The Challenge Of A Pushy Dominant Horse

Last week I told you about the Horse As Muse workshop I attended with Linda Kohanov and Kim McElroy and showed you some of the art I created, as the inspiration from the horses informed my artistic expression. I also promised to share what happened in the round pen with one of Linda’s black Arabians. So here we go…

The goal of this Equine-Facilitated Development session was to explore the invisible. Linda had selected two of her more dominant horses to work with us during this session and I felt pulled towards the most dominant horse, Indigo. Her other horse, Orion, was stunningly beautiful and had a real sweetheart energy about him, but I felt Indigo really had something to teach me and was asking me to come with him. So of course, I did. For those of you who have read Linda’s books, Indigo (Indi) is the son of her Arabian stallion, Merlin. Luckily Linda’s assistant was able to video my session, so I can share it here with you – I gotta warn you, it ain’t pretty! This was a very challenging session for me, with lots of frustration… well, you’ll see:

I’m very interested to hear what y’all think of this – especially those of you who have extensive experience with a dominant horse (Kesia?!). And if anyone has succeeded in creating shift with a horse like this – what did it take, and how long did it take?

The other interesting thing that arose from this session, is that it was very powerful for another member of the group. She was the mother of girls who also behaved in a dominant manner and so she was continually getting phone calls from upset mothers. She had experienced firsthand the ostracism of dominant people in our culture, because so few people know how to play with that energy.

Jini Patel Thompson is a natural health writer and Freedomite. She began riding at age 2 in Kenya, and got her first horse at age 8 in Alberta, and so continues a life-long journey and love affair with these amazing creatures.
The Challenge Of A Pushy Dominant Horse

40 thoughts on “The Challenge Of A Pushy Dominant Horse

  • December 3, 2016 at 8:12 am
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    Wow Jini it’s like right on cue here you are again with something that relates to me so strongly😬 I actually purchased a 1/2 Arab/paint in August after I had to put my 1/2 Arab /? heart horse down who was very old. My new gelding boy “Dreamer” is on one hand very very sweet ..i.e. …under saddle with a halter on and pretty much with all interactions…..but when I work with him at liberty in about a 2 acre parcel which is his & my two other geldings, Banner who you now know & Bullets night time area… so a comfy and safe place ….he is very dominant. He does the same pushy pin eared response you got from Indy. He is the polar opposite of Bullet who came to me very shut down. So it’s been very challenging to adjust to his energy. I though..all growing up was just like him, a very dominant, pushy, over bearing, loud, always need to be in control kind of girl. So watching this video is so enlightening to me. I guess on one hand I’m excited to see and hear that all the things Linda suggested I am doing. I do and did except him for who he is right away …probably because I can relate so easily to him, but on the flip side I have a bit of fear and reluctance to him like you to Indy because it can make you feel uncomfortable with them so on top of you with so much pushy energy. I have found through our sessions (even though there has only been about a dozen so far) when we first started my energy was to much for him and when I moved him he would run off with the most elaborate expression and movement…absolutely beautiful to see but not the connection I was trying to explore. So when I would really dial down my energy he would just do as Indy and kind of just be reclusive and stand in one spot. Now at present day I am really exploring the energy level in myself to find that magical place where he can relate/connect to me, yet not feel lost and feel he has to run from me like the wind. He is very expressive and just awe inspiring to watch & I feel I’m getting a grasp on him slowly but surely. I want to be all fluffy and rainbow sweet with him but I can tell he just doesn’t connect with that at certain times. So I have to be fun and expressive and full of myself with a reassuring side & use more of my powerful side to get him engaged. It’s funny I’m not particularly proud of that side of myself anymore because it’s caused me and plenty of other people a lot of grief & pain in the past & I put horses on such a high pedastal that I really don’t want or like to use that side of myself with them( even though there is no physical pain or touch) but I can see with some horses that is what they relate to and what they resonate with. My exploration with Dreamer is showing me that. His ears are still pinned most of our session but I can see that my encouragement and exceptance of him for who he is and the fact that I don’t judge him, instead celebrate him for his pinned ears and over the top energy, that he is starting to see we can have a blast together. His super acrobatic movements and high octane energy are who he is & I just make sure he stays a bit of a distance when he is at his level ten then ask him to slow and come back down to just walk with me again(which is so challenging for him) I think this is making him feel very validated and so happy to not be punished or made to feel bad about his over the top expression . I just keep celebrating it and then ask him to settle with me. So far it’s working beautifully. Just like he is to me. We all have our good and bad & I love that Linda is so in touch with all the sides of emotion. We all have to celebrate our strengths and what someone else might consider our weakness or fault. Keep up the good self assessment you inspire me every time to keep checking in with my own stuff and to keep evolving. Your blog is a complete blessing for the physce and soul. Thank you for being you✌🏼️👍🏻🐴

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    • December 3, 2016 at 8:59 pm
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      Awww thanks Michelle! And likewise, we all feel so VERY blessed to have such an incredible community of Horse Listeners here who open-heartedly share their stories, struggles, triumphs and inspiration. As Tina Turner commented on My Horses Don’t Want to Hang Out With Me post, “I feel as though I’ve just joined in to sit around a bonfire with embers so hot and sparks so big and as I pull up my chair I realize that I’m surrounded by so many soul sisters that I don’t know and also have always known.” I simply can’t wait to read the comments people leave after every post!

      I simply adore this part of what you wrote: “I have to be fun and expressive and full of myself with a reassuring side & use more of my powerful side to get him engaged.” Because THAT is exactly what Linda was trying to teach me to do. You worded it perfectly.

      When I read what you’ve written here, I think I would feel a lot differently if one of my horses was dominant and I was working within a framework of love and attachment/connection. Rather than a horse I just met. As I say in the video, when I was just hanging out with him (at the beginning of the video) that was very enjoyable for both of us. But at the same time, I learned some interesting things through the discomfort of the ‘come walk with me’ part. I’m still mulling it all over.

      I think it’s very cool that you now have a horse who is pretty much forcing you to inhabit and celebrate the aspects of yourself that were difficult from your childhood… and perhaps leading you to realize the positive side of those aspects and a healthier/functional way of expressing them now that you have all the tools, insight and maturity of adulthood. Ah these horses… it’s all so very cool 🙂

      Oh – one more thing – upload a photo of Dreamer if you have one – even better, of you working with him would be great! I’ve just added that capability to the blog comments and it should be working fine.

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  • December 3, 2016 at 11:55 am
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    Wow! This is a beautifully rendered piece on dominance. I love the way that Linda normalizes dominance as a style while she works to mitigate some of its less functional aspects. Dominance is a huge cultural issue today. We will all likely be called to deal with it skillfully in the times ahead.

    This piece also gives us a lovely window into what it may be like for us and many of our horses and clients to stand in integrity before dominant energy. As Linda so aptly points out, it’s just a style not necessarily a red flag for deviance. Dominance, when exercised in a balanced, socially appropriate ways provides necessary services for the bands and herds horses inhabit. It fills similar ufnctions in human cultures. It’s not a bad thing in and of itself.

    Dominance has a bad rap now. In my opinion, that’s because we humans have gone around the bend with it. We’ve become so out of balance in our sense of dominion over others that, cuturally, we appear to spinning toward destruction of our entire life-support system. We’ve deposited a lot of our imbalance in this sector. The emotional sequeal is a huge portion of the population has been traumatized by imbalanced dominion being focused on them (us). This recalibrates our nervous systems to freeze, flee or fight when dominion rises in anyone we’re trying to relate with. This reaction can be improved on.

    Linda demonstrates how impeccably. 1. Match the energy. 2. Shift your energy, once you’re mirror neurons are linked. 3. Move it in the direction of collaboration. 4. Reinforce every step in that direction that your horse and/or client moves toward initially. 5. As the flow through your connections increases, gradually shift reinforcements into a random pattern. At this stage, you can also play with shifting what you use as reinforcers. Maybe we start with carrots and eventually migrate into sharing a breath.

    We each have dominion capacities within our behavioral repetoire. For most humans of our wesern culture, this territory is frought with damage. As Linda mentioned, dominnion most frequently arises when one is fearful. It also comes up strongly when the need to protect ones’ loved ones rises. This is an exhaulted emotion, in that it leads to the provision of essential services to the band/family/community/herd. So, we need dominnion.

    We are uniquely situated to facilitate healing in this sector. Horses do it beautifully, when teamed with skilled facilitators. These issues do not lend themselves to effective treatment by conventional approaches. In fact, coventional psychotherapeutic interventions often make these issues worse.

    What horses bring to the party is a mindful approach to negotiations around sharing our dominance skills in the best interest of the whole herd. Where our human nervous systems go when they’re stressed beyond endurance is into a profound need to control our environments. We decide, often unconsciously, what we need to be safe, then go about setting up our environments so that we can control the variables we designate as being unsafe.

