"All animals should be treated with mindful regard. That's using the ability we have to slow our thinking down, thus reducing our energy levels. 'Thinking' has a very high energy behind it." – James French, Horse Trainer
We know thinking has a high energy, because when we over-dwell on something it can feel like there's a hamster spinning on a wheel in our head at such high velocity that it could power New York City. That hamster usually accomplishes nothing besides getting us worked up.
I went to get Tara out of the pasture last weekend, and she gave me her look-over longer than usual before cautiously stepping towards me. My mental hamster had jumped on her wheel first thing that morning at breakneck speed, worried about a crisis one of my kids was dealing with, worried about my day job, worried about downsizing our home and relocating to a nearby community. To her credit, Tara didn't flee to the far side of the pasture to escape the energy emanating from me, but she definitely had a "what the heck is wrong with you?" look for me. Horses are all about conserving energy, not wasting it.
When we got to the hitching area, the horse and rider pair we usually ride with were taking the day off. I've only worked with Tara for a month and never had her tied up without at least one other horse in sight, which she prefers. On top of that, the wind gusts were measuring 30 miles an hour, which hadn't seemed to bother her during our walk from the pasture. However, just before we reached the hitching post, a perfect storm of disturbances erupted: a big dog bolted around the corner, the blue tarp over the shavings waved up then down, and a couple of metal shingles on the stable roof clanged in unison.
The whirling wind gusts merely echoed my internal thoughts that were swirling around and poor Tara felt she had no option but to return to the safety of her herd. She refused to stand still so I could tie her; instead, she circled around me in nervous circles, eyes searching in the direction of her pasture. I lunged her briefly but a few times she uncharacteristically tried to yank the rope from my hands and I decided to call it a day. As her owner saw me despondently walking her back to the pasture, she asked why and I said, "I can't calm her down. It's not worth a fight to risk a ride today."
"No, it's not. But maybe you could end your time together with a little fun instead of on a sour note," she smiled encouragingly.
So, I focused on deep breathing as we walked, calming myself down and Tara snorted in relief. We entered the pasture, her friends all grazing at the far end, so I closed the gate behind us and took her halter off. As she looked at me expectantly for her goodbye treat, I decided we would play follow the leader and work on vocal commands which she likes to pretend she doesn't understand. As I walked away from her a few steps, she pursued me and when I said "Whoa" she didn't get a treat until all four of her feet stopped moving. Then I said "Back" with a nudge to her chest and she didn't get a treat until we counted three backward steps. Then I did a little more just zigzagging around, keeping her eyes on me and rewarding her whenever she followed.
Finally, our morning together involved no emotion, just very direct communication, like every successful working relationship should be. Well, there might have been a little emotion at the end as we parted, as I can't help but love on her and tell her she is my best girl. That takes no thought at all.