Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Horse's Eye

One of the things I like about doing groundwork with horses is that their beautiful eyes are right down at my level. A horse's eye lets you see right into her soul. Horses are utterly present in each moment, and completely without guile, and their eyes are so very expressive.

Today I had the privilege once again of working with a lovely Thoroughbred mare. Like many of her breed, she can be flighty and high-strung, and is sometimes a handful to manage. Our plan is to work with her and attempt to change her view of the world as a fearful place where she is not safe to one where she can relax and enjoy her surroundings.
My task for today was to help her learn not to run ahead of me, but to stop when I stopped, then take a step backwards when I did. This was not easy for her, and it took us quite a while to get it worked out. As we practiced, though, I would stop periodically and stroke her neck until she relaxed, and her head gradually dropped lower and lower.

Finally, after half an hour or so, I took a step forward and noticed her tuck her head as she walked next to me. She placed her feet with obvious care--she was paying close attention to me. After a few steps, I stopped, and she stopped--and backed up with me. The sudden change was wonderful to see--she finally understood exactly what I was asking, and did it because I asked her to.

The expression in her big, beautiful eye had changed as she looked at me. It is a wonderful moment, when a horse begins to trust you. Such a gift; such an honor. May I be worthy....

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