When I went in to see the horses today, I was expecting a phone call which might call me away; so I didn't want to take George out to graze, only to have to return him a few minutes later.
He badgered me about going out, tugging on my jacket, and nudging me. It was a bit aggressive. So I said, "I don't really want to be with you when you're like this." He walked off in a bit of a huff. Bridget came over, and George shooed her away.
She soon returned, and we played together. She got the hang of pulling my jacket zipper up and down with great gusto.
Eventually, George came over, and Bridget left. George planted himself beside me, somewhat grumpily, as if to say, "Well, ok, I'm still your friend, but I'm not in a good mood." We stood; I scratched him a bit. Finally, he pawed the ground and snatched with his teeth at the paltry bits of grass still growing: "Do you expect me to eat this???"
It was clear and communicative, and reasonably polite, so off I went to get the halter and rope. We got some grazing in before the expected phone call.
In the late afternoon, after I'd fed them dinner, I went back and took George out. Every so often, I asked him to stop and be still for a moment before resuming his eating. At one point, he reached out in frustration and nipped at me. Without thinking I whacked his nose, and was surprised at how almost instantaneously calm returned to me. George was not offended.
I felt a certain clarity about what I was trying to do. During one grazing pause, George pawed the ground. I said, "I know what you want, and you're going to get it, but I want something too, and it's something I want from you." I want him to be able to let go of whatever it is that's bothering him - in this case the desire to eat, which is a great anxiety producer for George. He is very afraid of being denied access to food. I wonder if perhaps he was weaned too early or had to fight for his share of food as a youngster.
George himself has shown me a place of peace and calm. And now I, in turn, need him to trust me and come to that place when I ask him. For another horse, asking them to do things might work better to distract them from their worry and help them center themselves. But with George, I feel we need to turn down the volume on all fronts and bring ourselves back to stillness before moving forward. It's too easy to lose the connection; busyness pulls it apart, whereas quietness re-establishes it.
It was cold, and the mares were careening around the field in response to some obscure commotion on the distant slope of the mountain, and George was distracted. But I felt he was beginning to be more accepting of what I was asking. With George, it's generally three steps forward, two steps back--so I'm not looking for straightforward linear progress. But, with his help, I feel I've identified a way to work together. I don't think he fully understood the real import of what we were working on, but I think he could feel it a little bit.
He wasn't in a great mood today, but we managed to have a conversation nonetheless.