Friday, December 7, 2012

I'm Scared with you! (lightbulb moment)

As I may have mentioned a time or three (hundred) Pippi and I are tight, like................two flakes in a bail. I just came up with that one, and I like it. Like two flakes in a bail. That is how tight we are.
And I may also have mentioned that Pippi is a spookin' fool (literally a descendant) and so tends to over react to......the world. She is getting better, maturing and de-sensitizing has done some good. But if she feels that something is not safe, well then it is not safe. In the past I have shown her that the item, flapping feed bag for instance, is safe by walking right to it and touching it.

"its fine, Pip, juuus' fine, see?"

And she sees. But it does little to appease her, and so "the process" begins. She pulls away, we retreat/approach, I reassure, and we spend a lot of time depending on her level of fear.

So the other day, with a feed bag laying on the ground I did the same thing. Showed her that she was wrong, but this time I paid more attention to her. I really tuned in, and I could almost feel the "click" of her hanging up on me. The connection was broken, and she pulled back before I even approached her with scary object. I stopped and really looked at her, and tried to get the connection back.

We are tight, like two flakes in a bail, we feel together and stay together, but I was not doing that. When she was scared, it wasn't her that disconnected           IT          WAS       ME!! I was the one that left her, left her feeling all kinds of things by herself, and by just dismissing it I was actually making it worse.

So I changed tactics. I moved the bag up on the wall ledge, we walked around a bit, and then we approach it again. I was with her this time. The moment I felt her stiffen I also "noticed" the bag, and it also made me stop. I looked at her and acted like a curious but fearful mare. Snort, stretch neck, approach, retreat. The whole time making sure we were together. Lots of eye contact, I breathed in and out quicker, and just acted like a nutcase. I was scared mare too, but I was just a tad bit braver than her. I finally stretched my face all the way over to the bag and gave a loud sniff. I chose not to touch it, because Pippi does not have hands!!!!  Pippi looked at me with admiration (humanize animals much?) and followed my lead. She sniffed it too!! Found it was not scary either and we moved on.

This new process took less time, and the results were longer lasting. We could pass the by feedbag much sooner without a repeat performance. And so I learned another valuable lesson. Dismissing someones feelings never leads them to "get over it." Listen, feel and empathizing is the way. I knew that from my work experience, but I had not really applied it to the horse world.

Lessons learned.

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