Anyone who knows Aspen and I knows we have a pretty good relationship. She nearly always has a positive look on her face when she's with me, she always catches me in the pasture, we have a really connected Liberty in public and in open areas, her draw is amazing. She trusts me and finds comfort with me when things are stressful... usually.
I took her out for some undemanding time to the back pasture so she could graze being that she's been in a dry lot for the last week and a half while we worked on fencing. She ponied off the back of the truck like a champ down to the field, was calm and left brain, connected, sticking right with me and my focus even from 45' away on her line. I was sitting in the grass when all of a sudden she picked her head up in the classic right brain way, stepped over her line so it was running between both sets of legs, and then took off. I had gloves on so I put a feel on the rope letting it slide through my hands trying to get her to slow down and come back to me. I tried saying whoa, I tried disengaging - she was doing a few erratic laps around me while pulling away and finally just took off at a dead gallop. I had to let go of the rope. She ran like only a high powered, well fed, well bred, right brain, 16.1h Thoroughbred can do, dragging 45' of live snake behind her. I don't know how she didn't break her legs when she ran into the giant pasture drag or into the barb wire fence. She found her way back to the gate we had come through and was pacing and pawing and kicking out at her rope. As I got closer to her I started calmly talking to her so as not to surprise her and try to get her to look over at me. As soon as she did I could see her eyes soften, the right brain moment had passed, she was now looking for comfort in me. She walked up to me and put her head down, allowing me to lead her back to where she had left me from. We didn't have another incident for the rest of the day, she was back to my trusty steed that I have come to know and love as my "left brain" RBE.
At first I was surprised and a little hurt that our solid foundation and relationship was gone in a blink of an eye and she ran from me in an effort to save her life, from what I still don't know. I was disheartened and feeling like I wasn't enough of a leader for her. But as I sat there thinking about this I realized it was the complete opposite of that. She's a prey animal, not only that but she's innately a hot prey animal. It is normal and natural for her to have that reaction to something that she perceives as a threat to her life. It has nothing to do with me in that moment. What matters is that even though she left me in a most right brain manner once I approached her she had the desire to be with me, acknowledging me again as a source of comfort. She chose to come to me and come with me, back to the scary spot and trust in my judgment. It is in this that I see the strength and quality of our relationship, the best we can do given the fact that we are like oil and water - prey and predator. In this unnatural arrangement she participates in the cultivation of something completely unique and special - a bond between something that kills and something that gets eaten.
Through the Parelli program we do our best to teach our horses to be partners, problem solvers, and thinkers. We teach them to respond rather than react. We hope that they like us, love us even, wanting to be with us out of true desire - not because it's easier than being chased around as the alternative. We hope that our draw is real, not that it's an escape from work. It is through the countless hours we spend with our horses and even more hours away from them thinking about how to improve ourselves for them that we build this trust and rapport that is so special. The relationship is everything and our horses will show us the truth every time we're with them.
On a similar note of relationship, I went out to the pasture to check on the horses yesterday because I could see them agitated at the fence. When I rounded the corner Aspen was flat out on her side making weird kicking motions and looking very stressed. At first I thought she was colicky but when I said her name she jumped up and started trotting down the hill towards me (which is what this clip is). As she got closer it looked like her skin was moving - like a mother spider with babies on her back. You can hear Tristan (my 4 year old) say "Whoa" when she gets in close because of the sheer number of biting flies all over her! Poor girl was covered in blood and the flies were at her so bad they had embedded their heads into her open wounds to eat. I had to pull some of them off of her when they usually just wipe away. She followed me across two pastures at liberty and was totally hooked on me, she knew I was helping her and couldn't get enough of me swatting the flies and pulling them off. I have never had her look at me with such need, knowing I could provide the relief she sought. I got the blood wiped off of her, sprayed her down with fly spray and massaged her for a bit until she relaxed enough to finally start eating and drinking again. Poor girl - but her response to me was a really cool, real life example of having a good relationship with your horse - through her discomfort and stress she knew that I was the answer and was a partner through it all. Love me a Parelli horse!