My short, sweet stay at the Lichman ranch had been a healthy dose of “horse-lover’s high”: morning to dusk rides, and all the horsey smells and good times that come with that.

Driving down from Sacramento, I noticed that most all of the experiences and knowledge I have gained with my animals have been rooted in communicating with them, not just telling them what to do. It’s a process that I thoroughly enjoy and continue to build upon daily. Some of the best things I’ve experienced with my animals, and the reason why I never tire of being with them, is because of all the wonderful offerings they give me when allowed to and given the freedom of choice! The ultimate goal of animal training is to share in how, and what, they see in the world in which we’ve brought them.

Take, for example, the perspective of a horse: You’re born to run free… over mountains and rocky cliffs. Huge plains that were made for you to gallop across, surrounded by a herd made up mostly of your family. This is what you’re made of. If you want to run and kick up your heels: you’re free to! But then, to your devastation and absolute terror, an unknown species, that stands straight on two legs, captures you. They stick you in a small space, everywhere is limitation, and you’re never again truly free! Every time you see a human, they act hostile and aggressive, and you honestly fear for your life. It’s not uncommon for a few of them to gang up on you and tie you up with ropes. You can’t get away! Bucking, kicking, biting: it only brings more ropes and contraptions, buckled to every part of your body.

When you finally give in for the sake of staying alive, nothing you do is your choice. No choice over what you eat, or when, how you move, what you do, which horse you’re with, what you drink, not much choice over anything.

The life of a captive, or domesticated, horse.

One of the things I’ve learned from working with animals is that the beauty comes from being open to suggestions. Communicating with another species is an art, and that art requires you to be open to see a situation from more than just your point of view. Be open!
My dog has taught
 me tricks! One time he offered to go through my legs, when I was asking for something else, and, as I began to walk forward, he walked backward! Et voila, we had a new “dance move”. They teach us.

Think of it this way: if one kid wants to play hopscotch and the other wants to jump rope, are they only going to hopscotch because the one kid wants to? I hope not. That would lead to a closed-minded, boring afternoon that those two kids spend together. Apartnership, or friendship in the kids’ case, would call for the two children perhaps splitting up their time: some time playing one game and then the other. Why not try to jump rope and hopscotch at the same time?

Don’t insist on always being the boss. Give them a choice sometimes. Not much choice is left in their lives. Whether they were born in the wild or slowly bred into domestication, we have taken them out of their natural habitat and placed them into our modern human world. We have done so to connect with and enjoy their unique animal spirit. So, allow their spirit to show sometimes!

What things can they come up with? Showing your animal a bit of respect will completely change the way you and any animal interact and I promise it will boost both of your enjoyment, of working/playing together, to a new level!

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