Sort of on a whim, I took Angel to her first Jerry Tindell clinic today. Hopefully this will be the first of many natural horsemanship clinics with Jerry. Angel had an awesome day and I (the human) was very humbled.
The most significant falsehood that may turn out to be not true is that I may have completely misjudged and misunderstood Angel's basic personality. The horse that participated in the groundwork clinic today was calm, quiet, content, cooperative and trusting. She was not at all the energetic, worried, fretting horse that I expected her to be. After today I am realizing that I may have been observing the negative effects of past trauma, abuse and neglect - and believing that those negative effects are Angel's true personality. But today, I saw a completely different horse. I saw a quiet, calm, trusting horse who tries very hard to please the humans. Angel was calmer in one day than Nick was in the entire first year (possibly two!) of clinics we attended. I have a strong feeling that the quiet, calm, trusting Angel may be the "real" Angel deep inside, underneath the layer of trauma and neglect.
Today was a real breakthrough for me, and probably for Angel as well. Angel had the opportunity to shine - to show what she is truly capable of in behaviors and in relationship. And I had the opportunity to take off the glasses that no longer fit and see Angel as the horse she is capable of becoming, not as the damaged, pathetic, worthless horse she used to be. The horse I saw today was cute, eager to please and on her way to becoming a horse of value, with something good to offer the world.
At the end of the day today, I looked at Angel and I thought, "Someday, someone is really going to want you. You will no longer be an abandoned, rejected throw-away horse. You are going to have value in someone else's eyes. But they won't be able to have you, because you will be mine!" This is another idea I need to let go of. Today Angel was not a "rescue/shelter" horse. She was not a pathetic, rejected, ugly, dangerous, worthless animal found wandering alone on a country road and sent to the county shelter because no one wanted her. She was a cute, quiet, well-behaved, cooperative horse. She trailered well and travelled well and behaved beautifully. That's just a nice horse!
Another idea I realized today that I will probably choose to let go of, is the idea that I will never ride Angel. Until today, the idea of getting on her back had the same appeal for me as taking up bull riding (and about the same chance of success!). I looked at her in the clinic today, trying so hard to please, trusting me to take care of her, and I thought, "I could ride this horse! I would trust this horse to do the right thing with me on her back!" This was also a very new idea, because until today, I could never imagine trusting her enough to want to get on her back. But after the clinic today, I am looking forward to riding her! I can even visualize myself riding her on trails and having a grand time, like Nick and I used to have. Except I think she has the potential to be a calmer trail horse than Nick ever was!
Angel and I came home from the clinic and I think we were both tired. After everything was put away, we hung out together in her stall for about an hour, just being quiet together and letting the success of the day soak in. This feels like the beginning of a new partnership.