Wednesday, February 08, 2012

in which the black mare reminds me to breathe

Today we had the chiropractor here for 4 out of our 6 equines. I have been sick with a mild flu, and today was the first day after several that I've been out to the barn. I was late with breakfast tubs, it was time for the chiro to arrive, and I made the call that we would get adjustments first and breakfast after.

I thought I was making a wise decision to leave all the horses in the paddock instead of allowing them into stalls. I knew bringing them in would trigger the salivation for tubs, and figured they'd do better walking and waiting than standing behind stall doors waiting.

This was a good decision for 5 out of 6 equines.

But we started off well. Keil Bay went first and I had a few minutes to curry the dried mud off him. He was clearly thinking it was breakfast time but I told him, out loud and in English, that his most favorite thing in the world was on its way and that he would get breakfast after everyone got their turn.

Keil Bay is an absolute foodie. He adores his meal tubs. He adores treats of all kinds. And he can get pretty demanding if he thinks you're holding out on him. But this morning he stood quietly while I curried. He managed to release himself from the straight tie I'd done and even then he stood quietly, lead rope hanging to the ground. When the chiro drove up, he began to lick and chew.

Keil's adjustment went quickly because he is so incredibly cooperative and helpful as she does her work. He turns to her gently between each adjustment and says thank you. He licks and chews. He bobs his head when she is at a place that in fact doesn't need adjusting. He stands perfectly still when she reaches a place that does.

As soon as she finished the tail stretch and began to write down and explain what she'd just done, Keil inched very politely to the feed room door. But when I reminded him that 3 others still had turns, he walked nicely out to the gate and went through without a fuss.

Apache Moon, the pony, went next. He is always suspicious about these "treatments" but he stood quietly and allowed her to get to work. About halfway through he went into a trance and relaxed completely. By the time she was done, he was licking my hands.

Rafer Johnson was next. He was mightily wary and took his time entering the barn aisle. Redford came through the fence and between both donkeys being away from her, and Rafer's obvious reluctance, Salina began to ramp up into a mild mare frenzy.

She whinnied. She paced. She trotted up and down the fence in the paddock. After a few minutes Rafer met us halfway and we proceeded with his adjustments. He was absolutely fine with each one.

When I brought Salina in, I knew she was going to put up a fuss. She had worked herself up, and she had no desire to stand in the barn aisle and get her own adjustments done, even though she normally relaxes into this kind of thing and feels better as a result.

She went up and down the barn aisle a number of times. She bobbed her head, lipped at me, fussed at me, and marched out of the barn with me every time the chiro got ready to put her hands on Salina's hips.

I started out calmly, but I had not had breakfast, had lost my hair band so my hair was flying all over my face, I wasn't feeling all that great to begin with, and it was annoying me that Salina was acting like a diva. I ramped up a little bit. I fussed back at her. I got a little bossy. And she continued to refuse to stand still.

After about 3 more trips down the barn aisle and out into the barnyard, we came in to the aisle again and I stopped. "I just need to breathe," I said to the chiropractor. "I'm feeding into this whole thing."

I planted my feet, let the lead line go slack, and took a deep breath. I breathed in deep and slow and let it go all the way down my legs, through my feet, and into the earth itself. When I breathed all that breath back out, Salina dropped her head and allowed the adjustments. She didn't move an inch. She didn't lip at me. She relaxed her eye. She did what she does best - mirrored my centeredness, once I was smart enough to pay attention and do what needed to be done. Which was address MY frenzy and not hers.

I got quiet and she did too.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Interesting. This shows me that our horses really do mirror our feelings and attitudes. And I do think they understand English sometimes too.

Hope you're feeling better soon.

billie said...

Salina is a biofeedback machine in action - I have never seen a horse so perfectly attuned to the humans around her and so gifted at mirroring their internal states.

There is no doubt in my mind that Keil Bay understands English. To the degree that I think he prefers his humans to use it with him in all matters. (which I do)

Every equine professional who comes here ends up talking to him, and remarking (some with a bit of wonder and confusion) that he "really does seem to understand."

That always makes me laugh. If you're around him for any length of time it's pretty obvious he does understand.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

I have met several animals that seem to understand english perfectly - whole sentences. I wonder if in fact they all do, but only the kindliest of them let on. ;)

Hope you are feeling better! What would we do without our equines to keep us grounded. :)

billie said...

It's funny because the geldings (even the one who understands English) have such a different way of being than Salina does. She really pushes me to a much different level in my conversations with her. :)

Máire said...

I like that interaction you had with Salina. Clever girl - she really pulled it out of you.

billie said...

She always does! :)