    The horses help us to regulate our nervous systems to expand into our responsibilities to our larger communities. We enlarge our conections. When our dominance is called up by circumstance, we develop more functional response options. Instead of freezing, fleeing or fighting, we learn to engage and negotiate. We find common ground within ourselves while we practice consciousness linking with them. We all gain more skills and resiliance for the challenges ahead.

    In all likelihood, the way life works now will change drastically within our lifetimes. We will need all the resiliance and skills we can muster. When we exercise courage by stepping toward energetics that we’re reactive to, we open ourselves to the possibility of healing the underlying broken bits that are masked by our resistance. Jini demontrates the courage all of us sentient beings are called to demonstrate in this historical moment.

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    • December 3, 2016 at 9:27 pm
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      YES!: “stepping toward energetics that we’re reactive to” I knew I was in for it, working with Indi. But I also knew he would give me a superb level of clarity into my discomfort.

      And WHY does his dominance make me feel so uncomfortable? Because I feel unsafe. The interesting thing to me, is contrasting this experience with what happened with my colt Juno in The Lure Of Dominance. Whereas that triggered my rage, this interaction didn’t make me angry (fight), it just made me want to leave (flight). But the root is the same. I still cannot make my space or energy large enough to transform the presenting pushy dynamic. And at a visceral level I don’t feel safe enough to provide a container for dominance, but rather, my nervous system perceives it as aggression (he is pushing into me). So this is something I need to keep working with and no doubt the animals will keep giving me lessons!

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  • December 3, 2016 at 12:23 pm
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    I have an extremely dominate gelding who has been a very challenging horse his entire life and has been ostracized by many people due to this. I totally love his spirit and it took years to get to what I view as a more loving balanced relationship with him. He is still the most stubborn horse I know, but the relationship we have built over the years is so rich. It takes years, acceptance of who they are, and a willingness to build a partnership with them in tiny bits & pieces that get larger and larger. Overcoming your own discomfort and accepting him as he is must come before you can start building pieces and learning to form a partnership.

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    • December 3, 2016 at 9:08 pm
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      I hear you Diane – this sounds very much like the relationship Kesia has with her mare, Amalia. Do you have a photo of him? You can upload photos now!

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      • December 8, 2016 at 11:09 pm
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        That’s me kissing him in my pic, when he started to become lovable!

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        • December 9, 2016 at 1:52 am
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          Awww, so sweet!

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  • December 3, 2016 at 4:33 pm
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    Hello Jini ~ Thank you for sharing this video. I watched all of it, and listened to the commentary. I would not be comfortable in a pen with a dominant horse I did not know. I’m sure I would be sending out unconfident vibes. And, I am not sure why we should expect him to want to follow you if he doesn’t know you. What would be his internal motivation? My dominant filly is 19 months old now. I’ve slowed way down in my expectations and am just spending lots of time with her. I read Carolyn Resnick’s Waterhole Rituals aloud to her while she and my other three mares ate hay; and read half of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. (That topic was not soothing!) Now that it’s getting cold in Michigan, I’ve rearranged my tack room so that I can bring her in where it’s a little warmer for an hour every night. She eats her grain and hay while I sit on a chair or on the floor near her head. She’s happy enough to put her halter on (taught her with treats) but she has little interest in being led. So, I have her halter and lead rope on in the tack room because I’m thinking she will begin to equate it through food to friendship. In just one week, it’s clear she’s become closer to me and more responsive when I ask her (at other times in more open areas) to tone down her demands. I enjoy your blogs; and have been in contact with you about your web business building program. I will be shutting down my http://www.ucanride.com site soon as I’ve dissolved my American Association of Riding Schools corporation – after 18 years, I’m tired of wooing an industry I disrespect. My new website is not yet finished, but I published it for the first time a couple days ago. The URL is http://www.ahorseinmyhouse.com. You can peek. My goal is to use it to feed little bits of information from the horse conscious community into the traditional industry without having them shut the information out emotionally. When I get a bit more information loaded onto it, I will go back and read the seven complimentary lessons you sent earlier, and consider more. Thank you again for posting this video. Colleen Pace

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    • December 3, 2016 at 8:10 pm
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      Hi Colleen, I like the look of your new site – very clear and friendly. And very interesting to hear how you’re dealing with your filly, I love that you’re reading to her! What happens if you sing to her?

      Regarding Indigo’s internal motivation, I was using an energy/body/breath technique Linda teaches called Proximity Response. And then at the end of the session he gets a carrot – which you can see he lined up for a couple times in the video, figuring we were done and he should have his reward. I can’t really give too much information as I only worked with him that one time and I have no idea as to his history (beyond what I shared in the video) or any of the deeper facets of where he’s at, or the journey he’s walking with Linda. I do know that he’s a favorite of a number of Linda’s apprentices, so my experience is simply that.

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  • December 4, 2016 at 9:43 am
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    hi jini
    , – thanks for a very interesting video and thread, i’m responding to your call for the thoughts of people who have had a lot of experience with very dominant horses…but i should maybe point out first that im coming at this from a very different angle (im not an equine assisted therapist, i worked for decades in dealing,hunting , training, and breeding yards in the UK, Europe and India) but connecting with horses is the same all over the world, it’s just that sometimes the language we use to describe it is different…

    i’ve worked with a lot of very dominant horses over the years, some stallions, some mares, and a few geldings (of which many had either been cut late or in some cases over handled and messed about with as youngsters or bottle fed as foals).What they mostly had in common was that the big breakthroughs came from not only accepting them for who they were but from really honouring that by giving them challenging and fullfilling jobs to do that gave them a real way to express themselves in all their courageous and strong-willed glory, – tough work for which they could be admired. Particularly with the stallions or late cut geldings a lot of them would quickly get fed up with repetitive ground work and find it very annoying which fast leads to more pronouced versions of the dominant behaviour that Indi is showing in this clip – they are bored, frustrated, irritated at being asked over and over to do something which seems to have no point and annoyed by feeling bossed about -. Dominant horses hate to be nagged at, (whether we’re nagging from a place of spiritual enlightenment or not!).

    Let me give an example; On a stud in eastern europe i had a contract to get twenty youngsters (three and four year olds) started and riding out under saddle in six months – they were a lovely lot and i quickly got into a routine of going through similar stages of groundwork to saddle to riding out behind a nanny to going alone and then passing them on to the grooms to put in the miles – except for one 4 year old gelding, (cut late at 2) – who started out okay but within a couple of days he began to seriously rebel – he decided he hated working on the lunge, so i tried liberty, but that made him furious too, so i tried driving lines – I HATE THIS ! he said, i said okay what if we have driving lines but go out around the farm instead of in the arena? – well okay, he said and enjoyed a day of that before getting annoyed again and swishing his tail, swinging his head back, grumpy folded back ears… and yet when not asking hm to do any on these things he was kind, cheerful, curious and brave (and all were checked for backs / teeth / saddle fit etc)

    I’d seen exactly this pattern before in a matriarch mare i had once started under saddle for someone as a seven year old after breeding several foals – she hadn’t seen the point of all this infuriating and pointless bossing about business either – it had made her most bad tempered, especially as she was used to being in charge I decided to treat him the same way as i had her, to honour his intelligence, curiosity and courage (nothing seemed to frighten him)- and just mount on up and go. Besides the Matriarch mare he was the most confident first ride i think I’ve ever had – i tried to take him out behind a nanny but he immediately started acting up so i just put him straight in front and rode off around the local trails – he was superb and brave and never looked back – he focused intently on learning all the basic cues which I’d been able to show him once or twice only before mounting up due to his rebellious and dominant refusal of groundwork! He became a model student from then on, as long as i respected his intelligence and praised his courage he was happy to do whatever i asked (including eventually ground work and riding behind others) – and in terms of mental or emotional connection – i have found that the feelings of frustration these horses feel get in the way of connection, but when that frustration is swapped for alertness and curiosity and a readiness for the next question – then connection can happen in a strong clear way – but not when it is blocked by the horse feeling frustrated or bored, ‘nagged-at’ or misunderstood.

    We know we must try to feel for the type of energy that each horse likes and will respond to, and join in with at any given time. I think you are dead right about trying to keep things light and lively with the horse in the clip – sometimes you need humour, sometimes to be a bit raucous even – perhaps Indi is not really into singing an intimate love song with someone he doesn’t even know – but would join in with a lively sea shanty with a bit of encouragement? Many horses don’t just ‘let you in’ first time, because you asked, and to keep on and on asking could be taken as intrusive – i find that although youngsters are often wide open, older horses may not be and that is fair enough, they are entitled to take their time and check us out first, and that may mean getting used us by singing a few lively jigs together before we ask them to duet on a ballad or a lullaby.

