This blog is dedicated to my friend, my mentor, and the best teacher I have ever had. Without him, I would not have embarked on this amazing journey. Split, this blog is for you!
Ponderosa Misty Icon, aka "Split," is a handsome gray Welsh pony who came to me via a phone call "out of the blue" (actually Peterborough, Ontario). Our first few months together were rocky to say the least, which made me question my ability as a horse owner, as a horsewoman, and as a rider. Forty years of horse ownership had not prepared me for this little gray pony!
But we muddled through and because of Split, I have begun a journey that is both spiritual and enlightening. I hope something here resonates with you and that you'll check back now and then.
We leave you with one of our favorite quotes: "The best whisper is a click!"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Advice From A Poet

Growing up in Vermont in the '50's and '60's, I had three things drummed into my head:

*It's winter - deal with it.
*There is only one breed of horse and it's called a MORGAN!
*Robert Frost is the finest poet on Earth and no one else is worth reading.

Well, I still love winter! Relative "old age" hasn't changed that and I have no desire to fly south for the duration. In fact, I was really sad to finally have to hang up my snow shoes this year. I love those crisp, cold days when you can hear the snow squeaking under your feet and the sky is so blue it's like looking at a giant robin's egg.
As a horse fanatic from birth and a voracious reader since I discovered the alphabet, I soon learned that there ARE other breeds of horses.........you just didn't mention them on hallowed Green Mountain soil. LOL!
I've read lots of other poets (American Lit was my other major in college so I was "forced" to read other poetry) and still believe that Robert Frost is one of the best. I read his poems over and over again. Every time I pass one of the beautiful stands of birches on my daily walk, I always smile and think, "One could do worse than be a swinger of birches." Ayup.
Lately, my memories of horses past and discussions on various horse group lists has made my thoughts turn to another Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken." I realize, upon reflection, that I've often opted for the less traveled path when it comes to my animals and those were the times when I was most successful.
When we're dealing with a "difficult" animal - one who has been abused in any manner - it's very often frustrating, anger-inducing, and frightening! In our quest to help the animal, we sometimes turn to systems or methods that "guarantee results or your money back!" The "beauty" of these systems is that it's all laid out for ya - read the book and proceed step-by-step. Book isn't clear enough? Well, here are some DVD's - that oughta do it! But MAKE SURE you follow the program and don't deviate......or it won't work. Yeah.
Or perhaps we send the horse off to a well-known trainer who guarantees to "cure" the horse within a month or two or three.............
The thing is that the horse isn't reading the books or watching the DVD's. He doesn't know the famous trainer and what his/her system is. We expect the horse, though, to simply do as he/she is told - no questions asked. Hmmmm.......I wouldn't like to be taught like that. Why should I expect that my animals would like it?
Several of the discussions on the horse groups lately have been about using an eclectic approach to horse "training" (I don't like that label but it's easy for us to relate to so I'll use it here), and about how we should listen to the horse and let HIM decide what method(s) to use on any given day. How interesting..............The tough part about that, though, is that we humans hate to give up what we perceive as control. WE like to decide on the training method and how and when it's administered. But what if................What if one particular method of "natural horsemanship" causes anxiety for a horse because of past experience? What if the sound of the clicker scares the daylights out of a horse or dog?
What if an animal isn't motivated by food? What if a horse has pain in their body that isn't apparent to the human eye? What if....what if......what if...........
I've come to where "two roads diverged in a yellow wood" many times in my life, and there have been those times when, left to my own devices with a horse, I've chosen the path less traveled. I've listened to my gut feeling; I've listened to the horse; I've chosen to ignore the voices of "experience" and "reason." THOSE were the times that I was successful with "difficult" horses! THOSE were the times that I let the partnership flow naturally and freely. THOSE were the times that I felt closest to the horse and felt that we TRULY communicated with each other! There were no magic tricks, no books, no dvd's. I just "did." And sometimes I "didn't!" I let the day, the circumstances and the animal dictate what we would do.....or not do.
But then, embarrassingly enough, there were many, many times when I fell victim to everyone else's advice or methods, believing with all my heart that they knew better than I. I did what they told me to do even if it went against every fiber of my being as a "trainer" and animal communicator. Which is not to say that EVERY trainer I've met has made me feel that way.....the good trainers (and you know who you are) have guided me and allowed me to find my own path and make discoveries for myself. Sally Swift and Paul Johnson were the first......many of you reading this are among the most recent and of course, I wouldn't have any of these deep thoughts or even be going down this path if it weren't for the horses and dogs themselves (who keep popping in and urging me to write this all down!).
Which brings me back to my favorite poet, Robert Frost, who wrote:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

"The road less traveled by.........." It does make a difference!

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