If I push Billy Blaze when he is not checking in with me I can cause him to blow up or become very introverted and distrustful. Learning to read my horse has been the biggest part of my journey. Understanding when he is feeling confident, left brained, or unconfident, right brained, then dealing with the horse that shows up, moment to moment has been quite a challenge.
Sometimes a horse that has gone introverted will lower it’s head, then cock it’s hind leg. People often misread this as relaxed when in fact the horse is so stressed that it feels it can barely cope. Horses that do this tend to really surprise their handlers- and those that are watching- by completely exploding when pushed. If the horse has it’s head very low to ground and it’s breathing is shallow and quiet, the eyes are staring (or sometimes closed) and not blinking and it’s not moving it’s ears… watch out! The best thing to do is to wait. Just find some patience and wait for the horse to work through things. It can take a long time or just minutes. The waiting will mean so much to the horse and he will gain immeasurable confidence in you as a partner.
As I learned and understood Billy’s psychology, got into his mind a bit and started to understand how things made him feel, we shot forward in our horse-man-ship skills. Understanding why my horse is reacting to things in a certain way is extremely valuable for both of us. It expands the trust I have in my horse and the trust he has in me as well.
I started to understand the way he sees the world. When he is scared it’s because he literally thinks he is going to die. He is not trying to be difficult or “stupid”. He really and truly thinks he is going to die. Once I understood this I was able to slow down and really start to think about how to help him, support him, in this journey we are on together.
I understand how it feels when adrenaline rushes through his body, I’ve felt that exact thing in my body. I have a flight or fight response as well. When I get spooked or scared sometimes I want to run away too. Having someone with me that can stay calm and collected, has an amazing effect on me as well. Once I understood this about Billy Blaze I was better able to be that calm and collected person for him in scary situations. When he started to look to me for peace and quiet, things started to change in our relationship. No more spooking and running away! Now if he gets scared he will turn and look for me. BUT he doesn’t run me down or jump on me. He will come to me, park himself in front of me and lower his head to help him come down off the adrenaline. He will sigh, lick and chew and take a minute to think about what happened. Amazing! This will prove invaluable on the trail if I ever fall off or he gets spooked when I’m not holding onto him properly. At least I won’t be left miles up in the mountains, to walk home.
Instead I have a partner. It takes a long time to gain your horses trust and a short time to lose it. So take care of that trust at all times.