I've been thinking a lot about relationships this past week. Specifically, about my relationship with Ashke. And about my relationships with my dogs. They are kind of all tangled up together.
The only reason I wanted a horse again was to have a relationship with him. Perhaps I was chasing a dream of my childhood, of recapturing the love and connection I had with Queenie when I was 13. Perhaps I was chasing a deeper dream of riding the wind blown prairie with a Spanish barb decendent, in leather and beads. Perhaps it was an even deeper dream of the first horses to join up with humans, to become both companion and comrade in travels across the steppe or desert. All I know is that I have been captivated by the grace and beauty that is horse.
Moreover, the grace and beauty that is the Arabian horse. I lucked out in rescuing a steed that is thoughtful, smart, actively engaged, connected and loving. He likes hanging out with me. He follows me with his eyes. He nickers when he sees me. He whinnies when I leave him alone too long. He seeks out my company, the same way I seek out his. He loves to follow me. I love to just hang out with him. I love to groom him, stroking my hands over his coat, making him feel as clean and comfortable as possible. He loves being fed treats. We like each other.
Nicole made a comment while we were riding about how lucky we both are that we are the only ones who have really worked with our horses, are the only ones who have ridden them. We have an unique connection and relationship with our horses. I told her that that relationship was the reason I wanted a horse I could train.
There are a number of horses at the barn that are used for schooling horses - meaning a group of different riders ride them. There are also a bunch of horses that are ridden and handled specifically by their trainers or riders specifically chosen to show them. I feel for them, because I think horses operate best when they have one special person for them.
Mark Rashid talks about that connection in his book, "Whole Heart, Whole Horse" and his contention is that it starts from the inside of the person. It starts with the person wanting the horse to feel and be comfortable. I think grooming is a huge part of creating the connection because it communicates to the horse that the rider cares. Sometimes, riders over look that part, or a handler does the grooming for the trainer or the rider. Touching and talking to the horse is such an integral part of creating the connection and I think a lot of times riders, especially schooling riders, skip over this because it takes away from what their focus is: riding. I know I was that way when I was young. Grooming was a spit and a swipe.
That changed with Ashke. He was so dirty and had so many sores, plus he wasn't used to being touched, and his body hurt when I brought him home. I knew that if I started by visiting every day and grooming him, slowly and softly, that I could communicate to him that his comfort and well-being were important to me. And now, he loves being brushed or stroked or just flat out touched.
More of this on the dogs in my next post . . .