By Judy Oldmeadow, Owner & Master Horsewoman, Samaria Creek Morgan Horses
They stood frozen at opposite ends of a lead rope: a dangerous mix of fear, inexperience and doubt.
Betsy, a six-year-old, barely handled Morgan mare and Jane, an early-40s career woman finally living her dream of owning a horse.
Both parties were stiff with indecision, connected by a thread and waiting for a leader.
I leaned against the roundyard fence with Anya (the other participant in my Horse Communication and Confidence class) and noticed how the three loose horses also stood quietly and watched.
I softly advised Jane to:
- Step as far away as the rope allowed without pulling.
- Stand with her shoulder facing Betsy’s.
- Focus on breathing from her core.
Betsy had arrived two weeks ago in an open cattle truck with two other mares and a foal. She was wild-eyed and jumpy, only touched by humans when in a cattle race.
Her three experiences were freeze branding as a youngster, a recent pregnancy test and herding into the truck for delivery.
These human interactions, though not cruel, gave her little choice or reason to trust. Over several sessions, however, Betsy had let me approach and halter her. But she was still wary.
Three horses and two humans watched expectantly. Jane steadied her breathing. Betsy sighed and licked her lips (a horse’s sign of relaxation) and turned towards her.
Jane walked in a circle with Betsy quietly following. Both looked elegant and confident; a team where learning flowed both ways.
Later that day, Jane also handled her recently purchased fifteen-month-old Morgan gelding with greater confidence and willingness to experiment.
Anya, an experienced horsewoman still reeling from the recent loss of her teenage daughter through cystic fibrosis, had started the session saying she didn’t want to handle the horses and only wanted to watch.
She said her head was so full she was afraid of how the horses would respond. But in the afterglow of Jane’s success I handed her Betsy’s lead rope.
After a moment’s hesitation, Anya took it and tentatively walked towards Betsy. Betsy’s ears flicked back, forward and sideways (signs of confusion in a horse).
Anya paused, took a deep breath and started rubbing Betsy’s shoulder.
Again the three young horses watched quietly as Anya worked her way around Betsy, quietly sobbing and seeming to sense where Betsy wanted to be rubbed.
After putting the horses away, we sat in the paddock and chatted about what we’d learnt.
Anya said she’d approached Betsy carefully because she was afraid her bubbling emotions would frighten her.
She said she was so relieved at Betsy’s non-judgemental acceptance that she didn’t want to lead her or boss her around; she just wanted to reward her for being there.
We unanimously decided to:
- Spend more time with those we trust.
- Let someone else carry the load occasionally.
- Have more massages!
Breeding and raising Morgan horses and spending hours in their company has changed my life.
My herd has almost 40 individuals, from foals at foot to grand matriarchs.
I started my Life Horses teaching program to use their empathetic nature and share the comfort and insights I receive from them daily.
A philosophy of learning from the herd.