Saturday, May 17, 2008

play therapy with ponies

Yesterday someone sent me a link to a video featuring Alexander Nevzorov. The first half of the video was so horrible I ended up bursting into tears. It was a slide show of still shots showing the improper use of bits and spurs. As I sat crying, my daughter (experienced in what to do after watching movies like Black Beauty, Bambi, and such with me) fast-forwarded to what we assumed must be the "good stuff."

The soundtrack was music from Lord of the Rings, and the video that came next was simply stunning. We became obsessed with watching every Nevzorov video we could find, especially intrigued with the use of the cordeo in place of halter and bridle.

Today, out at the barn, we were playing around and decided to use an old rein as a cordeo to see what Apache Moon might do. He was a pretty good sport once we got him into the arena. She rode him bareback and with the cordeo for a half-hour, walking and trotting and cantering. He kept circling toward a jump in the arena, which was a bit high for today's play, so I lowered it nearly to the ground. The pony was obsessed with that jump. He kept circling right and taking the little jump over and over again, even though he could have easily trotted over it without breaking stride. It was as though he were working through some conflict about jumping. It reminded me quite a bit of traumatized children in play therapy, and how they will sometimes replay the trauma over and over again. It was fascinating to see Apache Moon choose repeatedly to jump with my daughter astride, no saddle or bridle, when he was in total control of where he was going.

After awhile I encouraged her to hop off and do some ground work with him. What he did was so cute she ran in to get the camera. I was sitting in the arena on the mounting block and when she went inside, he stood at the gate watching the back door of the house for her return. There was grass at the edges of the arena he could have nibbled on, but he didn't even look at it. It was pretty amazing. I wish I had video of him waiting for her - his focus never shifted.

So here's one little piece of what they did together today. It's by no means the first time they've done this kind of play together, but it's the first time we've captured it on video. She is using no treats and has a dressage whip in one hand that is mostly getting in the way. I purposely selected this bit because you see near the end that he intrudes into her space in a rather cheeky way and she holds her hand up and lets him bump into her fingertips. His response to that is very dramatic, but then you see him come right back to their connection.


the7msn said...

Your daughter is such a natural! And such respect she commands from the pony. Wow. I still want to hire her to be my coach.

billie said...

Linda, since she was very little she has played at being a horse, running and bucking and kicking out, spending hours snorting and running. She first got on a horse when she was 2, and from the very first ride she sat in the classical balanced seat position.

The great thing about Apache Moon is that he's taught her how to be bold and outspoken, as well as patience and empathy.

She and I are due a "girls only" trip sometime - I'll let you know if we end up in New Mexico... :)

Grey Horse Matters said...

You can tell that Apache Moon loves your daughter and respects her. They both look like they are having a wonderful time with each other. It is heart-warming to see such a happy pair. My middle daughter, did the same things as a child, going over jumps, teaching the dogs to jump, spending hours being a horse, neighing and whatnot, I even have a picture of her with a headband she is wearing with glued on horse ears and a bit in her mouth doing a rear up. She has been riding since age 5 (31yrs.old now), it never ends, but we have something special to share for the rest of our lives. You and your daughter I'm sure will share the same closeness.

billie said...

Arlene, how wonderful that your middle daughter has maintained her love for horses from age 5 all the way until now, and that you and she share that love.

I remember loving horses and wanting a horse from the earliest moments of childhood, and when I got my horse it was a dream come true. However, it was hard having a horse but not having a horsey family, and when I went to college it wasn't possible to keep him. I think the thing I'm happiest about right now is that my daughter has been able to not only grow up with ponies and horses but know that these very special animals will be here with us no matter what.

I love your description of the photo with the headband and horse ears! We have put those crocheted fly things for ears on our own heads before and "worked" the ears to communicate with the horses. It's fun to see them respond to the different ear positions on their human friends!

I have fond memories of gathering up all the neighborhood dogs on summer evenings and transforming them into a herd of horses. Setting up cross-country courses and running with them through the pines, over the jumps. It's funny how that seems to be a universal thing for girls who love horses!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I forgot to mention that you have an award waiting for you, stop by when you have the chance and pick it up.

the7msn said...

Billie, you and your daughter would be welcome here ANY TIME! Road trip!!! Have you read Bossy's blog (, where she drove like 10,000 miles, hopping from city to city, visiting many of her blog readers? I'm not suggesting anything so drastic...particularly given the price of gas...but life is short, and mom/daughter road trips are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Combine it with a novel-research trip and it may even be tax-deductible. Mi casa es su casa.

billie said...

Arlene, thank you so much - I'll pick it up and post tomorrow.

Everyone go see Arlene's list of "blogs she loves."

Many of my favorites are on there, and of course Arlene's Grey Horse Matters is a top pick!

billie said...

Linda, that would be a blast - thank you so much. Interesting fact: I have 3 blogging buddies who live in New Mexico, and my mentor/sandplay therapist lives there too. Not to mention that my second novel takes place largely in New Mexico.

I have just spent 20 minutes reading Bossy's RoadTrip posts. She is FUNNY and I am in awe of all the photos and graphics she puts in.