Client: My horse was challenging during her farrier visit.
Nicole: I see an image of a person stepping into her space, again and again, without acknowledgement. Your horse is showing me that a lot was done TO her when she was young.
Client: She came to me as a four-year-old and she was already fairly finished. She seems very protective of her personal space.
Nicole: The problem is that people did everything TO your horse, not WITH her. And, she is showing me right now that your farrier also came into her space without respect, he didn't even say 'hi' before he started to pick up her feet.
Client: She's right, that's exactly what happened!
There are so many morals in this story.
First off, stepping into any horse's space without permission or an invitation is as rude as if you walk up to a stranger to hug her. Yet, we do it with horses all the time. We invite our friends to "pet her" while our horse tries to first get a sniff of the person so she can make up her mind if the person feels safe.
Secondly, doing things TO the horse rather than WITH the horse never pays off. When we do TO the horse she becomes tense. And over time, that tension gets stuck in her body, and over time, that stuckness needs to express itself, and ... bam ... you got an unexpected behavior on your hands. Dancing on the cross-ties ... ears flat to the head ... teeth snapping ... a threat to kick ...
What happens next ... the horse gets reprimanded when all she did was protecting her personal space.
When you approach your horse or your client's horse, stop a few feet ahead of entering her space. Take a breath, let her sniff you, let her check out the hoof pick, the bridle, the saddle, and the pad. Allow her to make up her mind of what's to come so she doesn't have to get worried. Because when your horse is not worried she is at ease and when she is at ease her body stays relaxed and when her body is relaxed you will all have a much better time together.
Learning to move through the daily interactions WITH your animal, instead of doing things TO your animal, is a simple shift that takes some practice. Work with me to learn the language and techniques that your horse with love.