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    • December 4, 2016 at 12:03 pm
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      Oh. my. god. Holly – a thousand times YES!!! THIS is the missing piece! And now that you’ve transitioned it (for me) from thoughts in the ether to elucidated black and white, everything is clicking into place.

      For example, Kesia’s horse Amalia is an absolute armored-up curmudgeon in the paddock or pasture. But you get her out on the road or trails – having an adventure – and she completely transforms before your eyes. It’s hard to believe she’s the same horse, even her body (skeletal, musculature) changes.

      2nd example – which of course I knew, but until you detailed it so brilliantly, was not aware that I knew – is that of my late-cut horse Montaro. At the risk of wigging you out, I have to admit that I cannot even refer to him using the “g–” word as he gets that upset. Energetically, he remains a stallion and that is the only reality he’s happy to acknowledge, thank you very much. Anyway, all the people who’d had contact with him before warned me that he was very dominant, so to watch out.

      However, that is not my experience of him at all. BUT I do exactly what you’ve described. And any time I feel that belligerent energy creeping up, I throw us a challenge (which in order to sufficiently challenge him is often something challenging/perhaps dangerous for me too) and he rises beautifully every single time. Even when things have gone seriously sideways, with the potential for explosive harm, he has stayed right with me, often held together by a tiny thread, until we get back to the pasture and then he EXPLODES and releases all the stuff he kept under control while we were out on the road.

      So YES, thank you! A thousand thank you’s for sharing your valuable experiential wisdom with us. And your history/experience sounds absolutely fascinating – have you written any books?

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      • December 7, 2016 at 2:52 pm
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        Yo, piping up to take issue with that example due to Amalia being more of an independent, watchful, reserved love-bug in the pasture nowadays… 😉 Sometimes I think the way we describe our animal friends can be seriously limiting to our perceptions of them (even using the term “dominant!”), and the fact that they have such capacity for transformation, on their own terms, ought to remind us of that.

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  • December 4, 2016 at 6:10 pm
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    I would like to say so much but I think the answers to your questions need to come from you. You experienced this moment with Indy and he said much in his way… Remember you were attracted to work with him.

    All I will say at this point is that I am very interested by this horse. I have herd of him before (of his personality) as I was reflecting with some friends who were at Linda’s last year and who also have young horses who have always been acknowledged for who they are and free (I mean free to be and say what they have to say and be heard and acknowledged) and I have one of those myself, he’s my soul horse and I wouldn’t change him for the world, he’s been with me since he was 4 months of age and has never been “reduced”, ever. By reduced I mean that I could never impose my “authority” on him, I teach him and he learns at the speed of light but nobody can ever impose anything on him, it would just feel wrong, he a king, he knows it and everybody can feel it when in his presence.

    This “dominent” behaviour, to my understanding, is not plain old dominance as we would understand it in human terms, it’s the sum of all they are aloud to be (free, never broken, never reduced) and a clear self awareness that I would qualify as powerful charisma. These horses just know and they are proud but humans around them need to be aware and to listen because they come to us to teach A LOT; they carry a message that is very important and I think it’s the grandest of priviledge to be chosen by such a horse to be their human.

    I probably sound like a lunatic but this is my experience and I think we will encounter more and more of those as we (humans) start to develop a new awareness and start to really listen. These horses are often disguarded as being untrainable and often end up at the feed lot, which is an abomination because they are in fact, the most clever ones and they have so much to teach. I would bet that Juno is one of those horses.

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  • December 4, 2016 at 11:14 pm
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    Thank you for sharing the video, and so many wonderful thoughts about dominance. When watching the video I was wanting to see the actual pace of the entire introduction with the horse (the part you sped up). For me, that’s where all the initial, fascinating, pertinent info was. My other inclination was to just sit on the far side of the round pen (after the long intro) and enjoy the scenery, which included this magnificent horse. I could have sat there for a few hours and see what happened.

    For me, any time I meet a new horse, if I need to be in close proximity for some reason, then the horse will ask through body language who is number one in this pecking order? I really prefer to avoid this initial conversation unless the horse is going to live with me, in which case, I’ll be interacting with him often and so for safety issues I need to be number one. I really don’t want to go through all the work of establishing myself as number one unless the horse is going to join my herd. Otherwise, I prefer to just enjoy them in the short-term, and just not put myself in a position where being number 2 would be dangerous to me.

    All of my horses know that in an emergency, I am number one, they are number two and they need to do what I say, and they happily do. For example, a few weeks ago I had my horse in hand on a trail taking a break when we spotted a baby cougar. After several moments of just being in the moment before deciding what to do, I realized, hey, let’s back away slowly. I had to wake my horse up out of a nap and quietly insist that he start backing with me. He really preferred to stay, but agreed to my request. I backed him 30 feet to the road with the wiggle of a rope in one hand, my club in my other while maintaining eye contact with the baby cougar. In that moment I am dominant, and I glad my horse listened to me.

    What’s also interesting is that a stray horse recently showed up on the property. Due to circumstances he’s stuck around for several days. It is fascinating to watch the herd dynamics and how he interacts with the herd leader, a gelding, and number 2, a mare, in the herd. He made friends with number 2 who is friends with the leader and she runs interference between him and the herd leader who exhibits dominant behavior toward him. One day I go out into the 8-acre field to say hello to my horse, the leader, and while I’m hanging out, the number 2 mare deliberately walks over with a submissive posture and grazes in the vicinity. As soon as that happens the stray horse decides this is his chance. He too comes over with a submissive posture and respectfully stops at a 25 foot distance. He’s never respected my space before, but I was also standing right with the herd leader. As I look around at the dynamic I figure my horse, the leader, is is a much better position to establish a pecking order with this stray horse than I am, so I move away and just watch. The stray horse is friends with the mare, so he grazes by her first and then positions himself between her and the leader and they’re all within 10 feet of each other while grazing. That’s not a move I would make, but it was fascinating. Then he pins his ears at the mare and gently walks toward her, and she moves a few steps. He seems happy with that so just goes back to grazing. Now he moves onto getting into closer proximity with the leader while grazing. A couple of minutes later I hear a squeal and he jumps sideways a step. The leader’s still grazing, hasn’t moved his feet and not about to give up his position to the stray horse. But stray horse is not offended. He just goes to grazing and finds how close he can get without soliciting that response, and he inches within a horse-length.

    The way I look at dominance is that horses need it to establish a pecking order so that when they have to run for their lives in a moment of danger they can run in an organized fashion and not trample each other.

    Now what happens with dominance in domestication and some of the artificial human constructs that don’t have anything to do with a horse’s natural world? That can get messy.

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  • December 5, 2016 at 3:34 pm
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    Why do you see/hear the ears back and snaking head and neck as dominate? And why do you want him to follow you? (a leader “goes first” and a good leader acknowledges that the follower also “goes first” with their “following” step. – thus the TRUE understanding of empowerment. Horses know this because their “leadership” never puts another down.)
    Is the opposite of “dominate” in your mind “submission”? Are you asking a “dominate” horse to be submissive …….. to you? …….. what makes you so special? (that is not meant to be a put down or hurtful – just a question the horse might ask) Why would the horse “seek you”?
    What else might the horse be saying with his ears back and snaking neck? How might you respond to HIS words? …………. instead of expecting him to respond to yours.

    I really, really, really dislike the flapping fingers to “push the horse back” out of your space.

    Horses are all about congruence ………. and consistency.
    You admit hearing from the horse – a request – “stay responsive” …………… what happened to that? Where were you responsive? …………… to him.
    I see a horse that is not seen – not acknowledged for who he is. He is not a dominate horse (there is no such thing in my opinion – and there is science to support my opinion) but a horse that is VERY frustrated that he is not seen, or heard.
    He is not broken – why do you insist on healing him? ….. except for the 200 acre field with his own kind and natural herd.

    BTW – the dropped penis is not so much a relaxation response as it is a dissociation response. (ask a PHD physiotherapist)

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  • December 7, 2016 at 2:56 pm
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    Hi, thank you everyone, the conversation and observations are very interesting for me. I have a young mare who is now six and I admit that I have at times felt afraid of her. She is very outgoing and confident and her personality is very different from my own. I’m now much better at feeling easy with her however she expresses herself but it’s me that has had to take a good look at myself. In fairness she has never been aggressive. I wonder if we should change the label ‘dominant’ and think more of some positive words we could use to describe horses. Does dominance even exist in their world?
    I felt sorry for the horse in the video. What a bloody pain to be used in such a way. Do we think he didn’t know what was going on.
    Jinny I hope this doesn’t sound like criticism. I once watched myself in a video an I was utterly amazed and rather aghast at how soft and pathetic I appeared. So, here are my observations of you for what they are worth. You were talking a lot to Linda saying yeh, yeh, yeh I know all that stuff. You seemed quite defensive. Then you offered your own ideas in the video about what you would do with the horse, blah, blah, blah. Like it was him that has the problem. You never met him with an open heart and mind.
    Horses are so far ahead of us in the purity of their spirit and we find it hard to match that with a true openness of heart and mind.

