He moved slowly, eyes fleatingly moving back and forth. Taking it all in. It was too different, too strange. So many new obstacles, noises and the wind carried smells he didn't understand. She was with him, just her, no one else. Where is my herd? Who's in charge? The wide eyes and rooted stance relayed a tension that permiated his entire body. This wasn't home.
I got a call from a client who adopted 2 horses this fall. They left their horse family and acres and acres of pasture to arrive at a small farm hours away. The horses had trouble adjusting. They didn't have their "support team". It was confusing and stressful. Great care was being given to them, but they were missing a feeling of safety and support of their family.There was no sence of peace, no comfort, no order. They needed help.
I could see the two horses as I drove up the winding driveway. They stood tucked into a corner of the pasture that faced the neighbours property. The neighbour with horses. They looked quite relaxed, taking comfort in the sight of the equines over the fence.
As the owner and I walked out to the pasture, the mare, a freindly gal, walked up to greet us. She liked people company, especially this lady, who she had met at her original home. They took to each other like long lost friends. When she met the mare, it was obvious she was accustomed to being in control in their group. The gelding honored her elevated position. Once he moved and were reduced to a herd of two, that all started to change.
Then a series of events that led to discomfort in their pasture, changed that dynamic. The gelding became very nervous, and he started to "rule the roost" and at times was aggressive with the mare. This, and the owner's worries about the two horses elevated anxiety , created an air of tension for both horses and the owner.
I was there to observe the situation and to see if I could bring peace to them with my Trust Technique knowledge.
The horses settled in a sheltered area and I began to relax, be still and get present with them. The mare easily slid into that peaceful atmosphere and relaxed.
The gelding moved his feet restlessly for a couple of moments. Then he too began to feel the lowering of thinking levels around him, and he began started to relax. I regarded him as his head dropped in little increments, releasing tension in his neck and head. His eyes drooped, he felt the sleepiness oozing into him, yet he struggled to stay awake...aware...alert, until he could not resist. He dozed. Body and mind at rest finally.
While I was regarding him, in between moments of being present, I felt a strong impression of his thoughts and feelings. His trauma of the move and an unnerving event in the pasture of a deer ripping through the fence has put him in "survival mode". In that state of mind, he knew he had to assert himself. So he took control of the herd. He had to, in his mind it was a matter of life or death. He didn't have a dam or sire to give him comfort and direct him to safety. It was up to him. I felt that message penetrate directly into my heart and soul. I knew he didn't want to be bossy, and assertive, it was exhausting and stressful. I could see by the way he soaked up the peace that he had not been able to rest completely for a long time. Now, with a confident leader in his presense nearby, he could. My calmness and getting present with him gave him the trust and confidence. He was able to hand over his leadership position temporarily and find some peace. Oh, how he needed that.
I showed the owner how to connect on that level, and with my coaching she was soon successful in helping him relax as well. She shared with me that as a beginner with horses she worried a lot about their care and welfare. She felt she wasn't always emotionally able to comfort and bring assurance to them. She was struggling with her own state of anxiety.
I explained the horses alway knew how she felt. They could feel her shift in feelings as she became more concerned and less confident. That flipped a switch in the gelding. He knew he needed to count on himself, and became a bit dominant with her. It was his way of directing her as well and stating his claim to the herd leadership role.
As we watched them relax, the owner was quite surprised to see how the gelding could slip into peacefulness so quickly in my presense. She had never witnessed him in that state of complete relaxation. I could see it helped her to know he was capable of releasing that tension. I assured her, that with practice, over time, they would both be on their way to a cooperative, peaceful relationship.
Interesting, isn't it? How our emotions are transmitted by our feelings to our animals. How they look to us for comfort and companionship in a way that allows them to feel safe, and be balanced in their heart and mind. The Trust Technique, sharing of peacefulness, empathy and compassion is a powerful tool to bring about a state of calmness, trust and cooperation.
It's very easy to judge an animal's behaviors as "bad" simply because we are confused as to why they act out or react the way they do. Most of the time, no...pretty much all of the time, unwanted behaviors are caused by fear. The gelding was in fear of being hurt or dying, just as our instincts of survival kick in to survive in very stressful situations. We need to bring balance and peace back into our loves. Animals want to leave peacefull as well. Horses have been hanging around with us for thousands of years. They empathize with us, we have struggled as well throughout history to survive. They know we can be good company. We can be there for each other.
So here we go...my book. I have just finished my first chapter, here is a look at it.
My whole life I have been raised by horses...emotionally and spiritually. They have given me confidence. You might say they gave me my first pair of wings.
I hope RAISED BY HORSES will lift you to new heights as well. I am writing to entertain and enlighten. To share knowledge and stories, to maybe give you wings as well. I hope to finish this book this winter and have it published in paperback in spring. I'll keep you posted and would love your feedback as first readers. Author - Barb Vince
Raised By Horses
How to grow a horse woman
They say that a journey takes a thousand steps, starting with your first step. My creating this book is the first step of sharing in writing my lifelong love of horses. I was raised with horses. I was given my first pony when I was 6 years old. His name was Buck. He was a rascal that lived up to his name. He taught me how to fall off carefully at every gait.
