Angus: Connection and Faux Connection
Recently, The subject of Connection and quality of connection came up in the forum. Connection means a lot of things to a lot of people but it is interesting how much many people equate it with the horse performing or performing a task well. If this is not the case, the Connection is perceived as weak or not Connected. Since I have had the unique opportunity to work with un-rideable horses and people who had no desire to ride or train but only to connect to their horses, I have had the truly special experience of what I call Pure Connection or Relationship with horses. You see, what I have seen with people whose end game is always to ride, is that their relationship has a certain tone to it. I am not judging it (I obviously ride myself) but it seems like for some people, if they can’t ride, what is the point of connecting to their horse and if they perceive their Connection is good, why isn’t my horse doing what I want? He’s a Jerk! This is what I call a very narrow Relationship Connection. For other’s like myself, Connection and Relationship is most important, and riding is just a small part and one of the many experiences I share with my horse in a multi-faceted, multi level relationship where we continually explore each other and what is possible between a human and Equine. Luckily for me, I see no limitations to that relationship so the possibilities are still unfolding in magical and unexpected ways because at Ohana the doors of experience are wide open for our horses and ourselves.
I have been working with Angus and finding he exhibits a Faux Connection. I was told he will “Join up” (or follow a person around) very easily at Liberty which is true but he is full of tension and un-confidence when he does it. Getting a horse to follow you is extremely easy to do by pressuring them in a small area. It does not take any skill. Getting a horse to Seek Connection with you voluntarily and out of choice and not coercion takes skill. The interesting thing is Angus is a gregarious horse until he gets triggered. He gets triggered by any request (no matter how small) and it takes him a long time to calm down and relax. The first thing I noticed in Angus when working with him at Liberty was several reasons he “Joins Up” that had nothing to do with the quality of Connection I was looking for.
- The first reason was deep insecurity. I never feel flattered if the main reason a horse is stuck to me like glue is because they are so un-confident they wont dare to leave my side. Though I want my horse to feel safe with me and trust me, I don’t want them neurotically attached to my hip. People need to recognize the difference in this type of clingy-ness and not confuse it with True Connection.
- I found that when Angus is feeling more confident he liked to manipulate my space in a pushy way and by using his front end very close to me and actually crowding me. I am met with resentment and overreaction when I communicate my feelings about this to him.
- Being a horse that has been round penned with the end game being “Join up” He offers it repeatedly in a way that says to me “are you happy now? I’ve “Joined Up” isn’t that what you wanted me to do?” But it is just a learned response from previously being pressured and having to move his feet.
I wrote a blog a long time ago about the difference between Join up and Mirroring. This is where it requires the person and onlooker to get out of the task mode and into the quality of the feeling of what you are experiencing (or watching) mode. It is the same way when we look at someone doing circus like Liberty or Trained Liberty versus Liberty Training that has a feeling of the horse being coerced into doing everything. Beautiful Connection and Training is about the feeling between the Equine and the Human not a performance.
So what I am working on with Angus right now, Is this Feeling. Not just doing things but how he and I are feeling in each moment while we are together. I can tell this is harder for him then just doing tasks and it is making him think and participate differently and that is what I want. I am also starting work with our Suppleness dance at Liberty which is helping him get into his body at Liberty and find a new more connected way of moving versus his hollow, quick way of moving. This week one more very important piece was added to his program, He was introduced to his new friends. I was able to find him some compatible guys to pal around with so he can get his extremely important horse social time. I believe this will relieve a lot of his stress and is one of the best gifts I can give him.