This post is part of a series I am writing about training, or being trained by, 2 stallions. Nafis Rafiq “Rafi” is 24, a been-there-done-that wise protective smart patient stallion. Nasr Mubaarak “Nasr” is his yearling son, just as smart and wise as his daddy, with the curiosity of youth mixed in. Stallions in general aren’t part of the majority American horse culture. Most of us grew up riding geldings, or mares. Stallions are generally reserved for the breeding farms and experienced riders and trainers, and are often perceived as dangerous or difficult. Thank goodness my first stallion experiences have been with Rafi. I am figuring out much as I go along, finding a path that honors their conscious being, while also keeping me and other people and horses safe. I have been blessed to find some conscious horsemanship for stallions mentors in the books of Linda Kohanov and Klaus Hempfling and the teachings of Kim Walnes and her horse Gideon.
Join me for the journey!
Life has been very busy on the farm lately with winter preparations well underway. We are all adjusting to Rafi’s absence. I truly didn’t realize just how much “presence” he had energetically on the farm until he was gone. His watchful guarding energy was very calming, and I could always trust him to alert me to any problems as well as keep me safe. But, it is time for me to step out and learn without his mentorship and for Nasr to find his own place in the herd and the world, and for us to build our partnership together.
I do my best to at least brush Nasr daily, and watch for one small learning opportunity. A couple days ago, he was laying down so I groomed him and then eased a leg over his back a couple times. Even with my full skirts, he wasn’t at all bothered. Today, we tried the bareback pad. That was very anticlimactic. He sniffed it once before I put it on, and that was it. No fuss, no worry, just curiosity about what would happen next. He has also begun to put his head into his halter for me when I hold it out. It was nothing I “trained” him to do, he simply volunteered.
The other fun and wonderful development is that Nasr has started calling and coming to me when he sees me in the field. We have started to build a good friendship.
Something I have realized is that truly every single interaction is a powerful lesson. I knew each interaction mattered, had known it for years, but had not really internalized just how much can be changed in so little time with so little movement. Even just the walk from the pen to the gate, perhaps 30 feet, can have very refined and subtle exchanges of body language and thoughts, and one perfect walk with communication and no confusion (which leads to resistance) creates permanent improvements. We work together on making the walk and stop cues as tiny as possible, and my challenge is to make my pause long enough to allow him to think. I stand softly, flick my eyes in the direction we should walk, add just the tiniest softening of my hands and body, and then wait. He watches, processes and then finally I see that shift of bodyweight as he starts the movement to follow. (Before I learned the priceless value of the pause, I would have amped up my cue, without giving him that time.) I send appreciation from my heart, exhale, then add verbal praise when he takes the actual steps. A few steps, I straighten a bit, my feet plant, my energy firms, and he immediately stops. I soften and send love and gratitude. He perks up with satisfaction. We pause while he processes and radiates his pride in being so smart. Long pause. Still so easy to rush that pause. I soften, I look, and we move forward again. It is a dance, with both of us learning. The process is shaping me at least as much as him.
Copyright (c) 2019 C. Eastman. Feature & Intro photos by Kristen Helfrecht Murray, aka Gardenographer