During a recent trip to Huddersfield I was reminded of an EAGALA event that took place at Derby Equestrian College where attendees had a snip of advanced training and the use of metaphors during an Equine Assisted Learning exercise. The trip was long and tedious. It was fraught with upsets and I hoped that the workshop scheduled for the following day would go smoothly. I had some idea of what was planned but nothing had really been set in stone.
Staying overnight in a beautiful stone cottage surrounded by rolling hills, fields and horses was EAH-equine assisted heaven or for me a haven. Looking out of the bedroom window I saw a large horse nibbling the fence. When the horse saw my face at the window it stopped momentarily then carried on gnawing. An equine specialist seeing a horse crib biting would automatically think of boredom or stress. Through EAGALA’s eyes what did I see? Frustration – the horse was frantically biting and gnawing, teeth on wood. It stopped again and looked to the left where a smaller brown pony, eating the grass, had turned away from the larger one. It didn’t seem interested in the large one, oblivious to its presence. The large horse returned to the eating the fence. A few moments passed then it made its way over to the brown pony. Unhappy with its presence the brown pony swished its tail and lifted a hind leg as if to warn the horse away. It lifted its head and turned to look at the horse. With ears pinned back the warning was clear -‘stay away-I don’t want you in my space’. The large horse stood and waited, then walked a few paces behind as the little brown pony walked away still swishing its tail. I wondered what the large horse had done to deserve being ousted by the little brown pony. Why was the little brown pony being so aggressive and mean? What had the large horse done to be treated with such contempt?
I continued to watch as the two wandered over to a nearby gate. The large horse walked alongside the small brown pony its tail still swishing and ears still pinned back. They turned their heads together nose to nose. There was no malice or squealing. There was no fighting but an acceptance of each other, a tolerance perhaps. It was as if the little brown pony was saying ‘I will share my space but on my terms only’ and other horse accepted that.
As nature called it was time for a trip to the bathroom. Another window looked out into a field with more horses. I was starting to enjoy this trip after all.
Two large cobby type horses stood in the shade of a tree enjoying the early morning sunshine at their fore legs and hooves, two miniature ponies were lying down, their legs and hooves tucked underneath them. I wondered how something so big could be trusted not to tread on something so small and not just one horse or pony but two of each of equal size. How did the miniatures communicate that they wanted to share the same shady spot? How did they make the large cobs aware of the spot they wished to lie in? I was witnessing the huge amount of mutual respect that had been established among this little herd.
I started to look forward to the day ahead. I would be meeting a wide variety of attendees, some therapists and some horsey people. What a coincidence that the agenda for the day was based on communication and trust. I had not seen the agenda but had already been pre-informed, not by my co facilitator but by the horses.
Thank Calypso, Cameo, Bobbie and the little mini.