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  • December 7, 2016 at 8:43 pm
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    Wow. So many thought-provoking comments here… rather than respond one by one, I’m going to respond all together here. Some things I’m going to share are for all of you, some are specifically for one or two people. Here we go…

    Let’s start with the “dominant” label. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that labels are limiting and close off information, possibility, expansion and transformation. Personally I don’t use the word “dominant”. As you can see in the video, that is Linda’s word.

    But she is a writer and a teacher. So she needs to assign a symbol (word) for the purpose of discussion and ‘dominant’ is the word she chose. You’ll see there’s a fair amount of dialogue back and forth as she explains what she means by that word and it takes me a while to agree to use that word.

    My visceral feeling was that Indigo was “pissed off”. Whether he actually was, or that was merely my interpretation based on my own perspective/reality – who knows? As some of you pointed out: WHY would he want to follow me? Why would he want to have a relationship with each revolving door participant/client as they come in and out of his life?

    And this is where I have to get out of the theoretical and trust the owner/facilitator. All learning involves a surrender of preconceptions, stepping out in space, and trusting the teacher – knowing that later I can sort through it all and draw some conclusions.

    So this is Linda’s horse and we are working in her paradigm, with her labels/symbols, and her story about who this horse really is and what is good for him.

    And honestly, who am I to make judgements based on my brief exposure? At the end of the day, this is one of Linda’s tribe, who has been with her since birth. I know that Linda is an aware, heart-based, sincere person who is always questing to know more and do better. And this is her workshop where I am surrendered to her teaching – and where she was gracious enough to allow me to shoot this video.

    So although I have an ongoing question mark about any activity that uses animals for human benefit/pleasure/learning, I also have an understanding that many people need to earn money from their animals, or they couldn’t afford to keep them. There is almost no free land/space left on our crowded planet. So animals that are not being cared for by humans are likely going to die or suffer.

    I also realize it is not for me to say/judge whether that animal enjoys it’s job. How presumptuous to take a stand either way (should work/should not work) and condemn whichever sector doesn’t agree with me. The horse world (and young parents world!) is rife with this kind of polarizing outrage. It’s useless. Because at the end of the day, ALL beings are individuals and not only differ in what they enjoy, but what they like/dislike changes according to circumstance, maturity, community, environment, etc.

    So while I may not feel good about what’s happening in the pen with Indi – or even working in a space like that, I am there to learn. Unless I feel a line of abuse or safety is being crossed, then I am in surrender to the process and to the wisdom the teacher has to impart.

    My questions and also suggestions in the video were my thoughts about my perceptions – based on ONE very short meeting with this horse.

    And also based on information I learned from equine ethologists Lucy Rees and Victor Ros: There is no such thing as ‘dominance’ in wild herds. It simply doesn’t exist. I’ve written about that here:

    http://www.listentoyourhorse.com/teaching-2-stallions-to-get-along-no-bullying/

    So that’s part of why I can’t accept the label of “dominant horse”. In my world, this horse needs healing, or a few hundred acres (also healing) – because his behaviour is unnatural; it only exists when humans are in charge of horses.

    Am I going to judge Linda for confining her horses in corrals on only 8 acres? Maybe I’ll go outside and look at my own horses instead; confined to only 10 acres. And while I’m at it, I’ll observe them using dominant behaviour to drive each other (according to pecking order) off the slow feeder of their choice, and perhaps I’ll own the fact that they are only behaving in this way because I don’t keep them in a natural manner. Perhaps I’ll recognize the fact that my idea of holistic horsekeeping that meets all their needs, actually falls so far short of that mark as to produce unnatural, aberrant behaviour in my herd. Hmmm… yes, I think I’ll own all of that. 🙂

    Just like I’ll own the fact that at this point in time, I’m doing my best and I cannot afford more land for them, unless I send them far away from me. And that all the communication I’ve received from them thus far tells me they would rather be with me, then have better living conditions. Oh so difficult, but yes, I’ll own that too.

    That’s why I asked Kesia to chime in about Amalia – my experience of Amalia was when she was with 2 other horses on 5 acres (armored-up curmudgeon in the pasture, liberated open soul on the trails or road), but now she’s been on 500 acres for almost a year and how is she? Kesia writes in her comment:

    “being more of an independent, watchful, reserved love-bug in the pasture nowadays…”

    And so I can look at Indi and say, “I would never do that” or “I feel sorry for him” or “He shouldn’t be used like that” But really, he is not my horse. And I am not in soul-relationship with him. So instead, I’m going to trust Linda; trust in her relationship, understanding, and ongoing process with Indi and open myself up to be in an uncomfortable place to learn whatever wants to come forth.

    We got into this same discussion in my teleseminar with Diedre West – who heads up an organization of 2500 equine-assisted learning/therapy members worldwide. We really dug into: Where is the welfare of the horse when they are used to earn humans money (among other things)? And of course, the same discussion could apply to ANY endeavour where horses are used to serve human constructs; riding, cattle management, racing, jumping etc.
    http://www.listentoyourhorse.com/the-downside-challenges-of-equine-assisted-therapy/

    p.s. Regarding Cathy’s comment on dissociation. From Mental Health America:

    “Dissociation is a mental process that causes a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memory and sense of identity. Dissociation seems to fall on a continuum of severity. Mild dissociation would be like daydreaming, getting “lost” in a book, or when you are driving down a familiar stretch of road and realize that you do not remember the last several miles. A severe and more chronic form of dissociation is seen in the disorder Dissociative Identity Disorder, once called Multiple Personality Disorder, and other Dissociative Disorders.”

    In my experience with both stallions and geldings, the penis descends when they are either relaxed, meditating (which technically is a dissociated state) or enjoying physical pleasure. I have not seen a penis descend when the horse feels threatened, scared, aggressive etc unless he is a stallion with a mare around.

    p.p.s. Mary that bit at the beginning where we were dialoguing energetically and viscerally was over 10 minutes long – I figured I’d lose a lot of viewers if I didn’t speed it up. If I was doing things my way, that would have been it for the day. And maybe Linda would have agreed that was a good idea too – who knows? I didn’t ask her. But I also wouldn’t have learned anything new if I’d stopped at that point. And we all wouldn’t be having this discussion now. So if Indi is a spiritual being incarnated in horse form, then maybe he wanted me to go further to spur this investigation/sharing for all of us. Or maybe not. 😉

    Again, thank you all for chiming in, sharing your experiences and perspectives. This has been a marvelous exchange and spurred some really good thought for me and some realizations. So thanks to each of you for also being willing to be vulnerable and put your perceptions out there. It’s all good!

    *Pic is of part of Indigo’s world as the sun begins it’s descent

    Reply
  • December 7, 2016 at 11:59 pm
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    Hmm, you make very good points here, Jini. I get into judgmental frames of mind when my liver is grumpy. If someone meets me during one of those episodes, or hears an embellished tale of someone else who has, they’re going to be sure that I’m an ass. Yes, in that moment, I was! Please do not define me by a snapshot experience. There’s a lot more in here than that. I think that we all may harbor that wish from time to time.

    I’m sure glad that you persisted in working with a horse who had issues that can trigger your discomfort. When we push ourselves, we learn AND teach. We all learned from your willingness to jump out of your comfort zone. Thank you. And, you continue to give us more fodder for our journeys here by the authenticity and immediacy of your responsiveness. You behave very much like a well-kept horse, Jini. In my world, there are no bigger compliments.

    Reply
  • December 8, 2016 at 12:58 pm
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    Jini, very well said. I was wondering how you were going to respond to such a diverse discussion. There are so many nuances to understanding horses and people; it is a life-long endeavor.

    Can you clarify one thing for me? I understand what you mean about “dominance” not existing in wild herds, but is there not a heirarchy in wild herds? Can you expand on that further? Thank you.

    Reply
    • December 11, 2016 at 4:44 pm
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      Thanks Mary, it was a really great discussion, wasn’t it?

      Personally, I have not spent time observing wild herds in a wild environment. So I am quoting from both Lucy Rees and Victor Ros (equine ethologists) who have done so.

      Victor has a good summary article here:
      https://wildequus.org/2013/03/28/snapping-at-alphas-and-submission-in-horses/

      And Lucy Rees’ film series on Epona.tv is well worth the subscription price alone. She talks about this and shows footage of what she’s talking about with the wild Pottokas herd she observes:
      https://epona.tv/real-ethology-with-lucy-rees

      Part 18 is the video where even though food is scarce, or they have laid out a trail of treats to corral horses for cullling, the horses do not fight or compete for resources – they either share, or spread out wider in search of more food.

