Monday, May 28, 2012

Liberty and beware the woo.

That title is two completely different subjects by the way that are completely unrelated.

First the woo (because that came up a day earlier than Liberty).  I consider myself a nice mix of embracing science and embracing fanciful ideas of "what could be".  That said, I draw the line at "just so out there and contrary to science that it could not actually happen".  Sure, that last sentence is used by many atheists (the ones who feel the need to "prove" they are right and make you admit they are right - as opposed to the ones who just don't believe in any kind of God) but I'm not actually talking about God or religion in this case.  I don't actually believe that the concept of there being a higher intelligence or "higher power" is contrary to science because there is no science that can actually address that.  Because if there is a spiritual being that is bigger than us and watches what we do - or even an entire race of those beings - we really have no way of knowing it so there is no science for it.  Just like saying, "There are no aliens anywhere at all - we are the only intelligent beings in all universes for infinity."  Yeah right.  Arrogant, much?  It's one thing to choose not believe in God or the religions that come with that concept.  It's another to say that you can prove there are no intelligent beings other than us in all universes.  Anyway,  I like believing in my own strange concept of God and it makes me happy.  And if it is just my imagination it is still working for me.

But there are certain things that just seem like they can't possibly coincide with rational thought.  The big one for me at the moment is "animal communicators".  You know, the people who tell you what your dog's favorite color is, and their happiest childhood (puppyhood?) memory and what your pet wishes they could tell you about what they need from you.  I checked out a book from the library yesterday about animal communication and I was hoping it would talk more about intuition as to what the animal wants and needs from a perspective that would come straight from the animal - not end up being translated into a human experience with human thoughts, memories and needs.  But the latter is just what it was.  Horse's talking about their emotional needs not being met in a completely human way as opposed to a horse's way.  Talking about their past and how it is negatively affecting their current relationships.  That sort of thing.

What I was hoping for was something more a long the lines of what I want to foster with myself and animals - which is an intuitive sense of what they need on *their* level.  Not reading their minds or psychically visualizing their past.  Since I grew up with dogs and was very attached to them as a kid, I can often tell what they are feeling and what they need - on a dog level.  But it is different than what a human feels or needs.  It's more in the moment, base-instinct, not a bunch of analyzing and rationalization going on.  Like when I met Girlfriend I immediately knew "She knows she's being shown to me for a possible new home and that's making her anxious.  Or at least she senses change and she's not happy about it."  (as opposed to "She's feeling betrayed and wondering why you don't love her ... she blames herself and wonders where she went wrong ... blah blah blah ...).

I think usually I'm a little too flighty and have too much on my mind to be as in tune with animals as much as I used to be and want to be.  So, I'm trying to get back to that.  Apparently, those are not popular books though - the whole "just being in tune with animals" through body language and one's own intuition.  It's more popular to write books on how you can read their minds and be an animal psychic and even tell the owner what the animal is thinking over the phone.  Sigh.

And segueing out of that rant into a cool new thing at the barn ... Trainer K. and MT went to a clinic with Sylvia Zerbini last weekend on Liberty (which I'm not actually sure what that term means but I keep hearing it) and Trainer K. tried to show me some of the stuff they learned during Toad's free lunging today.  It was the first time I've ever seen Trainer K. say "Ok, I don't really know what I'm doing," which was surprising.  And she seemed to be a natural for it.  Because after watching her for awhile and trying to get my brain to intellectually wrap around the concepts I said I wanted to try.  Which went horribly!  Poor Toad was completely befuddled by what I was asking her and at one point got frustrated enough to challenge me and stand directly in front of me and pin her ears.  Then when I tried to get her to move she reared and turned back to face me again and challenged me again.

What we were attempting to do is use our body language to convey to her what we wanted her to do.  My goal was to ask her to move out, then show her were to walk, then ask her to run, then ask her to come back to me and walk next to me.  The body language is conveyed through walking and stopping (walking is "putting pressure" or asking the horse to move) and stopping is the "release" or letting them know they are doing what you want).  Also, where your shoulders are facing in regard to the horse - facing directly toward the horse is pressure, facing away is release.  Also, pointing a certain way as to show movement forward (whereas pointing with the other hand cuts the horse off).  And making noises to keep the horses attention on you (like ssssshing or clucking) and making sure to keep eye contact so you know the horse is paying attention - or at least watching their ears to make sure they're listening.

Trainer K. came out and "saved" me the first time when Toad was getting confused and upset.  Then she left after five minutes and told me to try again.  Once again, Toad wanted to just stand next to me and got upset when I tried to push her away.  So I took a deep breath and instead of imagining myself and confused and novice I "puffed myself up" and just "felt confident" and "made myself big" and she instantly responded by listening to my cues.  She was a little confused and it was a little hard to get her to keep her attention on me.  But she did much better.  I had her walk out, then canter around the arena, then follow me until she was walking right next to me and then stop when I stopped and stand straight and still, waiting for my command.  As soon as we both stopped and she posed quietly, my friends who were watching in the stands clapped and I praised Toadie and gave her a big hug and I could feel how thrilled and proud of herself she was!  It was a wonderful feeling to see her look so proud and happy with herself!  It definitely gave me the bug to work on one day at least doing schooling shows with her so she can be in the spotlight and get praise and applause like she briefly had at the race track.

So, we have a lot to work on with that whole Liberty thing.  But I think it will really help our relationship together.


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