Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Starbuck and I had a very good groundwork session today-- the footing in the roundpen was finally more or less dry and it was a bright sunny day (albeit super windy).  But most of all we just had a really solid connection today. I've been working on using non-verbal cues for transitions (using first my focus, then body language, then stepping up the body language and finally accompanying the body language with a verbal cue if none of the above works).  The idea is that instead of her having to learn to speak my language, I try to "speak" hers.  Today I didn't have to use any words at all, she was tuned in enough to me to follow my lead!

I also have been accompanying her when roundpenning by walking about 4 feet away from her as she goes around the pen - the first few times we tried it she freaked out a little and didn't like me so close to her while she was working.  I think she must have seen it as micromanaging at first, but she's now realized that it's just something we do sometimes and today did really well.  At first she tried to veer away from the fence towards me, but I flicked the string of my whip at her shoulder a few times and she got the picture.  She did so well we even escalated to changing reins across the round pen while maintaining speed and rhythm.  All of this interspersed with lots of breaks where we worked on standing tied, pivots on the hind- and forequarters and the "come here" cue.

Anyhow the best part of the session was at the very end when I gave her a long, long rubdown complete with a face massage to reward her for such a fabulous job.  At the end, I gave her a hug and pressed my face against her neck and realized that I could hear her heart beating.  It was slow, much slower than I would expect.  Maybe because she's so big?  Anyhow it completely mesmerized me and I just let my whole being tune into her being, the sound of her heart beating and her breath whooshing through her throat and the smell and feel of her coat against my face and the weight of her jaw resting on top of my head.

An amazing moment I hope I never forget and can often repeat.

For all those science geeks out there, here are some links on the equine heart:

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