      What Lucy says is there is no FIXED hierarchy. At times – and for a good, specific reason – a certain horse may take charge. But it is rarely the same horse and the roles change according to circumstance, season, etc. The only time is when a stallion – who she says is not the herd leader, but rather the hired bodyguard that the mares have selected to provide protection – is protecting against danger or an interloper.

      As you can see in the Victor Ros article, 98% of the stallion’s time is spent in non-aggressive behaviour.

      I think it comes down to the fact that the amount of land we humans think is ENOUGH, or large enough to facilitate normal equine behaviour (i.e. no competition for resources) is actually inadequate. I have not seen anyone provide this data yet and perhaps it varies greatly dependent upon terrain, climate, etc. But I can tell you that Lucy Rees has observed over time that the maximum density for horses to be self-sustaining (completely free from human intervention and not be dying of starvation etc.) is 1 horse per 100 acres. That is why she has to cull from the herd she observes.

      Another interesting point that Victor Ros makes is that although us laypeople are fond of calling our groups of horses “herds” they are in fact, not herds. For a group of equines to be called a herd, they must be a family grouping.

      I wonder how that too affects the group/herd dynamic? Aside from all the ways humans muck up natural horse behaviour anyway! Ah well, in our shrinking world, we must simply do the absolute best we can with our own resources and knowledge at that time.

      Have you set up a Paddock Paradise environment for your horses Mary? I’m wondering how facilitating greater movement in our tiny spaces would affect herd behaviour…

      Although, this reminds me of something that happened just the other day. My herd (hey all but 1 are family!) has slow feeders filled 24/7 but I also give them some alfalfa daily. So when I arrived, it was the first sunny day in weeks and I said, to them, oh good, I can throw your alfalfa out in the field. Because I can run the wheelbarrow along the barn road (no mud!) and throw it over the fence in 6 piles along the side of the field.

      Well, they followed me out to the first pile and then by the time I was back in the barn, they all came in, one by one, looking at me. I was confused, “What are you doing here? Don’t you want your alfalfa??” They are CRAZY for their alfalfa! But they just kept looking at me until it dawned on me that they wanted to eat in the barn area because they knew that’s where I would be – doing all the chores.

      So even though the barn area is a much more confined space and out of the beautiful sunshine, they chose it, because they wanted to be near me. And they know that I am only there for a couple of hours at a time.

      So… these are the things that can change as we domesticate, imprint, and enter relationship with these wondrous beings.

      Reply
  • December 12, 2016 at 10:09 pm
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    Thank you, Jini for the additional resources. I will enjoy reading them. I think one thing that has become clear to me is that everyone, myself included, has their own definition of what words like “dominance” mean, and it is backed up by our own observations of and experience with horses. Then there’s a whole list of possible causes for the behavior we see, some of which we might understand to a certain degree, and others we don’t yet. And we may not know we don’t understand it, until one day we’ve seen it so much in various circumstances that we’re able to put the dots together and have a different plausible explanation, which is still subject to change when we learn more.

    Our understanding of horses has come a long way, and there is still so much we don’t fully understand. Horses themselves give honest information, no matter what circumstances they live in. The only question for me becomes, how do I create as natural of an environment as possible in domestication to allow their innate horseness as full of an expression as possible. That is my life-long endeavor, and I’m always fascinated by what I learn, and much of it is a complete surprise to me.

    Thank you again for the great discussion and sharing of ideas. I always learn something new.

    Reply
    • December 13, 2016 at 12:09 am
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      Yes, very well said Mary – how do we create ‘as natural of an environment as possible in domestication’? That is definitely top of my list too!

      Reply
  • February 5, 2017 at 11:20 am
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    Hello Jini and all! This is a rich conversation, and I’ve worked with Linda’s geldings too, and had some similar experiences (for me it was Spirit who created the challenge to do with power, and of course as I’m a different person, the situation shaped itself in ways uniquely revealing about me).

    I notice that my experience of the discussion above is that I hear so many beliefs and interpretations, many of which I have had in my life as well, and many of which I’ve had my life move me through and out of. I have some mustangs in my herd, and they were raised by me once captured (but perhaps I should say they raised me), and they (two geldings, Denny and Solaz, who are half brothers and a mare, Cimma) have some similar behaviors to Linda’s geldings.

    And my stance would be that if you put these horses in the wild and gave them the world to roam in herds, they would be like Indigo is there…just like that. And the reason would be, BECAUSE they’ve never had to alter their behavior for the sake of humans. And so they are truly themselves. What Linda has done is made every effort she can to follow the natural greatness of her horses, and empower that as she also shapes their behavior enough to be safe in social settings–thus Indi has really learned to modulate his behaviors to meet the learning needs of Linda’s human clients rather than maintain his much more powerful and dominant behavior he’d have if his life was completely wild and in herd settings. Having been a trainer and having worked with these horses, I’d say they are lucky to be with Linda, as the power to lead herds that would have to face mountain lions, other stallions, and human hunters and such–that kind of power–has not been taken out of these horses so much as they’ve been taught how to ramp it up and down.

    I agree with Mary that the best way to keep this kind of horse, and I’d be comfortable calling them “dominant,” but other terms can be used if the word does not make you feel comfortable–is to focus together on a challenging project that honors their physical and mental capacity, and stretches it. They no longer have this in domestic herds–this level of challenge for which their systems thrive and in which their systems evolved. I respect Linda’s way of honoring this so that her horses are ready to do the work with clients that they are asked to do. I also believe the world/nature/oneness/god does not want those horses to be doing something else that we humans got in the way of.

    In 2010, while teaching at Carroll College in Montana, I took my mustang as a mount to the Pryor Mountain Mustang Refuge with two students, who were riding two of my horses who were born into domesticity. When on the third day of riding we found wild herds, we dismounted and walked our horses to a point where we could observe the herds. And over time (as other humans came over the rise and gathered to watch horses from different directions) I noticed our horses, as well as the wild horses, consistently watching…something different from what we humans were watching. They were watching the humans. Not in a scared way. From domestic to wild, the horses were observing the humans, and their body language and eyes were not wary but…dare I say…interested, curious.

    And why not? We were curious about them; wouldn’t it stand to reason that it’s at least possible they are as curious as we are about them–but about us? Here I’d been worried that Denny, my mustang, would wish he was with the wild herds. But like my two domestic-born horses, and like the wild ones, he was much more curious about the people around than he was the other, wild-living, horses. It was only later I began to see that, as his life is about working to help humans heal, he was learning–is always learning–about us and was fascinated with our fascination of he and the other horses. That’s an ah-ha that took some time and other events to come to.

    But more to point in this discussion, I’d like to also share what happened upon our arrival.

    When we arrived, we used a corral that the Preserve officials had directed us to that first night. It was large, and we got to put our 3 horses out in it. Awesome! I thought, they can really stretch their legs after the longish drive. There were cattle held in an adjoining corral. I didn’t think much of it…someone has cattle out here, okay. Well in the wee hours of the pre-dawn morning, a truck with a cattle trailer came along. And as I woke I remembered, the cattle chute for that cattle corral was…in the much larger corral where my horses were. I awoke to see headlights and to hear my horses, scared off by the headlights and clanging and voices, run past the truck and through the open gate. Then as I sought to find my contacts, I heard the cattle people and my two students run screaming and yelling at my horses, now outside the gate, effectively running them off into…how much distance, I know not. It did take a while, but they did the best job of scaring my horses I’ve ever seen. They were GONE. I’ve often camped with my horses loose in the wild, so I hadn’t been that unnerved.

    And still wasn’t, other than pretty amazed at this behavior being seen–by these horsewomen students and the cattle people–as the kind of behavior that would actually lead to some sort of problem-solved ending.

    But, as I finally found my contacts and got them cleaned from all the dust and in my eyes, I thought, well, I wanted my mustang to be free, and now he is! And let’s see how much of this trip will be about MY wild horses rather than the Pryors!

    We helped the cattle people with some further chaos as they got their cattle and some other horses they’d brought with them loaded/re-loaded in their trailer (this further enlightened me about their skills with animals). Then we waited till dawn, me explaining what was needed rather than yelling and screaming and running at the horses in order to get them back, and I sent the two students with grain and no halters off to find my horses (they wanted to go because they felt guilty). I stayed in case the horses returned, and to feel into their emotional state after all this–something I couldn’t do in the jangly space with the students. And not surprisingly, what I felt in the horses, was jangly. I sought to calm them, to connect with them, in the way I’d learned worked best. I sought to calm MY jangly feeling. And, when the sun finally began to rise, I decided it was time for me to head up the road as well, considering my students were beyond the horizon line and thereby further than I’d expected they’d need to go. I opened the corral gate and left hay for the horses, put halters over my shoulders, and began walking up the road toward that horizon line that also marked the main road in.

