Several years ago I had taken on a rescue horse that a friend had fostered for 6 years. I made a commitment to step in and foster him because she was moving and wanted a safe haven for him to go. Well he had come with a little baggage… to put it lightly. I called him Joey, a war pony coming home.
I am reminded of Buck Brannaman and his words… “There is only so much they can take.”
As I had begun to spend time with this little horse, I realized he had spent those six years stewing or soaking in his memory. And with quiet effort I wanted to soften those memories by creating new ones. There was no corral to work with Joey in, just an acre and a half of juniper and sage. Here is where I made a promise, I would not put a rope on him until he would willingly follow me. So we began at the fifty yard line, which was where he had drawn his line to my approach. We worked together by silent gestures, to narrow down the distance inch by inch, the hours ticked by.
I allowed him to tell me, the best he could of what he would allow. I don’t know how to write out the attempts and the reattempts of communicating a silent language of a horse to a verbal species of a human, without thinking of judgment, failure and quitting in the mix. which are words that have a vast negative meaning in the human language, but the meanings of these words go much deeper and stronger and more pure in the horse language.
As a student in school we are taught to pass or fail. We are rewarded for winning and shun ourselves at failure. We are taught to judge and critique others around us without knowing their story and holding them accountable for their actions, by discussing our judgment and thoughts to others. For instance, what do you think of Benjamin Franklin? What comes to your mind? Some might think a fifty dollar bill, while others think of a kite and key. Some might think of his chubby face while others think of his knowledge.
We were taught all these things about Benjamin Franklin but these are remnants, we don’t know the man, because we never met him. We never talked to him. And if we had, there would be different evaluations of who he is by our impression. What am I getting at?
The horse is the same. We have to get to know, evaluate and work with what we perceive. Although just like reading a book, you read the words, but to truly understand you must move off of the page of words and feel the impact.
When I met up with Joey he told me right off… “go to hell!”
As I stood with him without any emotion he began to allow me in closer but it was like a wolf pacing a band of sheep. A wolf will mirror the sheep and wear down their emotion down before the kill.
Joey look at me like I was the wolf, he knew I would come in, but he was not going to wear himself out over it. He knew all to well the routine of push me- pull you. He knew all the tricks, the of apply pressure and release. He had it memorized. Although I thought I was humble with good intentions… Joey read me like a book. I have to be honest here, it was more about my ego, more of a challenge to me on what I could accomplish, how can I make this happen. As I realized he was silently waiting, waiting for me to see him as he was, not at what I expected him to be. His radar was on high alert, and responded with resistance. I had to reevaluate what he was doing and think of what he was saying, I sensed, how hard Joey was trying, how hard it was for him to keep all four feet on the ground when every ounce of him was screaming for him to run, move, disappear, hide. In that moment it wasn’t about what I could accomplish… it was about Joey.
I realized he was as keen as a deer and could read my emotion and intentions, faster than I could think them. He made me stay true to my intentions and honest in my silent language. And you know, I needed that. I thought I was a horseman until, Joey gave me a new definition of what horse man meant. A way deeper meaning.
I softened my approach and entered into his world of view and interpretation. In a world of noise and chaos, I began to listen to his awareness, with a little practice turned into silent language we could both could understand.
Although we lost Joey in the summer of 2019, I will always be grateful for what he taught me on his Joeys Journey