go and think for a minute or two and digest his treats (cribbing is a digestive problem as much as anything else). It was longer and we did more, trying to keep things interesting. We will allow this all to process for 48 hours and then see what occurs. I have to process more than Timmy I think…
I have not done a lot of work with Timmy from a groundwork perspective, actually I have not done a lot of groundwork with any of my herd so my learning curve is probably steeper than theirs, I suspect. I have been looking for ideas for little challenges and came across Elaine Heneys’ Listenology book where she gives some great ideas on groundwork exercises and how to break them down into bitesize pieces, and has also written downloadable books for pole-work exercises etc which I will get into later as I need to strengthen Timmy’s muscles and back, as well as improve his awareness of where his body is in space. Additionally, I still have all the Parelli patterns and exercises which I will do as they are still ingrained in my memory, but I will apply the Trust Technique of invitation, gratitude and reward to each exercise instead of the phases of pressure. It is going to be fun to combine all of these, as Timmy and I move forward progressively, at his pace.
The challenge will always be about keeping, and building on, the trust connection, developing the way we have a conversation, and not worrying about the outcome of the exercise.