    But before I got even a quarter mile up the road toward that main road, I saw the girls and three horses silhouetted on the horizon. The girls didn’t have the horses’ trust enough to get hands on. But they were being followed with the occasional bit of grain they were allowing. Just as I’d asked them to do–touch less important than just walking back with the grain…after all, they’d proven themselves to be part of the problem rather than the solution; they might have to wait before they’d be trusted with the honor of touch. I called my horses, still far, far away on the horizon. They looked up, whinnied, and galloped away from the girls with grain to me. I petted them until the girls caught up, and all six of us walked calmly back and into the corral, where the horses settled into their hay. And so we started our first day at the Pryor Mountain Preserve, and I got my dream-come-true; to see my mustang free in the wild!

    The mustangs I have the honor of being herd members with, who I call “my mustangs,” have protected the herd foals from mountain lions who have left the skeletons of their catches of deer and elk in the horses’ mountain enclosures. That same enclosure (11 acres) was made up of sheer cliff walls I’ve watched the mustangs run up as if they were level ground. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ve never seen my herd happier than on that land, though I’ve seen them as happy–when they were working with humans and going to shows and living in three different facilities in Houston, TX. But on this Colorado mountain land, where bears came and ate any leftover grain from the horses’ feed bowls and where mountain lions, bobcats, lynx, coyotes, and other predators shared space with them, they were thriving. One foal was born there, another came there while 6 months old. Realizing we’d purchased land with many animal trails, I’d put fences up through which animals could move while horses would know where to stay. I don’t say, “held in,” because my mustangs have always proven to me that fences are just a suggestion. They’ve jumped in and out at will, opened gates there and elsewhere, among other escapes (all another story), enough for me to see, like them, that if they’re staying in, it’s only because they know I want them to, not because the fences hold them in.

    These are fully empowered horses, and if they don’t like something, from a human to a mountain lion, woe betide that creature.

    But perhaps not woe, because, as with the mountain lions, they use their incredible power–both energetic and physical, not to harm but to teach, and to co-exist.

    And guess what? Those mustangs will choose a round pen, and herd you, if they feel they can show you something that you need to see. I’ve seen them use their wide open spaces, and I’ve seen them walk a person from wide open spaces through gates to their round pen to work in that space.

    Horses have shown me how much they admire us AND love us, and respect us, especially when we do the same. And their energy is HUGE, and does not need EMDRing away (which can serve to bore or annoy them, other people have learned, but not ‘heal’ them. They DO love cranio-sacral work, massage, energy healing–just not when they’re trying to show you something about you–not when they’re doing their job), nor would it ramp down or up unless they were choosing to. These mustangs, as Linda’s geldings–I believe–know how to use their energy as they see appropriate. They have a range. And if they are using it in a particular way, it is because they are teaching, and not because they need to be corrected themselves, but because they see something in the human that they believe the human needs to find inner balance and peace with.

    It has been the learning of my life (and to be continued!) to see how powerful an empowered horse is, and to lift layer after layer of beliefs about myself, humanity, horses, nature, god, and spirituality of all levels, and relationship–beliefs I didn’t know I had, from my eyes. It’s been the most freeing thing I’ve ever done…so freeing that I chose the step I’m in now along in my hero’s journey, which is the most confining step I’ve ever taken willingly…up to now!

    I don’t say any of this to say I have it figured out; quite the contrary. I know how MUCH I don’t have it figured out, as I am beyond where I believe my learning edge is right now. I’m just grateful to be on this learning wave, that’s all I’m saying.

    And my poor mustangs…have worked with hundreds if not thousands of people from all over the world. They’ve lived all over as well, and met all kinds of people. They’ve had people hop on planes to fly across oceans, no matter the jet lag, to work with them before important board meetings. They’ve had people who have committed heinous crimes turn themselves in after being with these them. Why did these people turn themselves in or accept their fate for what they’ve done? Because they’ve been seen by a horse and were still treated by that horse with dignity. I don’t think these mustangs could have led better lives. And…the journey continues! One of these mustangs, Solaz, is the horse in the flyer for the Healing with Horse Symposium this April.

    I commend you, Jini, for sharing your step, and for opening it to others’ interpretations. You are allowing people something I’m not sure is all that useful to the subject of such video–and that is to let people see and interpret who were not physically there, in body, feeling and seeing and in a space and within the circle of agreed-to supporting of your journey that is cultivated in such a space. That is an incredibly courageous, trusting, and empowered move. And you have a lovely herd of humans, I know; I still think it’s very brave and generous.

    With love,
    Diedre

    Reply
    • February 6, 2017 at 12:30 am
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      Wow. Wow. And triple wow. This is an amazing, incredibly generous gift of a post Diedre. You have given me so much to think about here and your stories are about the things I’ve wondered about. Thank you, thank you for being such a blessing. And I will also take this opportunity to thank Linda Kohanov again for allowing me to shoot and post this video, so that we can all explore this topic and have these marvelous exchanges.

      On this I am in complete agreement:

      “I agree with Mary that the best way to keep this kind of horse, and I’d be comfortable calling them “dominant,” but other terms can be used if the word does not make you feel comfortable–is to focus together on a challenging project that honors their physical and mental capacity, and stretches it. They no longer have this in domestic herds–this level of challenge for which their systems thrive and in which their systems evolved. I respect Linda’s way of honoring this so that her horses are ready to do the work with clients that they are asked to do. I also believe the world/nature/oneness/god does not want those horses to be doing something else that we humans got in the way of.”

      Your last line there is also something I struggle with. Really? Would they really not rather just be free?? And then I watch the Cloud documentary and I see those poor mares, relentlessly pregnant, year after year, swaybacked and permanently swollen after age 4 and I think, yikes, that’s kind of a crap life. Domestication may have a positive angle to it after all.

      But your stories of the mustangs – yours and your encounters are just SO darn interesting to me!! I feel like you’ve just fast-tracked a whole piece for me… but yet I need to let it all sit for a while to grasp more of it, and more deeply.

      And the fencing bit – that they are suggestions. That is so freeing to me! I have been so stressed trying to maintain fences for my semi-feral bunch. Because the last time they got out, I was away in Mexico and the neighbour threatened to call the SPCA if they weren’t off her land in 1 hour. They went through a thick blackberry thicket and jumped a creek, so there was no way to bring them back the way they left. And it was going to be dark in less than an hour, and the only road they could be led home on was steep, and with blind spots and cars/trucks that blasted along it.

      So my friend who was taking care of them did the only thing possible in the situation: She went into meditative state as her husband drove out to my pasture and connected with Zorra and Montaro and told them, “You need to come home RIGHT NOW or I’m going to tell your mum and she’s going to be very upset!” She also communicated the problems with the road, what would happen if the SPCA took them away, etc. By the time she was halfway there, the person who lives in the house there texted her that Zorra was in the field, and by the time she arrived at my barn, the rest of the herd were back.

      When I asked Montaro why they took off, he told me, “But we didn’t know we weren’t supposed to go there.” I realized I hadn’t explained to them about fences, and other people’s property – this weird human thing called land ‘ownership’. Now that I’ve got another up-and-coming stallion in the herd, my anxieties have been rising again! Because I would like to leave him a stallion (get him a vasectomy instead of castration) if at all possible. So your experiences here are very helpful – thank you.

      I also realize that I’m not yet on the other side of this ‘dominance’ thing. Indigo brought it forward and the animal that is putting it in my face on a regular basis is not one of my herd, but our Maine Coon cat! Just yesterday he was attacking/chasing one of our other cats and I stepped in between them and said, “Alright Rupert, that’s enough.” And he bit my foot! Honest to god I would have drop-kicked him across the room if he hadn’t taken off fast enough. So yeah, I’m still being triggered and I still haven’t ‘got’ this one. 😉

      Now that you’ve written this, I’ll bet this is going to come up for me at your Symposium in April! Gah. Or maybe I should book some extra time with Linda’s boys afterwards to work specifically on this issue… Oh resistance, funny you should show up immediately 🙂

      Reply
  • February 6, 2017 at 4:50 am
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    I couldn’t resist to write a little line here to say thank you Deidre for sharing your experiences and insights. This kind of sharing takes a lot of courage (like you wrote to/about Jini’s courage in sharing such a personal experience). I wanted to express how much this means to me to be able to read and share with such humans (everyone here), this time you all took to write your views and stories is such a gift; reading these words mean the world to me, they keep me aligned with everything I feel my life mission is about. I love you guys so much! Thank you Jini for this blog!

