Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Trailer Being

The other day, I tried to put a horse in a trailer. I didn’t want to do it, as I have no real experience with trailer loading. But I had an agenda; I needed the horse at my place for rehabilitation and some basic re-training, so I took my trailer to his place to pick him up and bring him home. The owner and I tried putting him in the trailer. He went in, and then he came out. I tried to convince him to stay in and he insisted on getting out. I didn’t want to fight with him but it was so frustrating to have him go inside only to immediately get right back out again. I just wanted to take him home and do great things with him, but the horse couldn’t understand my future intentions. All he knew is that when he went in the first time, we tried to trap him in a little metal box. I asked the horse to get back in the trailer again, but he wouldn’t. Other people arrived to “help” and they all claimed to know how to “get a horse in a trailer” and since I wasn’t having any luck I thought, why not? The whole focus was on getting him in and by now he wouldn’t go in, let alone stay in. Meanwhile the horse’s anxiety is increasing to the point of making him dangerous. The owner and I felt powerless and wanted to trust the more “experienced” people. After watching with a hopeful heart it unfortunately became clear however that the horse was being traumatized. The owner called a “stop” to it and Ferronato arrived in response to my SOS. She proceeded to show the horse’s owner and myself how to put a horse in a trailer in a manner that he would feel comfortable with the request. He went in. He came out. She said “cool” and let him get out. He went in. He came out. Each time he went in and out was smoother than the last and each time he was allowed to leave the trailer when his anxiety became too much for him. It was beautiful to watch the trust building between Ferronato and the horse as she helped him through this process. Each time he went in, he stayed a few seconds longer until he would feel anxious and back out. He was fine with trailer loading. He was not fine with TRAILER BEING.

The owner now had a choice. He could load the horse, slam the door and transport the horse despite his stress and anxiety. He could force him to endure the 45 minute drive while in a panic attack like state, causing him to continue to be stressed out whenever he has to be in a trailer in the future. Or he could accept his horse’s comfort level and allow him to take his time (in this case even extending the process to another lesson on a different day) becoming comfortable with being in the trailer. He could allow his horse to master trailer being which is defined by the horse being relaxed, comfortable and confident while in the trailer, a skill he will then always have.

Which one would you choose?

The owner chose to wait. Ferronato returned two days later and again let the horse go in and out of the trailer- being a smoother transition and a longer stay inside each time. Until finally the horse decided he was tired of going in and out and decided it was easier to stay inside the trailer. He was then smoothly and calmly transported to my place. Clearly, I had let my agenda override the horse’s need for additional training on trailer being. All too often we have an agenda or a checklist of things that we think need to happen (usually physical things like hoof care, vet procedures, or travel) when in fact we are overlooking the more powerful emotional and mental needs of our horses. Horses are often ruled by their emotions and are very sensitive to the energy of the situation. Think of a time when you went to a doctor and they had you in and out in five minutes, but never really made eye contact with you. They may have given you a medicine to treat a condition, but you leave feeling like they didn’t hear you or even see you. There was no emotional contact around that maybe you’re scared about being at the doctors or scared you might be getting a serious medical condition.

These needs are real for people and for horses. We have to learn to address all the needs of our horses equally: physical, mental, and emotional. In reality, it took less than two hours total of Ferronato working with this horse for him to become comfortable being inside the trailer. We were in such a hurry to get him in that first day that we overlooked the most important part of trailer loading: the horse's perspective. Now it seems silly to me that we would have rushed him into the trailer, but then have the same problems every time we tried to put him in a trailer after that. After watching and learning from Ferronato, I realize what a small investment of time two hours was, because trailer loading will be so much easier for that horse from now on. We may have to go through the same process again, but it will be shorter, safer, and more effective each time. What a gift to give that horse respect and understanding. I learned a lot from this experience. Unfortunately, a lot of what I learned is what NOT to do. But I also learned how to recognize when I might be putting my agenda before my horse’s anxieties and fears and to respect those feelings while still working through them. In the short term, I thought I wanted to get a horse in a trailer. Now I realize that I can teach horses how to be comfortable loading into and being inside a trailer. By helping them work through their fears, they will realize they can count on me to give them the time and support they need to work in out. To me, this is true partnership.

--Nicole Sulick
Nicole is a Three Treasures Farms Equine Massage Intern; her bio and contact information is available on our Intern Page.  You can meet Nicole at the 3TF Herb Walk on Sunday, May 20th. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Herb Walk Sunday, May 20th

One of the things I appreciate about our non-profit is we are able to focus on ways to help people and horses on a long term basis. My father used to say to me when I was young, "It's better to teach someone how to fish than it is to give them one." We hope that with these Herb Walks people are empowered to save themselves thousands of dollars in health care with the knowledge and skills we will provide them and that they take this learning and help others heal themselves and their animal companions as well.

When I started my herbal education about ten years ago one of the things that I found challenging, was that although there was a lot of great information out there, there wasn't as much hands on learning as I wanted in the courses I took. I like to really practice something over and over, so having someone show me once how to make a tincture or give me written instructions on how to make a poultice, wasn't very helpful. One of the things I am most excited about with these Herb Walks is that we have a space in which people will be able to practice making vinegar, tinctures, poultices and trying out recipes so that they can incorporate what they have learned about herbs easily into their daily lives. It is so easy and simple to start living a healthier life, that for most of us we don't believe it's possible until someone hand walks us through the experience. I am amazed at how the small shifts and subtle ways I have included herbs into my daily life have dramatically improved my health over the last year. I began studying herbs to improve the health of my animals and it's only recently that I started opening up my own awareness to the advantages herbs provide me for my own health. The cost for one of our Herb Walks is $75 per person. Tuition fees help cover the cost of the supplies we need to allow participants to make and take home sample tinctures, vinegar and our wonderful colored hand-outs so they can repeat the experience over and over again. All proceeds go to help care for the horses of Three Treasures Farms. Please join us on this marvelous learning adventure. 

A big Thank You to Nicole Sulick for lending her passion and years of expertise with herbs to teaching this class for us!