Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not Transferable

Here I am at the studio, on a very busy day during the height of tourist season, but after reading this morning a very moving entry in a blog called: Chloe, the Pony Who Wouldn't, I feel compelled to direct readers to this entry.

I'd also like to direct readers to an interview that appeared on the Nevzorov Haute Ecole website: Interview with Michael Bevilacqua by Cloé Lacroix and Kris McCormack

In this interview, Michael Bevilacqua sums up very clearly how an egalitarian partnership with a horse based on a friendship relationship is likely to be ill-appreciated by individuals who prefer to be with horses who are trained to accept a human as hierarchially dominant and submissive to our desires.

"The horses showed me a side of themselves that gradually changed my thinking more and more. It came to a point that I had to train the people, not the horses. Horses that I worked with at home would be so good with me. They would also be pretty good with the owner if I were present. If an owner showed up when I was not around, I would hear that they could sometimes not even halter the horse and would completely give up and leave in anger and frustration. What I realized after dropping one training tradition after another, was that my horses, or all the horses I trained, because no force and pain were involved, were not `broken`. It was a trust and a bond that we developed. This trust and bond, comprehension, and willingness were part of our unique relationship. That relationship was not transferable."--Michael Bevilacqua

There are those people who want to have friendly relations with horses, yet still want their horses to yield in all circumstances and respond in push-button manner to the directions of humans. Horses trained in this manner by and large will allow themselves to be used by any human.

And then there are those individuals who are interested in more than "friendly relations"--they want a two-way friendship with this fantastic being, the horse. Horses "trained" within this type of framework will not allow themselves to be passed around and used like a piece of sports equipment.

As Michael states, such a relationship is "not transferable".

You will read that June has found that nurturing a relationship with horses that allows for free expression from both the equine and the human establishes a much richer marriage between the species. However, during a visit from her friend, June learns that the type of relationship she has with her horses is "not transferable", nor is it understood or appreciated by those accustomed to horses that are trained to be subordinate.

The difference is that one approach is a "method" and the other is a "relationship"--a coming together between two beings who desire a friendship. Such friendships may not be understood or appreciated by traditional horse folk, but as June reminds us by quoting Imke Spilker, "Who inspects my work? Who supervises me? My horse."

June's blog entry does a fantastic job of processing the criticism of a knowledgeable horse friend--even understanding its reasoning, but in the end she knows for certain traditional training modalities no longer suit her and her horses, and why. I hope you will take the time to follow the link and read what she has written. It's an honest and profound testament to how difficult this journey can be at times when we realize "A Delicate Balance is Disturbed".


June said...

Thanks, Lynne.

Your choice of title for this entry is interesting, because one thing my friend talked about was her desire that "anybody" could handle her horses - that her training could, in fact, be "transferable", and that if anything were to happen to her, her horses would be ok going to someone else.

June said...

But I want more than "ok"

June said...

Here's another significant thing my friend said - she said she'd heard that Monty Roberts doesn't work with orphan foals because they haven't learned from other horses how to give to pressure. In other words, it sounds like he doesn't want to work with horses who have grown up having an expectation of closeness and friendship rather than "respect" and distance.

Anonymous said...

Hello - I just finished reading this journal from the beginning. I am enchanted by these horses and the journey you have embarked upon. Just a personal note on the issue of tranferable. We bought a "bomb proof" roping horse for my husband. I believe he had a history of trauma. He was very aloof, shut down and after about two years started spooking at things he never reacted to before. I had tried everything and was at a loss as to how to connect with him. Then one day as I was scratching him he spooked at some invisible thing. I was suddenly flat on my back as he sailed directly over top of me. He barely grazed me, but at that point I had to seek a radical intervention. I started the Resnick Waterhole Rituals and within 3 months he is a horse transformed. I belive this is due primarily to the sharing terrirtory ritual. He has become grounded, calm, and has fallen in love with me. More importantly I have fallen in love with him - he is no longer "my husband's horse" but mine as well.The interesting thing is this has in fact transferred to my huband and others as well. He is completely able to connect with others on this level as well. I believe that when a deep heart connection is made the trust and confidence this creates can extend and generalize to other people and situations for the horse. This is great news - much as our egos might like to think that we are the only one's who can handle or relate to a particular horse, when an authentic magentic connection exists it frees a horse to trust in the world and believe that most people are a pretty good deal.

Lynne Gerard said...

An Anonymous reader wrote:

" I believe that when a deep heart connection is made the trust and confidence this creates can extend and generalize to other people and situations for the horse."

I appreciate every new reader to the Journal of Ravenseyrie, especially when personal experiences are shared that reflect a deepening understanding of horse/human relationships.

What Anonymous wrote about "a deep heart connection" and Carolyn Resnick's work is something the JofR has highlighted on numerous occasions. My experience is that horses recognize immediately the underlying philosophy that drives human intentions, and those humans who approach the horse with such an "authentic magnetic connection" will, indeed find within the horse a beautiful countenance of openness and trust.

