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More Details, Please


Hello again, my dear listeners.

When I skip a week of podcasting, I am missing a piece of me.


For years, I struggled to bring the significant information animals provide me with into the world. Since I wrote a lot, a blog would be my thing. But it didn't stick. I am not a big fan of social media. I am trying to understand why. I guess I feel taken out of the moment when I try to share the moment. Does that make sense?


It actually does when I really let that sink in.

I am taken out of the moment when I try to share it.


And, I also feel, in particular when I am with an animal, that I am betraying, or is there a better word, I am disregarding the animal which is so present with me. Because I am actually leaving the moment to take a photo. The animal is in limbo. Do you feel what I mean?


Anyway, no need to continue down that rabbit hole, but a good insight, nevertheless.


I tried blogging and some social media, but neither felt like a passion. A purpose. A service.

When I divined the podcast back during COVID, after the first twelve episodes, I knew.

This was it!!! Packaging my passion and purpose in a podcast episode that serves my community of animal lovers. Yesserie!


And so I continued. And when I miss a week, I miss it.

Enough with that.


Today is a fun episode that brings a big point home.

Talk to your animals. If you do, life is easier.

So, to catch up with non-horse people on some terminology in the horse show world, there is a class called versatility. In it, the rider and horse go through, around, and over obstacles. One of those obstacles is a 5-foot upright pole with a rain slicker hung over the top. The idea is that the rider and horse walk up to the pole, and the rider leans over to take the rain jacket, puts it on, and rides off to a place to drop the coat off. The horse is supposed to stand quietly during the procedures.


My friend Kathy and her horse Bennett have been practicing a variety of obstacles successfully. But this particular rainjacket pickup game was not working out. She and Bennett rode up to the pole and parked parallel. Bennett came to a stop but got antsy the minute Kathy leaned over to get the jacket. He jigged in place, and nothing Kathy tried made him come to a quiet halt.


As Kathy shared this problem with me, I felt Bennett's earnestly coming through. For as long as I have known Bennett, he has been the most earnest horse I ever met. He is a square. This guy only does something if there is a reason. And so his jiggyness had to have a logical explanation.


I told Kathy, "You know what, I don't think he knows why you lean off to the side. Have you told him?"

Kathy said, well, I always have the obstacle course in my mind, and sent him pictures of it. And I tell him before the ride what we do, like today we're doing obstacles."


Bennett was more particular. He needed details so he could be part of the exercise.

So I said to Kathy, "You got to give him specifics. Like, "Hey Bennett, to get good scores at this obstacle, you must stand still while I get the jacket."

He wants a clear ask of what you want from him.

And then I had an idea. A fellow author recently asked me to provide a piece of writing on verbal communication with horses. We needed a couple of good story examples. So, I asked Kathy if she was up for an experiment. I told her to verbally explain to Bennett the next day what she expected from him and report back. If it worked out, it would be a good little story.


Kathy was intrigued. And she had a good question. Since Bennett was part of our conversation, wasn't this a moot point? Isn't he in on it?


I could feel Bennett shaking his head 'no' in the background.

I pointed out to Kathy that she had envisioned the whole thing many times but had yet to successfully execute it. So, why not try what a verbal explanation would do.

She agreed, there was nothing to lose. Right?


The next day, I received a text from Kathy.

We experimented today. I explained the reason behind the obstacle. When I picked up the jacket, Bennett stood like a statue. His face said, "What? I never had a problem when you lean off to the side, grabbing that crinkly jacket. What are you smoking?"


Can't. Make. This. Shit. Up. My Friends.

Do you believe me now that you must use your words before you do anything else to fix a problem or resolve an unexpected or undesired behavior?

Tell your furry or feathery friends what you are expecting what you want to accomplish. And if your animal is still hesitant, explain why.

I asked Kathy what she had told Bennett that next day.


She said that Bennett is a horse trained to respond to seat aids. It might be helpful for people to be aware that previous training may impact the horse when learning new skills that contradict older training. I told him this was a new event where I would be expected to do things from his back, like open gates, ring bells, move things from one place to another, and spear a ring with a long pole. He would be judged on his cooperation, and we would be judged together for how smoothly we could do the tasks. I would be moving around on his back and needed him to be still until I asked him to move off. He could largely ignore seat aids while we were doing these tasks. I needed him to be willing to stand and wait. Smooth and easy is the goal.


Some kids need more explanations. And lucky you if you have an animal like that because s/he will show you how fun it is to chat with your animal and see results as Kathy and Bennett did.

And, crazy enough, there is one more fantastic perspective to consider. Imagine the difference in experience for Bennett.

For weeks, the same spiel. They ride up to the pole; Kathy leans, he jiggs. She corrects him with hands and leg aids. Nothing gained, connection lost.

After one explanation of what and why, they are now easing throughout the experience.


Sigh …. Inhale, exhale. Inhale exhale.

Amazing.


As I said earlier, there is always a reason behind the unexpected or undesired behavior.

And most often, it is a communication issue.

And as horse people, we think we must fix everything through the body.


Nope.

Not true.

And I am glad that more books are being written to share this vital aspect of verbally communicating with horses. And I will continue to share the many versions of how to chat with your animals here on my podcast.


Always remember, there is a place between "good boy, good boy, good boy" and a mile-long ramble.

Find the golden middle.

Clear, short sentences that explain the what and the why.

That's it. So simple. Another mindful connection was created.


Tell me what you discover.

Until next time … have fun. Bis bald!


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