    Love and light,
    Capucine

    Reply
  • February 6, 2017 at 8:11 am
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    OOoohh, cool!! To spend time with Linda’s herd! I mean…it’s both a gift, and a difficult gift! I get it! Ask me sometime about how Spirit and I got on. But I knew good and well that horse knew what he was bringing up to be healed. And…of course I didn’t want to work on that, because that was too hard! So…I worked on that. As with messages from spirit (and because they’re the same messages, just through the body of a physical being), you get what you need, not necessarily what you want!

    And fences, yes. I’ve often said I could write a book just on fences (and I know now you’ll probably make me, and…but that has to happen after the first 2 books I have in my head). Fences have been the bane of my existence with these guys until they FINALLY…well. I shouldn’t say that, even. Because I’m not sure they’re ever finally going to accept that fences delineate their boundaries. 4.5-foot fences don’t faze them. Anything higher…some begin to hesitate. So then, it becomes about the gates. Cimma once showed me how they saw the world. It’s actually in a video…here’s the link: https://youtu.be/pOyyzUN5fmI. But it’s about how the world is defined by who they love, who is kin, in an infinitely large world.

    But I have some HILARIOUS stories about fences, gates, doorways and windows…all breeched by my herd…even when they KNEW better! And it’s really kind of scary, till you get them in agreement, as you know. It’s scary when you get threats about the SPCA, or when you find what front yards they’ve walked through (that for weeks you’ve been sure these homeowners have been crazy and imagining things), and what busy road they were next to, or on, as they traveled to and from their midnight grazing in the field that had been leveled with a sign that says “Your Neighborhood Albertsons Grocery Store Coming Soon.” Or when you walk in to the kitchen to see your mare there, stealing all the fruit in the fruit bowl, or in the den, ready to watch TV. Now mares, you know, they don’t even try to back out of the situation when caught, as the geldings do…complete with shutting the door behind them, hoping you weren’t looking. Or when they pull the screen off your bedroom window so when they whinny into the room to wake you up, it canNOT be missed! Or when you finally decide to get up early enough to figure this whole poop-near-the-house thing in your mountain home where there is PLENTY of space in the land that is fenced for the horses, and in the dark you hear sudden scuffles and galloping for the barn. And as you take up the chase, you see your mustang quickly shutting the gate with the complicated, horse -and certainly human- proof latch and you yell, “HAH!!! Caught you RED HOOVED!” while he starts to spin to run around the back of the barn where the rest are hiding, then pauses to look at you with those bright eyes, trying to suddenly go all nonchalant. And so you can’t be so mad as you are amused and now laughing! Those and many more stories, as I’m sure you know, as these are not all mustang-specific behaviors. Though I can say that a man once said “If he gets out of THAT HE CAN HAVE MY JOB! And I told him, “Oh don’t say that. You’ll be job hunting by nightfall.” And it was by 4pm. The stories from that one facility, where I tried to keep the horses for 5 DAYS so I could go to a wedding…

    And the moment they realized that some man-made items were NOT designed for the pleasure and use of horses (led Denny to a bit of a depression he had to pull out of as he adjusted his world view). And the pride when Denny saw other horses in blankets at 3-day events, so I told him a horse could win those blankets, and so he did, but the smallest blanket they had came down to his KNEES–he’s only 14.2–but he was SO PROUD. And how kids would follow him around the shows till the announcer didn’t call for MUSTAAAANG Denny, as he used to (drawling it out), but “Bring on the pied piper!”

    Camping, my Arabian gelding and soul mate would escape from temporary fencing, electric fencing, ties to high lines, and tied to the trailer. And what did Legend do once loose? He came to graze by me, wherever I was sleeping, with or without a tent (if no rain was forecast, in the backcountry where there is no need for privacy, I rarely use a tent). I have awoken to his munching by my ear many a time.

    And why did the horses leave their L-shaped 11 acres in house #1 in Colorado that wrapped around the house? To be closer still to the house (and I think this was about protection, actually, as deer–especially does with fawns–did it too. You’d have to be careful about the lower level sliding door, as often there was a fawn laying against it). And when my young stallion accidentally slipped and skidded into the arena fence at Colorado house #2 and slid right through it onto the other side, as he got up and realized he was FREE!…he ran down and across the meadowed valley where he’d seen the mares on the other side whose whinnies echoed across the valley…then, realizing what he’d done, he continued his gallop into a boomerang loop, galloped back around the fencing of his own pastures, past me as I was running down to the valley floor, back up the steep rise to the arena, jumped the shattered boards on the ground, and stood right where I’d said Whoa. By the time I got to him, he was still wide-eyed with his own crazy-ness, and full of apologies. Whew. Yes. Keeping a stallion is tricky.

    Oh, having a mustang, or 3 1/2 (try telling Cimma NO when she found an Arabian stallion she thought was sexy)–and TRUST me, this means that before long you have a herd of wild ones, as they create the culture of the herd–no matter WHAT you do with them, will change your life, fill it with delight and humor, and WORRY the crap out of you till you learn to be a true zen master.

    I’m a slow learner on that last one, but I’m WAY better than I once was, or else I’d never be able to do what I’m doing now, which is having them over an hour away, with just a pond and pasture grass, in a place where from dusk to dawn coyotes stay close to the herd to avoid the nighttime fun of the men on four wheelers who shoot randomly into the pastures…ack!! Having the herd an hour away…it’s taken the color right out of the sky till I learned to put it back. Still learning, as this mountain girl sits in a room in suburban Dallas, Texas, and know the color in the world begins 65 miles northeast of here. And avoids her work by writing notes to Jini!

    Okay. Thanks for the diversion! Love to you and for your generosity, Jini!

    Reply
    • February 6, 2017 at 6:45 pm
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      Okay, now I don’t just feel inordinately blessed by the LACK of shenanigans I’ve experienced, but you’ve introduced me to so many escape possibilities I didn’t even know existed!

      I remember watching a video once where these yahoos were chasing/following (!) a moose on a ski-doo and then all of a sudden the moose decides he’s had enough and circles back around and attacks the front guy on the snowmobile. It was most excellent. Although I did feel a bit sorry for them.

      Speaking of fencing, did you ever use Elasti-fence? Produced by Bayco, also called FinishLine Fence. Or know anyone who uses it? I’m most intrigued by it…

      And if so, how many strands would you use? Do you think 5 strands would be enough – with a top rail? Similar to the photo, but with the top rail all the way along… do you think that might be enough of a suggestion to contain a 17 hh stallion – who is free to mate with his herd mares. And there are no other mares on the other side of the fence, or within sight? What’s your hunch?

      Also found this short but interesting discussion of this type of fence:

      http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-293653.html

      I had 2 large dead trees fall against the fenceline at the back – had to saw them in half to get them off. And one of them took down the fenceline (barb wire). So I’m wondering if this would be a good solution for those wooded areas (without the top rail in those areas – maybe 6 lines instead).

      More pics here and also some other options if you like one of these better:
      http://www.listentoyourhorse.com/fencing-pros-and-cons-the-best-horse-fencing/

      You are now officially my Fencing Oracle!

      Reply
    • February 6, 2017 at 6:48 pm
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      JEEZ you made me giggle here, Diedre, (at the expense of your poor, stressed self). My doofuses are friggin saints in comparison! Technically we live in open range, but I don’t really want to explain that technicality to the neighbours when the horses tromp through their well-tended yards…

      Reply
  • March 24, 2017 at 9:38 am
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    For some reason I wasn’t notified that this extensive video was published. I found it accidentally on You Tube when I was looking up something else.

    Fascinating discussion. I appreciate everyone’s comments of exploration and Jini’s wish to share her experience and how it affected her. Indigo Moon is a complex horse, and I love him very much. When I turn all the horses loose to run the property, he will come and seek me out more often than all the others, and he often accepts my invitation to take a walk with him away from the rest of the herd off lead. I think it is because I love him for who he is as a unique being, and I sense a potential in him that the equestrian world really hasn’t explored before.

    I see Indi’s combination of high sensitivity and naturally dominant behavior as holding gifts that we humans are just beginning to discover, gifts that do not easily fit into the ways that horses are often required to act around humans who feel uncomfortable, sometimes rightly so, around four-legged creatures who may challenge them. I was initiated into the combination of power, compassion and mindfulness needed to work with such a horse by his father Midnight Merlin, as I’ve written about in many of my books. Because I can set boundaries with Indi, and deal with some of his antics without feeling the least bit angry or frustrated, Indi can be himself around me. He knows that I do not feel threatened or offended by his challenges, even though I also encourage him to develop more self control, and learn to channel his tremendous energy and vitality in more productive ways.