When we speak of this openness and trust as being "not transferable" it is relation to humans who have an underlying philosophy of approaching horses as if they are livestock which exist to service men and women, with the horses having no say in the relationship. Empowered horses, horses who have been liberated from subservient training modalities will not respond with the same degree of willingness to human handlers who seek to coerce them into obedience, i.e. the relationship in such instances is "not transferable".

June and Anonymous, thanks for reading and commenting.

Máire said...

Lynne, I relate to your comment here. I enjoyed reading the article you referenced (as well as June's fascinating post) and thought of Ben in this regard. Like the horse Anonymous spoke of, he was supposed to be bombproof and was quite sour. He is so open now, as I have enjoyed documenting, and this, to my joy, has transfered to my daughter. She actually was able to put a head collar on him the other day, when I was not around. This time last year he kicked her.

But, as you say, horses recognise intent, and I do believe that should Ben find himself in a situation where he was regarded as mere livestock to be used, he would once again close himself off and become sour.

Kyle Glentzer said...

The quote from Imke Spilker meant something to me, thanks for sharing. I discovered this blog because I have a few horses from Dave Reynolds and Sharron Sheikofsky and they have become wonderful teachers for me, both the horses and Dave and Sharron. It seems like the less domesticated a horse is, the quicker they will communicate what they think of a persons approach to them. Dave's approach is to use the horse's curiosity to help it understand what he wants, to always encourage that curiosity and do nothing to destroy it. That opened my eyes to things I have been doing that are mostly coercive, more along the lines of breaking. I agree with the idea that a horse knows what is in a person's heart, and thankfully they are willing to let go of past wrongs when offered a different approach. On the idea of respect, it seems horses are often asked to offer it to us while not receiving much in return, we can enter their space and handle their bodies, often without their permission, while they must keep their distance. It seems the foal that receives a lot of human contact is just returning the level of respect he has been accustomed to from its handlers. Thanks for sharing your horses and ideas, it is good to hear from people who are looking to understand the horse's point of view.

Cynthia said...

Just a couple of after thoughts on these most evocative posts. First want to clarify that my horse is a "former" roping horse (not current). I live in Santa Fe, NM which has a strong cowboy culture. As such, horses are used in a very utilitarian fashion- they may indeed be well broke and quite docile and still be disconnected and mistrustful of humans. I can attest to the incredible capacity for a horse to forvige - over and over! However forgetting may be another matter. In any case I appreciate the forum for this discussion - many thanks...

Cynthia (aka anonymous)

Lynne Gerard said...

Kyle wrote:
" It seems like the less domesticated a horse is, the quicker they will communicate what they think of a persons approach to them."

This is something that I'm guessing most people with Mustang horses can relate to. My experience has been that mules are often the same way, and my longtime friend, Mistral (a high-strung easily offended Arabian) likewise.

Every horse has an opinion about how we humans relate to them, but because their opinions are most often either disregarded or distinctly punished, most shut that part of themselves off from us in an effort to protect themselves from our punitive retaliation. Others resist and fight, habitually even if each time they still give in to our demands. Still others never give in, their sense of spirit and identity is far too strong to accept such affronts and rather than shutting down, or going along sourly, they become the "outlaws"...and their futures are typically bleak, unless someone like a Dave Reynolds or a Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling or an Imke Spilker takes them in.

I wonder, Cynthia, if your "bombproof" horse came unglued (or alive) because you and your husband (even before Carolyn Resnick's good influence) had a manner-of-being that acknowledged the "person" of your horse and granted him a "voice" that in his former life as a utilitarian trained roping horse he had been denied? I'm so glad that learning Carolyn Resnick's "Waterhole Rituals" helped establish a balance within which your horse could show what a great being he is!

Kyle, I am very glad you left a comment! For me, Sharron is like a queen I feel honored to know...she gave so much of herself to me when I first came to know about Sorraia me she is rather larger than life.

Maire, I continue to be inspired by the things you are experiencing with Ben.

Thanks to all for bringing such good things to the comment box!

June said...

Chloe has "transfered" her new optimism about interactions with humans onto other people - she goes up to them with a cheerful, curious expression. But certainly she would know in an instant if she were being treated like livestock or like a servant.

June said...

We practiced on some "dead broke" dude horses at a trimming class in Colorado. Those horses would be described as bombproof. They also had zero expectation that anything good or interesting could come from a human. I was picking grass for one of them who was tied up at a rail. And when I stopped, he gestured very slightly toward the grass with his nose, looking very sceptical. Of course I picked some more for him. It was sad.

Cynthia said...

Lynne Said:
I wonder, Cynthia, if your "bombproof" horse came unglued (or alive) because you and your husband (even before Carolyn Resnick's good influence) had a manner-of-being that acknowledged the "person" of your horse and granted him a "voice" that in his former life as a utilitarian trained roping horse he had been denied?
An interesting parallel to this: In my work with traumatized infants and toddlers what we know is that onece they are place in a foster care situation there is a "honeymoon" period where they will be extemely compliant and try to please, however once they begin to feel safe they will act out and we see challenging behaviors that escalate. This is a predictable pattern and a very positive development, as that is when the true work can begin. I rejoiced when my horse started getting a bit "pushy" as this was brand new behavior and I believe the beginning of tust and the opportunbity as Carolyn Resnick says to begin to help shape his behavior.

