Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day 56

I'm away from Little Love, but I miss her company.  When I'm with her, I feel so much more grounded, and that feeling stays with me for hours afterwards.  Now I haven't seen her for three whole days - although it feels longer - and I'm ready to breathe in her sweet horse scent and just hang out close to her. 

Muddy K asked me some very insightful questions (after my last blog post) and I have been thinking more of my answers.  I realize that being Little Love's official person (I don't like to say owner...) has put me in a completely different mindset than when she was not mine.  Back then, I was so bound by what I could or couldn't do with her, that choosing the direction we would go together was somewhat easy.  I also felt that whatever I was doing, it was a relief (somewhat) from what others were doing with her.  But now... I guess in a nutshell: the pressure is on.  Now I can really affect her life and I see myself questioning what I am doing or rather the methods I am using.  For example the feet.  I know she needs to walk, as walking will help her heal.  However, at first, she didn't want to walk at all.  I don't like putting pressure on her, but I sort of had to, to get her to walk.  Then I felt like all I was doing is "forcing" her to do something against her will even if it meant just nudging her along or swinging the rope at her hind end while clucking.  But on the same token, I could see the positive effects of the movement.  Ah, maybe I am just over-analysing this all?  Wouldn't be the first time :-) I would just like to explore the concept of using less and less pressure (or none, how about positive reinforcement for a change?), and even though I am using very little pressure, it is not what I want in the long run. 

The other thing Muddy K asked about was why am I working on not tying Little Love or even using the halter.  There is a simple answer to that: because she hates it.  She especially hates cross ties.  At several occasion I have seen her cross tied tightly while a person brushed her and tacked her up.  She tried to bite the person and kick at her and move away, but nothing worked, she was stuck there, being force-groomed and tacked.  It was painful to watch, especially when the people involved in this activity thought this was the only way to go about it.

So, since tying has bad memories, I have tried to avoid it, to see what sort of affect that would have on Little Love.  I believe that it is quite a big deal for her to have control over her environment, even if it is just something as simple as standing outside "untied".  It is not that she wants to leave perse that makes the difference, but rather that she knows she could, if she wanted to.  And it has been interesting to see the changes in Little Love's personality and her attitude when she is not tied.  She is more relaxed.  She also seems to tolerate things like brushing or soaking the hooves.  There is a visible shift in her attitude; she is more cooperative and curious as to what happens next and less "grumpy". 
I know there will be situations where I will have to tie her, and that's fine, she ties better when she doesn't have to do it every day. 

And what comes to the halter... in Little Love's case the rule "less is more" seems to apply in many situations. The less tack (or restraints), the more she shows up in the situation as truly who she is.  She is at her best and her true self when she is "naked".  For example, when she is free in the arena and has a halter on her head, she acts differently than if she doesn' have the halter.  There is definitely more "self conrol" with the halter (or learned behavior?).  It took me a while to figure this out, but it seems like in "naked" liberty (not to copy Resnick in any way but it's the perfect expression...) she is more free to express herself.  She will for example rear more readily.      


  1. This is so interesting about the tying. I understand what you've said, and I think I get it. You are setting Little Love free now, releasing her from the constraints of her former life. I see how that can be good. At some point, though, you are going to have to help her define her new world, aren't you? I mean, does a horse understand freedom, does a horse understand what to do with freedom? Can a horse link their person to feelings of freedom and build a relationship from there, or do you end up living with a "tame" wild horse?

    She hated cross ties. Do you know why? And where does that facet of her personality go without that stimulus?

    Ack. I'm becoming a pest with all the questions. I can't help it, though, because your journey with Little Love has you writing about things like tying. You efforts with her are very active and present, and that's the perfect time to ask questions, I think.

  2. Have you tried ground tying with her? That would allow you to reward her for standing still, while still freeing her to move.

  3. Hi Katariina - just to say you have a reader in the North of Portugal following along. I don't understand about soaking Lilo's hooves unless they are infected. Re: tying - I groom all our four horses without tying them which means I have to re-create rapport and connection with them on a daily basis - all part of a heathy happy dialogue, isn't it?

    Every good wish, Ian

  4. I know with our horses, grooming them while untied is the gift. They stay and enjoy it (or tolerate it...!) or they walk away to do something else. It's the choie of the horse. Once you take away all the tack and restraints, all you have left is the truth. Of course sometimes we have to tie them (or hold a lead on them) say for trimming, but they are pretty ok with it. As if they understand that this one time is necessary. Cross ties seem so against the nature of the horse (being a prey animal), that the horse has NO choice, the fear escalates or they become helpless.
    I love these comments and questions, makes me think about it alot.

  5. Hey everyone, thanks for the comments! Truth told, I haven't really thought about the tying so in depth. I just know that Little Love does not like it (it is quite obvious in so many ways), so I don't do it. Simple as that. I want to honor her opinion. There is that freedom of choice element there as well, of course,she can choose to walk away (and sometimes she does, which is really no big deal). If she walks away when I brush her, I stop brushing and we do something else. I may come back to brushing later and see if it works out then, but at least in the moment I stop. Sometimes I ask her to stay. It depends. Like Ian said, it's a healthy happy dialogue! (and Ian, I soak before I walk her, to make her hooves more elastic, this way I'm hoping they would "expand" in the weight bearing and heal her contractions faster)
    And I agree, cross ties are really against a horse's nature. Or any animals for that matter. It is very controlling to tie someone's head from both sides. And I'm trying to move away from control.
    Kate - she does ground tie as well, but I don't use that very often. She has stepped on the lead a few times and really freaked out (since again, she hates being restrained in any way and will get defensive...)

  6. OMG! I am so tired today and just discovered your blog (via your website which I was so excited to read) so I just want to quickly say - you are pretty much writing my thoughts down for me! AND I'm doubly over-excited to find there is someone else here from Portugal - I thought I was the only one here that thought like this!!!

    I will be back tomorrow to read more when I am not brain dead tired.

    Very much love, Sophie