Step Back

Sometimes, when I work with Flynn I wonder who is teaching who?

With the end of winter and all the non-motivating weather it brings now gone, I find myself with more opportunities to work with the horses. For the past 18months I have been on a journey with Flynn -re-laying, re-digging, rewriting the foundations that his training has been based on. In the process, I have found myself reshaped as well. It has been an interesting, at times frustrating, but also very much a rewarding process and one that continues.

Because I have been so “training” focused – so consumed with ensuring that my technique and the way I interact with Flynn is as correct as possible, I have measured all of Flynn’s answers according to this focus. The last time I rode him, I asked if he could walk forward – his response was ‘no, I might take a few steps back’. I asked again and he gave the right answer, however, I mulled over his initial answer. Good horse men and women, much more experienced than I, will say that “there is no such thing as bad behaviour, only good information”. I therefore analysed Flynn’s response and looked for the breakdown in our training and communication – where had I gone wrong? What little thing had I missed and needed to go back and correct? In what way had I failed to connect with Flynn in a manner he could understand? How wrong was I…

This year, as part of my normal horse care routine, I have started to arrange “bodywork” for the horses – a combination of gentle massage, myofascial release therapy, kinesiology taping and red light therapy designed to help alleviate the various aches and pains that they can feel. Yesterday was Flynn’s turn – due to his age (he is young) and his body condition (you would struggle to find a better looking horse in the paddock) I had assumed that not much would be unearthed. However, as the wonderful Georgia, and her truly gifted hands, moved over Flynn’s body, sore area after sore area was revealed. It would appear that my wonderful bay horse had also been incredibly stoic as well. From the top of his head to his hamstrings in his hind legs, the little fellow was stiff and sore. In order to survive in the wild, horses will hide their pain (after all the weak and hurting are the ones that get ostracized from the herd and eaten first) and Flynn’s survival sense had gone into overdrive! I mean seriously, who wants to be eaten…

As I stood looking at my little horse – understanding flooded into my head and heart. Flynn’s few backwards steps under saddle, weren’t a training issue – it was his way of saying ‘I’m hurting here’. Because I was so consumed with training and technique I had failed to step back and see the bigger picture. So convinced that the problem had to lie with me and how I communicated with him, I was both blind and deaf to what Flynn was trying to ‘say’ to me.

So once again, my little Equine teacher has taught me – or at least reminded me – of another valuable lesson. We can be so myopic in our vision – so consumed with some minute detail that the obvious can be missed. I was recently watching a DVD on horse massage and one of the pieces of advice given was to step back and observe. How much did I need to step back – enlarge what I was seeing – study the whole movie being played before me and not just a single frame. Be it horses or people, our relationships can only be strengthened when we seek to see the whole, not just part; when we listen to the other and not be consumed with ourselves…

 “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25b)

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