The long, hot, sultry, dog days of summer are here, complete with a growing drought and weeds galore. We are hammered by horse flies with bodies the size of a large man’s thumb and ticks that suck until they drop off their victims and splat open in a pool of blood. It’s a marvelous time, which I can now say in honesty since I recharged the A/C in the truck. Temps in the low 80’s used to feel too hot up in upstate NY, but now, I don’t complain about the heat until it starts nudging up to 100. We’ve adjusted to life in Arkansas, Odin and I.
This horse and I have become close in ways that has never been described in all the horse books I’ve read, and those ways are far from what the TV trainers like Pat Parelli and Clinton Anderson blast away about on RFDTV. Sure, they have a few good points and methods, but neither come close to what I have with my horse. I have no magic, I’m not psychic, I have no special tools or gear, I’m not young and lithe, and I have no specific method that I follow to get to where I’ve gotten with my horse. And, there is no secret.
You see, horses are remarkable animals. So are dogs and cats and whatever other animal you choose. Each comes into your life and learns to adapt to the life that you provide. It’s that simple. Not only do I believe in and trust my animals’ instincts about the people they meet, I also believe that how an animal acts is a reflection of its owner. Just pay attention to the animals when their owner gives a yell and you’ll see what I mean. My animals stop when they hear me yell across the pasture and look to me for direction, but they don’t cower, for instance.
This past weekend’s festivities and neighborhood fireworks for three evenings in a row brought out more of what I mean to my horse and dogs. Odin paced a bit, trotted off with his head up twice, but was far more confident about all the racket and bright flashes than he had been in the past. I sat out there with him and the dogs and kept up a stream of soft talk and an ever-relaxed posture. Odin calms instantly when I touch him and only moved off to pace when he felt he had to. The dogs aren’t particularly squeamish about fireworks, but the noise and flashes lasted a lot longer than they could tolerate and laid at my feet. So, for most of the evenings, I had dogs at my feet and Odin standing over me.
It’s hard to describe, but somehow, some way, my relationships grew with Odin and the dogs. Through all the clamor, they took their cues from me and stayed calm. I imagine their trust and confidence in me grew, and their own confidence grew as well. I didn’t stop the noise and flashes, but they learned that it was safe, even if it wasn’t exactly comfortable for them.
Of all the things I’ve come to learn and know about horses, that is perhaps one of the major points – stay calm and quiet inside. Stay in the moment and feel, listen with your being, and a horse will look to you for clues. So will dogs. While this all happens, much is right there to learn about yourself in the process. For me, it is perhaps more profound in that I don’t think I’ve ever been particularly calm and quiet inside.
That is the second major point – to listen inside, to trust your feelings and your instincts. Those clinicians and their ‘natural’ this and that have found a way into your wallet, but not one of them can teach you about yourself. Only you can do that.
For me, I’ve come to think of Odin as my closest companion who has taught me much about myself and life. He is a joy.