Starting Django: The Approach

I thought I would talk a bit about how my approach to Django unfolded as he showed me what would work best for him. For those of you who don't know, I have been keeping a Vlog of his training from Liberty-Line-Mounted in my Classroom.  Django is a 3 year old Friesian that was sent to me for starting under saddle. I did not know anything about him except what his owner described and what I observed from the time he arrived. I of course, started with Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals which allowed him to shape his training program. 

I observed in the first few exercises that he was friendly, playful, dominant, smart, and very food oriented. He also loved to be groomed. 

After spending some time Sharing Territory and Saying hello, I opted to work with food exercises with him in his paddock for almost a month. He loves food but was not respectful around it. It became a very powerful approach to his focus and progression to all other areas. 

The first food exercise I used is inspired by Carolyn Resnick's Intimacy exercise. Mind you I did not attempt to do any of this until I knew I could reliably move Django slowly and quickly out of my space without food. This is a very important safety precaution. 

I sat on a chair with a pan of food at my feet first asking Django if he could wait to put his nose in to eat. I could see he understood after a time when he stopped trying to go past my hand which was blocking his nose from the bucket. When he showed that pause and focus, I invited him to eat out of the pan. I allowed him to eat and then asked him to wait several times so he got the idea about being close to me with food around. This was a particularly important lesson for him because he was rude and pushy around feeding time. I knew though, that he did this because no one had explained to him that this might be seen as rude. 

The next food exercise I did was Claiming Territory around the food. I showed Django that sometimes he would have to leave where the food was and could not come back to the pan of food until he halted from my body language. Then when he looked at me and halted instead of trying and push past or go around me to get the food, I would get him a handful and feed it to him. This help him learn to focus on me and that the food would come through me sharing it with him. He would not be allowed to help himself until then. This made him want to focus on my requests more. This is very different then using treat rewards at certain times. It is the way horses handle each other around food and leadership. 

Once these exercises were firmly established, I was able to start asking him to yield his body around the food (ie. circle and move sideways prep for natural and liberty lunging). I was also able to ask him to leave the food and eventually walk away with me all over the paddock. The food no longer became a source of focus at all except to occasionally walk back for a reward for good work. 

This work carried into being lead and working around grass and the ability to have the treats in the arena where we have graduated to for our Liberty to Line phase. I'll talk more about how all this helped him with him understand how to be "Lead" or have manners on the lead and stop dragging and barging into people without ever putting him on the lead in the next post. If you'd like to follow his progress, you can subscribe to my classroom here http://www.fdhorsemanship.com/#!classroom



Mirroring hot dance moves!
Mirroring in the physical sense is when we physically move a certain way and it influences the horse similarly.

Another more powerful way of thinking about mirroring, is looking at your animal as a mirror.
I have asked this question many times to students and I have asked myself the same question. "If my Horse (or other animals) is a mirror of me, what is he reflecting? I look at all my animals around me now and the animals that have been in my past. It's interesting that each animal reflects where I am or was at the time. Our life is actually a mirror of our inner world too, so it is an even more powerful exercise to look at that. But for now, in this moment, I look at my animals. Mercury, reflects me to a "T" on many levels from his humorous, mischievous side to his sensitive and high energy side. He also reflects to me when I am not focused enough and in the moment and when it is a a good time to play and relax and a good time to practice more technical things. I know he is my horse soul mate because I recognize our resonance when I am with him and think of him.

If you are not sure what resonance is, it is a part of why we are attracted to someone or some animal. We strongly resonate with them. It is like a person who you instantly click with. It is also because we see something in them that reminds us of ourselves. Sometimes even shared or similar experiences.

A great exercise to do, is to write down all the the traits in your horse(s) (I know some of us have a herd! or other animals). If you have many, they, probably each represent a different aspect. Write down things that you "judge" as good or bad and then look at them with no judgement. If you notice some similarities in yourself, write them down. Notice the good things he/they may be mirroring to you. If there is something your horse does that you find unpleasant, ask yourself if you may be mirroring that actual feeling or behavior somewhere in your life or during your time with your horse. If you do find something, try this experiment of shifting to a positive place in yourself and notice what changes occur in your animals. Share your discovery in the comments section.