The last year or so I’ve been working especially hard on my relationship with Galahad (with the help of the amazing Paulette Clark of Ribbleton Attunement).
It’s become really clear to others, not just to me, that our relationship and our communication is quite special—we are in partnership, Galahad and I, and have basically no problem understanding each other. Sometimes he even trains me, not the other way around, without my being aware of it at first.
But all that good stuff evaporates as soon as we set foot inside any training space. Most often, Galahad either ignores me completely or goes sullen and obedient. The joy we experience together on the outside just isn’t there. Now, I’ve watched Frédéric Pignon (even participated in one of his clinics last year!) and Paulette herself with their horses, so I know that it is possible for a horse and human to enjoy playing and working together at liberty—free of tack, coercion, and “obedience”—in a way that satisfies both spirits. That’s what I want for me and my big horse. But how?
Yesterday I finally figured out what’s going on—I haven’t yet figured out how to fix it, but at least I know where I need to focus. And guess what? It’s not Galahad. It’s me. Big surprise there, huh?
Two things happened yesterday. First, I had a pretty typical experience with Galahad in the round pen. (We don’t do “round penning” in the traditional sense. It’s just a convenient, enclosed space where I can turn him loose.) All I wanted for him to do was walk with me, on the lead line, and then move in a circle around me at a walk. Easy, right? But we were in a training setting. Our minds were in “that place.”
I knew I didn’t have his full attention—there was a lot going on nearby, with horses moving, people talking, cars going past. Galahad figured those things were way more important and interesting than what I had in mind. I knew he wasn’t looking forward to anything we were likely to do in that setting. I didn’t feel like any kind of leader at that point—I was just a taskmaster, trying to make my horse do something.
So let’s look at that again: All *I wanted* him to do was walk with me. *I thought* that it *should* be pretty easy for him to just walk…but he was not interested in me, only in watching the horses being moved around. Did I stop to ask him any questions? Did I ask him, my equine friend and partner, how he felt about anything at all? No.
It felt terrible, but I kept trying to get him to do what I wanted. Our frustration just built until finally I tapped him on his heinie a bit harder than necessary, and he jumped forward, resentfully, and did what I asked. Obedience. No joy at all.
That got MY attention. What an uncomfortable realization it was, but very useful. Made me pretty sad. Galahad got LOTS of cookies back in the pasture, believe me!
Later in the day, someone in a Facebook group asked if any of us knew what our life purpose is. This was my response:
I’m lucky–I have a very clear sense of purpose (though it wasn’t easy to get to that point!). The simplified version is that I’m here to learn about and share the art of truly LISTENING to others–that can also be described as being a WITNESS to others. It’s about allowing other sentient beings their voice, especially those who have, in effect, had their voices ripped from them. Along the way, I’m regaining MY voice, and Galahad is regaining his.
Finally, while I was out in the yard tying up piles of Johnson grass for pickup next week, I realized the connection between these events, and the learning that’s there for me. It formed as a question:
If I, with the will, the experience, and a fair bit of insight and self-knowledge still can’t hear my horse and give him a voice in the round pen or the arena because I can’t get out of “trainer’s mind” and give up my need for control, how on earth is our culture going to make the changes necessary to give all of us our voices back? If I can’t truly listen, how can I expect that anyone else can, either?
And that’s a critical question at the moment, isn’t it? How can we change something that’s so deeply rooted as the need to control our environment and the other beings who share it? And there’s another piece of this that I don’t quite understand yet. Read my first sentence again: “The last year or so I’ve been working especially hard on my relationship….” The need to work hard on something that involves relaxing into relationship with another sentient being and just listening. Hmmm…. That’s related, somehow, to control, isn’t it?
I’ll keep you posted as Galahad and I try to figure all this out in our tiny piece of the Universe.
[Check out Ribbleton Attunement here: https://www.ribbleton.com/ I can’t recommend it highly enough!]