    While I didn’t touch on this in the session videoed above, Indigo has shown himself to be capable of some amazing feats of energetic communication, which some clients have witnessed, and some staff members have experienced. I hope someday to be able to write about this aspect more clearly, but as in all previous books, it takes a very long time for me to translate nonverbal experiences into words. But I can say that I have seen some patterns that make me think that the ability to project energy outward is one of the currently untapped gifts behind the high sensitivity/naturally dominant combination that remains grossly undeveloped in these horses, mostly because humans squelch it through interpreting it as misbehavior or disrespect in its undeveloped stages. I don’t feel that Indigo “needs healing.” I feel that like a great artist or athlete, he needs the time and space to develop his talent without being seen as defective because he doesn’t fit into normal patterns of interest or behavior.

    I could explain more about this in an audio interview if you like Jini. At some point I may make a video about this, but again this will take time, planning, editing, etc.

    Reply
    • March 26, 2017 at 9:26 pm
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      Hi Linda – weird that you didn’t see this one as I’m pretty sure you’re on our subscriber list… maybe things are going to your junk mail? And yes, it sure stirred up some great conversation here and got everyone thinking.

      Interestingly, I’ve since been engaging frequently with our new Maine Coon cat – who came to us with the same type of ‘dominant’ behaviour. It’s been very cool/challenging/interesting to work with him and feel my way around this phenomena – but from an entirely different perspective. And from one who does more damage than I’ve received from any horse! He is lightening fast and will attack with both teeth and claws. Well, I could write an entire blog post about what I’m learning from him and the extreme fine-tuning of his sensitivity and yeah, I’m right with you on this:

      “I have seen some patterns that make me think that the ability to project energy outward is one of the currently untapped gifts behind the high sensitivity/naturally dominant combination that remains grossly undeveloped in these horses…”

      Thank you for giving us your perspective and insights into Indi – as I said repeatedly above, he is your horse and you know him better than anyone, so your story has to be the dominant one (no pun intended). I also cannot get over my feeling that if you put him on 50-100 acres for a year, you would see a different horse in many aspects.

      Not that he isn’t doing amazing things in his current life – I heard from a couple of the workshop participants (who’d worked with your horses for a while) who told stories of how Indi had taught them, or impacted them. I think all of us horse listeners are aligned in our aim to facilitate each horse’s truest, authentic self – as much as we are able. And as they are all so different and so nuanced, we’ll probably be learning cool stuff till the day we die.

      The piece that has stuck with me since this day (in the video) is when you talked about how people who behave in this dominant manner are often misunderstood and rejected by others. So the challenge is not to say, ‘Well, I don’t like that behaviour, so I’m not going to deal with you.’ But to learn how to engage without requiring the person to change. Which I guess comes back to the topic of emotional heroism in your newest book – REALLY enjoyed your talk about that concept in the Healing with Horse Telesummit, by the way.

      I think my other take-away is that the enclosed round pen doesn’t work for ME personally. It is not an authentic space for me, so that skews things right from the get-go. If the door was left open, to a much larger area – or if we started in a much larger area, then the horse invited me into the round pen and closed the door – that would be authentic for me.

      I’m game to do a call if the people on this thread still have ideas or questions they want to explore.

      SO: if y’all could post any questions, ideas, etc. and we get enough interest, then Linda and I will set up a call – let us know what you’re thinking and what you want…

      Reply
  • March 27, 2017 at 11:14 pm
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    I would just love to hear you and Linda flesh this topic out further. I hesitate to even ask a question because I do not want to limit the tip of this iceberg you are on.

    If I had to ask a question, it would be: was the point of the exercise to by-pass the natural horse instinct of establishing a pecking order and instead encourage the horse to consider a 50/50 between horse and human? I’m not sure I’m understanding that (and I may be misunderstanding) because from my understanding, in a horse’s world, knowing where they are in the pecking order and what their responsibility is creates security, order, and safety when they run for their lives in a herd in an emergency situation.

    If that’s the case, then if I want to understand a horse from its point of view, I can adopt and learn their way, which is a pecking order (initially). Or, I offer to the horse a very nice human construct of 50/50 that has nothing to do with a pecking order, and in this case I’m asking the horse to become more human.

    I may have completely missed the boat. Please feel free to enlighten me.

    Reply
  • March 30, 2017 at 5:56 pm
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    So further to this conversation – because of course the horses know when we are in process/discussion about something – here’s what happened today.

    Jax (my 3-yr-old Belgian/Arabian) was being very aggressive (dominant!) with my new barn help and me – physically walking into us, biting at us. He did not respond at all to any energetic asking or boundary setting. And using a stick (I grabbed one lying nearby) to swish in front of him to create a boundary just made him worse.

    So I dropped the stick, got her to go behind the fence and then stood still and connected with him. The three of us were alone in the paddock as the others were all eating hay in the barn areas. He mostly just needed to be heard – he was angry that the others push him around all the time (he’s lowest in the ‘pecking order’), so then that made him want to push us around. To see what it was like to be on the other end of the dynamic and also to vent his frustration/fed-up-ness.

    Plus he wants me to start working with him on more challenging things – I got an image of a rope around his neck. He wants me to start asking him to do stuff – to challenge him a bit. I said okay – and how apt that my new weekend help was there because I can work with him while she does the chores. As soon as he communicated these two things, big yawn, hind cocked and into meditation he went.

    And no more aggressive behaviour over the next 2 hours we were there.

    Reply
  • March 30, 2017 at 9:02 pm
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    Great story, Jini. It just goes to show that there can be a variety of reasons why a horse acts a particular way in a particular moment and figuring out what they’re trying to say in that moment is key. I like how you tried one technic, and when that didn’t seem to help, you tried something different. You kept trying something new until the horse gave you the body language that he knew you heard and understood him. Way to go.

    Reply
    • March 31, 2017 at 11:38 am
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      Yes, this exchange was especially interesting as Jax asked to be completely left alone for 6 months after I got him. Which I did, but noticed him watching everything I did with the others like a hawk. Then he initiated the halter training – which I did in this same way:

      http://www.listentoyourhorse.com/teach-your-horse-to-lead-using-hand-voice-signals/

      And then he’s said no to any engagement (other than grooming) I’ve offered since then. So I’ve been aware that he’s a super sensitive, intelligent horse and it’s really important to let him drive things, or I risk offending him and causing him to shut down or retreat.

      In the few weeks prior to this, he’s also been asking to me to be WAY more subtle in asking him to move – for example, I’m coming with the wheelbarrow and need him to move over so I can get it up the ramp. So my normal way of clucking, or maybe waggling my fingers is offensive to him! He’s been asking me to get softer and softer; showing me that he is listening and he does understand the tiniest ask or signal. And also that I need to be more patient – he doesn’t always want to move the second I ask. 🙂

      It goes both ways too though. Because the other day I brushed against him with my wet coat and he swung his head round and mimed biting at me. I said, ‘Excuse me, I’m not a moron and you don’t need to be so aggressive with me – because I AM listening to you.’ So I mimed with my head/neck how I would prefer him to communicate with me – just a little jutting out of the jaw to the side is fine, thank you very much. And I said, ‘Let’s try again. So that you can see I am listening to and noticing you just fine’

      So I slowly backed into him with my wet coat again and this time he signaled me the way I’d asked for. Oh sweetheart! Then we shared a delighted heart meld and scratch. I’m going to learn a lot from this lad, for sure!

      Reply
  • March 31, 2017 at 8:01 am
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    Having an issue with uploading a pic and a comment at the same time…says my files are to big but I saved my images in the smallest format?

    Anyway Never did put a pic of me and dreamer during training ….but since the discussion is ongoing here it is.LOOK AT THAT EXPRESSION… Also would love to hear a podcast with you talking about this subject…count me as interested.
    ✌🏼️❤️🐴

    Reply
  • March 31, 2017 at 11:04 am
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    Ok, this one is 480×620 pixels and 426 KB in size. Let’s see what happens… I’ll get my programmer to check into this and will let you know – thanks!

    Reply
    • May 8, 2017 at 5:47 am
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      i am a student with ADHD, depression, ect. i used to do equine therapy like this myself and by watching the video it seems that the horse was picking up to much negative energy from the girl in the video. i was taught in cases like this that when the horse turns away then it no longer wishes to communicate with that person. at that point my instructor would have me leave the ring and meditate so i could find my inner peace again. after that we would re-enter the round pen and try again. i worked with a very dominant Spanish horse most of the time i spent in therapy. Cinco (the horse) would pick up on my newly found peaceful energy and, more often than not , return to the lesson. on those days that Cinco did not wish to return to the lesson we would try to get him to continue for about five minutes if he continued to resist we would stop. i was taught that trying to get him to continue after too long would just upset him. and weather you want to admit it or not, after so long you start to become upset and irritated and the horse will pick up on that negative energy. again, i was only a student not an instructor. i may be wrong but this is what i observe

      Reply

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