I got to work with someone else's horse the other night at group ride. Doing ground work, her owner was trying to get Mia to do a figure 8 around cones, which is great at equalizing drive and draw, yielding shoulders, teaching the human to be still, all sorts of things. Mia was being a bit explosive. And in that explosive she would not necessarily hesitate to run over her person.
Her person had put a shorter rope on her, partly because she was unused to handling the longer rope. but when she asked me if I wanted to work with her, I immediately, intuitively, got the longer rope. This horse was going to need that drift.
Thinking more about it since it has happened, I realize Mia was only doing what she thought she needed to do to stay alive. She's afraid. But she isn't stuck. When her person says, "BUT I SAID GET OVER THERE!", well, Mia is like, "Fine then," and goes WAY over there. Or, afraid of the drive, she knows to drive her human and often times that gets the human to quit driving her.
As Carol always says, the answer is to slow down.
And also, not to worry about the specifics. It doesn't matter if you miss that cone. Did you drive and draw? Were you calm and not afraid? Responsive and respectful? Confident?
Anyway, in the end, she could do the figure 8 for me, walking calmly. But it took . . . time. It took, softness. It took staying at ask, not tell, until her brain could unfreeze and figure it out. It took breathing and being pleased.
And it took that long rope, and that open hand, and when she was frightened and needing to explode to be allowed the room to get away and to be laughed at and told, no hon, you are fine, I'm not trying to kill you, I like you. Draw back in. Get told all that again. Be sent again, calmly. Until she believed being sent didn't mean she needed to make it all the way to the moon.