*having internet problems and not able to post photos at this time…I will add them later.
Glen is the person who breaks in the young horses at the stables and he does it with natural methods, not the traditional harsh ways of controlling by creating extreme fear in the horse. The premise of Join-up is I need to establish I am the alpha mare, the one in control, and second that she can trust me. Doing this was important to me, because I am so interested in the psychology of our relationship. Donny came along because he’s also fascinated by the psychology of animal human interaction.
So Glen put me and Gwinny alone in the round pen. He gave me a fifty foot lunge line, which is like a thick dog leash. I looped it up and followed his instructions as I continued to toss it at her feet to keep her moving around the pen. From the outside of the pen Glen told me what to do and he predicted what she should do next. I was so impressed because she did exactly what he said she would do. It was so interesting for this geeky psychology fan.
The first rule he told me was I couldn’t make eye contact with her at all. I had to keep my eyes on her body or her feet. Eye contact is an aggressive sign and my job was to establish myself as a passive leader. By tossing the line and keeping her moving I established I am in charge. If she gave her attention to the other horses beside the ring I would toss it to tell her pay attention to me. After several minutes of pushing her around the pen her body language aligned with Glen’s expectation. She was doing exactly what he said she would do, relax and allow me to guide her without fear. When she slowed down, I approached her and rubbed her forehead a bit, turned my back to her and invited her to follow me. She did, she came right to the middle of the pen behind me. This signaled she accepted me as the alpha mare.
Glen instructed me to give her a good spook and get her running again. This step in the process was to teach her that the center of the ring was my territory, and she respected it immediately. When she slowed down I would go to her, rub, and invite her to follow me into the middle, but she refused to come after the spook. We were now working on teaching her that she can trust me and come to me even after a simple spook. It took her a long time to relax and welcome my invitation to the middle of the ring. She’s four years old, and it seems that no one has really ever taught her that she can trust a human, though I can’t be sure about that.
While we were patient and waiting for her to follow me back in I kept a running stream in my head of positive inviting thoughts to her. And finally the last time I rubbed her nose, reassured her, turned my back and began to step into the middle of the ring, I could feel her head over my shoulder. I kept willing her yes, yes, yes, you can trust me, come on baby, follow me into my space. With every step I took she stayed with me, right to the center of the ring. I hugged her so long and kissed her, and we looked at each other for a bit, because we had just accomplished something so important between us and we both knew it. She followed me around after that. When I stopped, she stopped, if I walked she walked.
It was a top ten experience in my life. And we had a victory talk and celebration afterwards. Donny was hooked, he asked if he could take riding lessons with Glen when he comes home, and they had a long talk about the theory behind Join-up while Kira took her bag of hay and fed Gwinny. Kira has no fear of the big horse head coming right up to her little body. She had found one of the gate chains and wore it around her neck like a necklace. She is becoming quite a “thing” at the stables. No surprise.
Later in the afternoon, I sat at my computer and did a little research on Join-up, because as I said I am a geeky psychology fan.
Monty Roberts is responsible for this term. He grew up on a ranch and his father was a horse trainer of the old fashioned sort. Monty despised the cruel methods his father used to break the horses to get obedience from fear. In his thirteen year old mind he knew there had to be a better way. Monty spent many hours at a time watching wild mustangs with binoculars, observing their herd behaviors. It is with these observations that he discovered a language between the horses, and what he saw in the wild taught him the join-up method. Using the communication language of horses we can cause a horse to want to be with us instead of away from us. That’s what I did with Gwinny, and now she will want to do what I ask of her with her own free will, not because I am forcing her to do it. I asked her with my behavior and body language if she will pay me the respect due to a herd leader, join me and follow me. And she said yes.
As I thought more about it in the afternoon, join-up is something I did with Lucy using dog language. But my cat? No matter what I do I can’t get her to follow me. She thinks she is in charge, and when she allows it I can have some affection from her. What I know about that, is it is appropriate for the nature of cats to be independent, and the best thing I can do for our relationship is respect this. I do with a sigh.
I thought more about my relationship with Christ, and how he put me in a round pen at one point in my life. I wasn’t as willing to accept his authority as Gwinny was to take mine. I reared, bucked, tried to escape, and made a lot of noise. But eventually I realized Jesus is the leader I wanted to follow. Then he taught me that I can trust him and follow him everywhere. And I do, willingly with complete trust, and I know I am safe even in situations that scare the life out of me. He is always guiding me, teaching me, and helping me grow so I am more useful to Him. He gives my life purpose in a way nothing and no one else can. In the same way I hope to establish with Gwinny, with me as her leader her life will have a purpose and it will be rewarding for us both.