“Weaving The Story of Horse and Human”
Blog 13 June 28 2018
“The Foundation – Shaped in Liberty”
Foundation – The cornerstone of something.
Liberty – The power to act as one pleases.
Shape – To direct one’s course; future.
Freedom – The power to act, think or speak without restraint.
I was sure this experience between Rhett and me was to be discovered and taught in Rhett’s ‘School of Liberty – Shaped in Freedom’.
The day I met Rhett, I knew I would find myself going even deeper into my ‘student of the horse’ studies on our journey. In addition, I knew I was to be a trainer with him, a student of the ‘School of Rhett’. I knew he would show me the unique path forward that was distinctly for us.
Rhett came to me long ago and said, “I’m excited for us to begin our journey. Find our path. We are ready for this and our hearts are open. We will begin our bond with trust, honor and love. We will access a part of us that has been waiting to come out and flourish. We will show all that anything can be overcome with love.” (Learning Lesson)
Rhett in 2009 upon seizure with the State of Wisconsin at approximately 3.5-4 years old.
Our story, journey and path, along with lessons in that moment and time, was to begin by helping Rhett (and me) overcome known fears and phobias and begin rehabilitation, but with new skills and techniques. It could have been called nothing short of a rehabilitation, because it would be the ongoing process of restoring a ‘damaged’ Rhett to his former condition, or, truly, to his authentic self.
And no one but Rhett knew what that had been. What an opportunity to support Rhett and both of us learn from this rehabilitation. Support us both in this rehabilitation. All in freedom. All at liberty. All with a choice.
Rhett showed me in my dreams his idea of freedom, liberty and a different kind of ‘training’. It was me who interpreted those dreams to learn about ‘positive reinforcement’ and the ‘clicker’. The positive ‘signs’ were present and pointing in a forward direction.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the only technique I knew and felt competent using was the classical method of pressure/release. I was practicing natural horsemanship so I didn’t really fit ‘traditional’. But there were things in NH that were no longer resonating with me on many levels so I knew I had to look further.
Without going into too much detail in this chapter, I learned the ‘training name’ for this pressure/release NH method and technique was called ‘negative reinforcement.’ (Language Lesson)
Rhett had already shown me (and anyone else that would listen!) that pressure/release wasn’t going to be the answer for him, at least not in the beginning. No freedom or choice is allowed with ‘negative reinforcement’ and it wasn’t going to work for this rehabilitation with Rhett.
Liberty would give Rhett the ability to choose, the freedom to choose. Liberty would allow Rhett to show me what scared him. Liberty would allow Rhett to show me what worried him.
Liberty would allow Rhett to show me what motivated him. Liberty would allow Rhett to show me what inspired him.
Rhett had the full choice of stepping on the bag, the freedom of saying yes or no.
Since trust, honor and love was in place….liberty would be the first step to our new partnership and natural leadership. Beautiful quote from my friend, Robin Gates, “At liberty, in a free environment, unrestrained, with the absence of tack, a bond is created through a series of companionship interactions that are naturally enjoyable to the horse. This bond is the key to a magical relationship with your horse.”
With that trust came the introduction of what I considered ‘normal’ general horsekeeping/horse husbandry tasks, all at liberty. Everyday tasks like handling feet for cleaning and trimming. Standing for sprays – like fly, mane, coat. Standing for rinsing and bathing. Was that possible? The answer to all was a consistent “NO”. In reality, even haltered, he barely tolerated any of those tasks.
As I introduced each task, because of his freedom to choose to stay or leave, Rhett began to influence and shape his relationship with the task and with me. And with that came the beginning of our foundation – liberty shaped in freedom. (Life Lesson)
How was I going to use autonomy, liberty shaped in freedom and master a technique without using restraints, no matter how small?
We’re going to learn about a training method based on science called ‘positive reinforcement’ and the clicker!
What a perfect time to begin learning, experimenting and integrating positive training into our time together. We would learn this new skill and technique together. (Language Lesson)
We began by using feeding sessions as the time to incorporate the new technique of the clicker and ‘positive reinforcement ‘into tasks such as small steps towards preparing to blanket.
And learning to step on things…by choice, in freedom.
We plunged head on into learning about ‘positive reinforcement’ and about clicker training. We were learning about this method together. We were building a connection. The bond was also deepening as I learned his language.
Yes – I could do the reading, studying and experimenting, but Rhett was the teacher who told me when I got it right!!
The more we trusted, the more we learned, the more we experimented, the more confidence we both gained. It took courage to try to learn things that had caused him anxiety in the past. Many of those were slowly being addressed.
And with that, “Brave” by Sarah Barielles, became Rhett’s ‘song’.
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