Today I had a great session with one of the mares I work with.
She is a young Arabian (well, 7 years old… but she acts younger) and, with only bit of “training”, usually stands around doing nothing. When I take her out, we go to a tiny meadow where her herd was always in sight and there were no problems. Today we went to the covered arena for better footing and more space.
Just like that, our relationship was tested. It felt like she would’ve been fine if the others hadn’t winnied after her. We’ve only had a few sessions together. In that short time she’s gone from completely ignoring humans and being convinced I had nothing to offer her, to always keeping an ear on me and, usually, being very responsive and sensitive. The first day it was a safety issue. Every minute I was yelling at her, with my body language, “Get out of my space!” She was utterly unaware and would run right over me if I let her. Second session was better by leaps and bounds and now, perhaps the fifth or fourth session was the best yet.
For the first half hour, I worked on getting her to calm down even though the herd wasn’t in sight. This took convincing – she wanted me to prove that I could protect her and that she would someday see her family again. I had to work hard to meet her standards… it was a test. Once she showed signs of being calm, I walked with her back towards the herd as a sort of reward and release. Whenever she started getting pushy and tried to walk ahead, we would stop there and get back to the point where she was calm.
At the end of the session, she was playful and calm – giving me a kind of attention that I hadn’t gotten from her yet. She rubbed me all over with her muzzle and licked my ears. Then she tried to pick up the “whip” and write invisible O-shapes in the air.
What a great session. I really felt something go from pretty bad to great in a little over an hour. I’m curious how it will be with her next time.