Thursday, June 29, 2017

Cisco Kid Was a Friend of Mine

I knew this summer would be fabulous and it is so far!  Volunteering at NMCTR is one of my favorite things to do.  I go every Thursday from 9-12'ish to exercise the horses.  I love it!!!! The director, Ashley, is wonderful and decided to add three days each week dedicated to horse physical and mental health and the horses have just blossomed in a few weeks!!! One horse, Kodi, follows the leader perfectly without a halter now! Amazing to see and he was a wild mustang before who had been abducted from his mom in the wild and then abused be the owners.  Now he is so safe and happy and stimulated!

I worked with Cisco today and am a believer in the natural horsemanship strategies more than ever! We started implementing them about a month ago.  As a result, the horses are growing and learning so much and are appropriately stimulated.  They had become very stoic and tired.  I'm learning and growing leaps and bounds too and feel a new excitement as well!!!

So, I use to be pretty intimidated, afraid even at times, of Cisco because he was getting really grouchy and pissed off.  His body language was unhappy and he would snip and bite and lay his ears down and get really mad at us.  He was not into it at all anymore.  Ashley put him on a long break and he is doing so much better now.  I guess he was just tired.  These healing horses put up with a lot and give a lot too.  They get compassion fatigue just like other social workers.

Today is a new day though!  Cisco is fresh and rested, has a great attitude, and is ready to get back to work.  He's still a bit pushy though.  Ashley taught me a lot about how to handle him.  Learning how to work with them is very humbling and is teaching me a lot about myself and about ways I need to work on how I communicate and present myself.  It's amazing how much I'm learning about subtle forms of communication, being really clear about what I want the horse to do and leading them to do it, boundaries, and leading them so they know they can trust me and that I will lead them to safety at all times.

Wow...that's a lot of letting go and trusting I am asking of him!  It's a huge responsibility!  We made great progress today.  We never use to use whips before, and we never whip them per se or harm them in anyway, but we use it as a tool to help the horses learn to follow us as the heard leaders and to stop and go using very light taps and gestures so they can learn boundaries.  Ultimately, they are much happier once these structures are set up because we are able to work as a team and really connect.

Oh, when the connection happens between me and the horse, today with Cisco, it's the best feeling ever! He loved it too!  He really came to trust me and gave me soft nosey snuggles, licked his lips, and softened his gaze when we took breaks and when I praised him and thanked him.  They love to be talked to and respected.  It just inspires me so much how these horses want to connect and serve.  But they need to be seen and heard just like anyone else or they get pissed off just like anyone else.  Our natural horsemanship strategies help us communicate with, and listen to the voices/communication styles of the horse on their level, and it works amazingly well, not surprisingly.  Cisco was sooooo happy today!

I got a wake up call about how vague I can be with my communication.  I noticed a couple times when Cisco didn't do what I thought I wanted him to do because I wasn't even entirely clear in my own head and then didn't ask him in the right way.  How many times have I done that in my life in different relationships and situations!  I can think of so many times with different folks where we're just floundering around, they don't know what to do, I don't know what to we stop, go, slow down, speed up...just a cluster-fuck of confusion.  I also am learning to be more assertive and to be a leader.  I know I'm capable of being a good leader and it takes practice.  The horses need that from me and so do the riders who go there for therapy.  They need me to be in charge in a firm and loving way.  They need me to practice good, strong boundaries so that they can feel cared for and safe.  Same goes with future clients once I'm finally a licensed therapist.  This point was really clarified for me today.  Very grateful for that!

Clearly my issues with boundaries, communication, and being assertive stem from my formative years and family with abuse, really unhealthy and non-existant boundaries, and terrible communication, but today I get to nip that and practice new tools, skills, and behavior.  Those days are over and I'm the leader now.  I also can relate to the defiance of the horses, if it can be called such, as I was that teen and young adult who was going to do whatever I wanted.  I know I learned such tendencies because I had trust issues, felt alone and like I had to lead myself, yet had no clue what to do.  Wow...I feel so much compassion for me, the horses, and the youth who come to work with the horses.  Negotiating these complexities and challenges take more skill than most of us are taught.  Feels awesome to put one foot in front of the other as I forge into my new paradigm!  Working with the horses is teaching me how to be a better human.

I just love the horses soooooo much and love the person I'm becoming from this opportunity to spend so much time working with them.  I'm not even scared of cleaning their hooves or walking behind them anymore.  Every week I feel more and more comfortable and then they let me in more as a result.  I even rode for the first time last week.  I haven't been on a horse since I was a teen. Very empowering and Maggie tested me like crazy!  :) I get to ride next Thursday too!!! Yay!!! 

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