I have just read your book and loved it. I’ve been ploughing through various horse training methods and ideas with some positive outcomes but not without feeling like a perfectionist, pushing up the pressure in getting the job done. I was left with a feeling of anxiety every time I went to work with a horse. I read “One with the Herd” which led me next to your book and related toit in wanting that bond and willingness with my horse without all the demanding and “correcting”.
I’ve been working with my horse and our bond has been developing so naturally. We were doing great at our little ground work lessons at liberty as well as our halterless hikes through the woods (Autumn’s a one and a half year old 16 hand Belgian filly). For the past few months, I have had her out with aherd of 30 horses on 230 acres set in the redwoods on the side of a mountain, where she drinks from ponds and grazes on the meadows.
It’s a tame wild for those horses. Anyhow, she’ll come up to me to say “Hi” and will sometimes stay but other times she’ll just take off.
What can I say, it hurts my feelings. She hasn’t wanted to do our liberty exercises or hikes. I feel that now she is more in with the herd, the less she feels the need to be around me. I just wonder if it’s because she’s young or I’m not stimulating enough, or she’s just herd bound. I don’t know if leaving it up to herliberty to follow me and want to do some things is right. I don’t know. Should I just hang out with her more in the pasture and wait longer for her to initiate something? I give her lots of time but I’d hate her just to lose interest in me all together. I was just wondering if you had any insight. I just want to have the best relationship with her that I can. Maybe I just need to chill out.
In response I replied:
Margaret, you are very lucky to have this opportunity. Horses prefer being with horses in the wild. The carrot of freedom and self-direction and community of the herd is stronger than anything you have to offer her at this time. I would not feel hurt but rather be overjoyed that I could give my horse this lifestyle. Iwould suggest that you join her instead of her joining you so you can understand her life and what it will take to redirect her focus. Let these conditions take over your focus and be with your horse on her terms. You are lucky to have such an environment even for yourself.
Take this opportunity to fall in love with nature, discover how to be in the moment and at peace with what is. Become aware of the system in nature and the community of the herd. Become a wildlife lover and enjoy her experience.
Take pictures and groom her when she itches. Bring her food like alfalfa and wait for her to finish it.
When she finishes it, follow her if you can. Go with her if she will let you. Pay attention to the distance she would like you to keep.
Why is it that she must follow your lead for you to feel good about the connection you share with her? She might have the same feeling you do. She might say, “Why is it that to have a bond with Margaret I must go where she goes?”
Enjoy the time that you have to fall in love with the relationship as it is. I could give you a method to connect with her in the wild but it would be, in my mind, not to your best interest or hers. If you become one with her in her freedom you can better understand her point of view and then when her point of viewdoes not hurt your feelings, you will be better equipped to make choices to empower your leadership.
Again you and your horse are very lucky to have the environment you have. By the way, get to know the other horses too. Take a chair to the place where they go most often, sit in the chair and read. If the horses come up to you, ignore them unless they get pushy and if they get pushy, move or ask them to leave you alone by using your body language to drive them from your personal space. Give the horses freedom to inspect you. This creates trust and increases the bond. Have fun with nature as it is.
Keep all of us informed of your journey getting to know the true nature of horses. I think it is most important that you stop looking for formulas at this point. Let the experience in nature open up your possibilities. If you do, I will offer you guidance along the way. Remember, your horse is quite young so what’s the hurry? How much time do you give your horse on a daily basis? Ihope enough to be able to grow the connection naturally.
Natural Horsemanship from the Ground Up