As my journey with Maestro unfolds, I watch him develop before my eyes, I am struck by how My Journey with Mercury has been so profound and deep and full of adventures. In our 12 years together (he is 13 now), Mercury and I have been through highs and lows, achieved things I never dreamed of and forged a friendship and partnership of a lifetime. He is my 4 legged soul mate as many have heard me refer to him. He has and never will be an “easy” horse. And as such been a great teacher and elevator of my horsemanship skills. He has always stood by me no matter what and always gives me his best.
In 12 years I have had Mercury, my work and approach to training and horsemanship has evolved a hundred fold. Since I have been at Ohana farm, I have evolved my approach even more having my own larger herd to look after. I am fascinated by my equine extended family as it grows and shifts dynamically with each new member.
The question I can now answer unequivocally is what the most important tool and factor in interacting and having a relationship with horses is. It is Energy. Energy is everything in our interactions with horses. It guides our physical and non physical actions. Our Energetic Inflection is what horses perceive as soon as they lay eyes on us. You can have a lifetime of technical knowledge of your craft or no experience but if you bring the right energy to a horse, it is what will dictate your interaction quality no matter what you are doing.
Case in point. I had a horse who was very opinionated at one point and would only work willingly with someone who’s energy she agreed with. I had two equally skilled students I was willing to allow to work with her. I wasn’t sure which one would be best and I knew my mare would tell me. One of the students had a soft, empathetic energy and the other student was always being confrontational and picking fights with the horses. My mare made it clear that the student who had the combative energy was not going to work for her. She refused to work with the student who wanted to fight with her. I wound up selling the mare and I knew she would need the exact right person and she would tell me who it was by agreeing to work or not work as it were with this person.
I often observe at my farm what each person who interacts with the horses brings out in them. I’ll see a person really struggling with a horse and then see another person work with the same horse and have no problem. It has to do with what that person is inflecting not their skill. When we say someone is a “Natural” With horses, What we are really saying is, That person’s energy resonates to horses. A Master of energy, as many great Horseman are, Can adapt their energy to resonate with any horse at any time. I call this Energy Mastery.
The first exercise I teach people is how to become aware of their energy and what it is bringing to their horse. How is it impacting their horse for positive or negative. Your thought processes create an energy around you so this can be seen as a mental discipline as well. Many people I work with are thinking about fear, need, want, and tasks when they go to a horse. The first exercise is about learning to be present with yourself and with your horse. To want nothing and need nothing from your horse and you learn how to shift your intention cleanly and organically from moment to moment without getting attached to any one interaction or non-interaction.
Maestro is starting to test boundaries and get very playful. He spends a lot of his days now trying engage his uncles in play. One of his current games is carrying rubber feed pans around and whacking the other horses with them until he gets their attention. I have given him a jolly ball and he likes to carry it around as well as sticks. He is also getting more mouthy. What I have learned about Maestro and pressure is that because he is very brave and sure of himself, He does not tolerate confrontational energy at all. He is much better with slow deliberate requests that respect his intelligence. When the other horses try to push him strongly he simply offers his hind end and says ask me nicely! He is clearly seeking interaction with me as I look for his requests to engage with me. As I predicted, after watching me come in and get Mercury and Uncle Jordan many times with the halter, He comes over and offers that I might like to put the halter on him and take him? It is quite cute and part of my “Monkey see Money do” Training principle. He has seen his peers going out to do things with me and he wants in! People have asked when I will start working with him and the answer is when he asks me too. And now after two months of me simply being with him, he is asking for me to do things with him.
In regards to the first exercise, It has taken me this long to see how my energy, needs to be to harmonize with Maestro’s energy so we will always enjoy our conversations. It is also clear that some safe boundaries need to be set as he starts testing each of us. He is getting quite cheeky so I need to remind him that I am delicate and cannot with stand the antics that his uncles can. But that I am happy to give him cuddles and scratches right now and teach him about being patient around his feedings. I have learned to keep my energy soft yet firm at times to make sure he is gentle and thoughtful around not just me but all people who enter the paddock. The first exercise of learning how to “Be” with a horse encompasses all these skills. First, knowing how to work with your own energy, Then learning how to adjust it to match what your horse needs in the moment (and be safe) and then to use it to have a mutually fulfilling dialog in whatever you are “doing” together.