This morning, there were two more posts that I also suggest you read - first, this post at One Old Cowgirl's View and second, this post by Linda at Beautiful Mustang. The first post talks about fear, and two-way trust between horse and rider and how powerful that can be. The second post is about Linda's work with her mare Beautiful and how powerful the concept of "letting go of the story" can be. Here's a quote (used with her permission) from her post:
We like to hold onto old stories...about ourselves, each other, our animals. We like to say THIS is who I am, and THAT is who you are. So there.
But that's not reality. We are not who we were yesterday. We are not fairy tales, or cliches, or caricatures--all good and pure or all mean and evil.
Last week I had an epiphany--that I was holding onto a story or, more accurately, a fairy tale, about Beautiful Mustang. I thought it wasn't good for her or me or our training, and since it wasn't good, I decided to let it go.
An amazing thing happened, though, because when I let it go, I found out she is even smarter and more amazing than I thought. She is calmer than I thought. She thinks things through more than I thought. She is more of a willing partner than I knew.Read Linda's post to find out what happened next - it's pretty amazing.
These two posts, together with the original one, have made me think more about Dawn and our mutual trust issues. Pie is easy to trust, even though he's still a young horse and can spook or do something unexpected. And he trusts easily - he's one of those fortunate horses whose trust has clearly never been betrayed by a human. Dawn is another matter, both in terms of her trust of me and also my willingness to trust her. There are reasons why we both feel this way. Dawn has had her trust seriously betrayed in the past, and I think it makes her more inclined to trust her own feelings and thoughts than those of her human partner, and therefore to make her own decisions what to do when the chips are down.
She has learned to trust my younger daughter, though. My daughter just kept riding through all of Dawn's bolts, and bucks, and spooks, and rears, and eventually Dawn learned to trust her enough that they were able to go for miles on the trail, my daughter riding bareback, not always without incident but with mutual trust, even galloping together for long stretches. But my daughter rarely rides her any more - college got in the way.
So now Dawn and I have been working on building a relationship together. When I first started working with her, I confess I was somewhat afraid of her. See my post "The Horse Is Thinking About Leaving . . ." for more about that, and about where our work together has been going. Part of my lack of trust in Dawn has more to do with a lack of confidence in myself rather than anything Dawn has done when I've been working with her - I'm not really sure I'd be able to ride out her acrobatics and I don't feel safe riding her on the trail - Dawn has actually never done anything "bad" when I've been working with or riding her in the arena and in fact has been a willing and cooperative partner. She can also be very aggressive when around other horses, and this used to be a risk to humans who were near her, but over time I've convinced her that she's always to pay attention to me and stay out of my bubble regardless of how she feels about another horse that is nearby, and that when we're working under saddle, we're working even if other horses are in the arena.
I think part of it is that she has to trust me to keep her safe - from scary things in her environment and from other horses, whom she fears and tries to dominate as a defensive measure. I also have to help her by giving her direction when she's worried or distracted, and I must always stay as calm and soft with her as I can for her to give me calmness and softness back. If you up the ante with Dawn, things overload pretty quickly - she's a horse you have to persuade rather than pressure.
Riding her bareback and in a bitless bridle last fall really indicated that I was beginning to find her more trustworthy. I need to take further steps down that road - of showing her that we can trust each other and keep each other safe and happy. I need to let go of the stories I've told myself about her - about who she is and what she's likely to do or not do - and just take her as she actually is. She's shown me some trust already and it's up to me to show her more, and as we do that I think our relationship will deepen.