Monica Bretschneider said...

I was there when the person tried to ride the horse Michael Bevilacqua (my husband) gave as example of a "not transferable" approach. The person was all for very natural approach but, like anything, did not realize that it takes lost of time and practice to develop the right attitude toward horses. The horse was right that day by not "going along" with the riding exercise because the person could not tack the horse properly (the under blanket was folded) the saddle itself was not placed at the right area and the person became very upset (releasing negative vibes) In my experience, horses will walk away from any being that is releasing lost of negativeness even if they have this great relationship. And if people are wondering why I did not help the person that day, well I wanted the horse to have a chance to state his opinion. I did point out to the person to try practice ground work exercise instead of riding which it did but as the person was paying to have a horse educated for "riding" it felt this training was a waste of its time and money which made it more angry and frustrated. Unfortunately for this horse, when the training ended and it went to the person's home , it ended up being submitted to psychological violence (isolated from other horses, being told it is a useless horse). This is important because these type of violent acts can be overlook as there is no physical proof.

Lynne Gerard said...

The description you give of that particular situation (and the subsequent treatment the horse received) has me thinking how loudly we humans would disapprove if such treatment were directed toward a child or an employee.

I consider it part of my journey to help people see that horses (and all animals, plants, insects, etc.) are to be respected and treated with patience and understanding born of loving-kindness. So, too, must I carry such a feeling for those humans who may not regard horses the way that I do, even as I am repulsed by their treatment of horses...I must remember most of the time they are like this because they are still imprisoned by old-mode thinking based on "using" horses for human needs and desires.

Monica, it is my hope that the type of relationships you and Michael cultivate with horses help humans to "see" horses differently, catalyzing a shift in perception and manner of being.

Thank you for leaving your comment.

Lynne Gerard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
June said...

Lynne, you said, "The description you give of that particular situation (and the subsequent treatment the horse received) has me thinking how loudly we humans would disapprove if such treatment were directed toward a child or an employee."

But unfortunately we do employ that kind of violence toward our fellow-humans all the time. There are many situations where we lay hands on people and deprive them of their freedom for no good reason. We also act similarly when we require children to be in school. In fact, the whole system of government represents an ossification of relationships which should be fluid and flexible. It is good practice to work on learning non-violence with horses so that hopefully we can extend the same to human beings.

June said...

Cynthia - do you have any advice about shaping the behavior of a pushy horse???

Cynthia said...

When a horse begins to feel safe enough to become "pushy" (which is the nature of the horse) I believe he is asking for limits- which equals a feeling of safety and containment, also a basic need for horses. Carolyn Resnick and Cynthia Royal use various feeding interactions to shape this behavior. This can only work when true connection and unconditional acceptance have been firmly established first- often an element missing in traditional training methods that emphasize leadership w/out relationship as a foundation. I have noticed that my horses are always asking for choices balanced with limits- this has been difficult for us to navigate and I am still finding my way through this. I am going very slowly and trying to focus on the process rather than results.

June said...

Thanks, Cynthia. Nice to know you're working through this too. I think we're still on the "establishing unconditional acceptance" stage - a very important stage for George, who has been heavily criticized in the past, and who has truly appreciated being accepted. Even though he is also very bossy and demanding. Sometimes I feel like I have a human two-year old on my hands! Whereas I feel the horse who really is just a two-year old is much more mature emotionally - but then people have always been kind to her.

JEN-SKA said...

So many good, thought provoking comments here, that I will probably forget that I came for a certain reason!

Just a week ago my husband was very upset after watching someone lunge a horse. He was telling me how he wanted to go there, set the horse free, put those bits to this lady and start lunging her with her own methods, without saying anything. Then we started to think about all the different kinds of charges he'd be prosecuted with.

June told about Chloe's open mind with new people, well (surprisingly, as I tend to believe Olga and Chloe are soul sisters :D) Olga does that too. She is still a bit sceptical with new people, she is interested but it takes some moments for her to decide if a person is "worth knowing". If she thinks they are, she will take a closer look, that reminds me of one of the many beautiful things in the movie Avatar: "Oe-l nga-ti kame" which is translated: "A greeting. Means to see into someone, refers to their soul, *understanding*".

Well, actually I came here to invite you, Lynne, to read and comment as I am certain you have a lot of experience on this matter:

Stina said...

Thaks for this blog, it is good reading and a good discussion. Like one mention I have acheived a good heart connection after starting using the Carolyn Resnick Method

Kind regards Stina

Lynne Gerard said...

Stina wrote:
"Like one mention I have acheived a good heart connection after starting using the Carolyn Resnick Method

Thank you Stina for leaving us a comment here! I have been sent links on occasion to a few of your YouTube are indeed showing us what a heart connection is all about. Carolyn Resnick's tireless efforts (often at no charge!) to help people open up to a different way of being with horses serves as an inspiration to me and to many others. Your interpretation of her work is especially moving. Carolyn is fortunate to have you as an ambassador.