Then along came Champ, a tall thoroughbred, a retired racehorse. A gentle soul that gave me several years of trail riding adventures, most of them on my own. We would pick a direction and head out. One of our favorite spots was the Red River Floodway, which was under construction at the time. It was a great place to stretch out and enjoy gallops along the dikes. What fun! Another was a winding, forested trail along the Red River that was between our home and the Floodway. I would often have notebook and pencil along and stop to sit on a fallen log and write poetry while my gelding grazed. Once I decided to let him go home alone so I could just walk back on my own. You can imagine the bit of a stir that created when he arrived home without me!
Yes, I was raised with horses, but more importantly, I was raised BY horses. They were often my mentors and my best friends.
I was the last-born child in a family with 12 children on a small farm south of Winnipeg. Our parents ran a market gardening business. It was a busy household with lots of love, laughter, work, and noise. Being the youngest had its advantages and disadvantages of course. I was low on the totem pole of family position, which meant I was often ignored, or teased by the older ones. My older sisters played a part in my raising as well, while my parents worked in the gardens, or at our vegetable stands in Winnipeg. Being the last one to show up in the family held its rewards. As I grew up and the older ones moved out of the house, it left me finally in a position of importance. I was the last child they had at home, and really had their attention.
That extra attention was necessary, as by age 10 as I had begun a series of operations to correct my deformed left leg that was affected by polio when I was a toddler. The Shriner’s Hospital was my home for several months every year until I was 16 years old. My wonderful parents would visit me every day possible at the hospital. It was quite a change for a young girl. My deformity meant I had a very pronounced limp growing up as my left leg lagged in growth. Shriners was an OK place to be if you had to be in a hospital. There were activities and entertainment, and a lame version of school that was easy to take, especially laying down on a stretcher at times as they wheeled you into the classroom. I missed a lot of school. I spent weeks without being able to go outside. My time at home with my horses and in nature became even more precious.
A horse is a great confidant. A pasture is a world away from your worries, fears, and disappointments. I would spend hours hanging out with them, reading, writing, just enjoying being with them. They were my magic, my solace, my joy. They lifted my mood, listened to me, never judging. Taking me for who I was, simply their friend. I wasn’t a cripple to them, as I was in so many eyes of my peers and strangers.
In school I was never going to make the sports teams. Kids called me gimp, cripple.
That hurt. It was certainly my mother who was my backbone and inspiration. Her favorite saying was, “There is no such thing as can’t!” She taught all of us to strive to succeed in anything we did. If we fell off a horse, we got back on. If we failed grades in school, we tried harder. There was nothing she could not find a way to fix in our lives.
She fixed me with determination, hope and a belief in myself. Then she taught me how to ride. She raised me to love horses, like she did. We always had horses at our farm. Work horses, driving ponies and saddle horses.
At 6 years old, Buck gave me my first pair of wings. On a horse I was just like any other person. No limp or disabilities. I could jump, run fast, turn on a dime and climb hills easily. In my mind, there was nothing I couldn’t do on or with a horse. They became my mentors, friends, and in some sense my saviors.
As happens to many horse loving children, I grew up, move away from home, and no longer had time for my horse. I got married, had 2 children and life kept me busy for a few years. I would still longingly look at horses I passed by in the country on drives. I really missed them. At 35 I decided I had to have a horse again. Cherokee, a small appaloosa came into my life. I think he was a distant relative of Buck. He also knew how to bring me closer to the ground unexpectedly. He made me laugh a lot though. I took riding lessons for the first time in my life from an instructor and sent my pony to a trainer for refinement. Well, more to decrease his bucking and increase his tolerance of me sitting on him. We had several years of fun and adventure.
I boarded him at a large equestrian facility a few miles from home. It was filled with mostly thoroughbreds, and nary a western saddle in sight. In fact, I was the only rider with one. Here we go…an oddball again. Well, firmly feeling confidence and trusting my pony now, we did miles of trail riding and even a fox hunt once. That was hilarious. Imagine, a little 13 hand pony, and his rider on a western saddle leading the pack of riders, many of which never rode outside of an arena. Cherokee could run like the wind and breezed past the Master leading the group. A faux pas on my part, I quickly learned. Well, we managed to stay behind a head or two for the rest of the hunt. No fox was seen, nor hunted, it was simply an exercise of galloping madly through fields, following the hunt dogs, who were trained to follow a faux scent of a fox. I recall yelling “tally ho” a lot.
I soon decided I needed some country property of our own to keep horses. In 1994, my hunt led me to an 80-acre piece of land tucked deeply into the forest next to Sprucewoods Park. Over the years, my husband George and I developed this picturesque landscape into a guest ranch and equine training facility. My herd grew. I soon owned and raised some Tennessee Walking Horses and Missouri Foxtrotters.
You might say this is when my journey into the hearts and minds of horses truly began. I was on a mission to learn as much as possible about these amazing creatures. As I learned, I discovered I had a strong passion for not only educating myself, and teaching horses, but also their humans. I was discovering the incredible possibilities the relationship with horses could hol. I spent the next 27 years fulfilling my dreams with horses. That quest is indeed never ending.
This may be where the story truly begins. This may be where you pull out your pen or highlighter and start making notes or marking up my book. This may be the beginning of your journey. One where you too will be raised by horses.
Barb has over 30 years of experience in teaching people with horses. Now, she brings you to a new level of understanding of your animals, through meditation, intuitive training and employing a deeper sense of empathy with your animals.