Day 8: much better

I had four training sessions with Lulu today: two in the morning and two in the afternoon. The first session this morning had a major breakthrough: she started to eat hay from my hand, which is a big deal for this very shut down and frightened horse. But I feel like I’m building a connection with her that I wasn’t able to find with Mirror, what with the biting and bossiness and all. Lulu’s energy is so completely different, and it has been really nice for me to be in the quiet and calm space that she occupies, moving at her gentle, slow pace. So much better.

So where I’m working with Lulu right now in a nutshell: the follow (with an extendable bouy target stretched quite long) in both directions seems to be her favoured B (less challenging) behaviour. However, she also sometimes chooses to target the cone, allowing us to use it as the start button for other more challenging behaviours: targeting the bouy (shortest length) with her nose and now targeting my fist with her nose quite consistently as well. I introduced a new variation: low target to the bouy (longer extension), but it proved quite challenging for her so I didn’t push it much today.

The hand feeding is the really exciting thing for me. I tried it on a whim, not sure at all if she would go for it but she surprised me. After just three approximations (stepping towards the hay in my hand), she took a bite, and then another, and then she was consistently taking hay from my hand with a handful thrown into the feed pan in between each single hand feeding to allow her a bit of space to eat comfortably while I waited, a bit closer to the feed pan every time (but in a crouched position facing away from her). I was surprised and amazed how comfortable she seemed with the whole thing, and once she even finished the hay from my open palm and touched my hand in the process, which made her jump back terrified. After reaching that threshold, I dialled it down considerably because pushing too far at this point isn’t useful.

We only have two more days left (!!) and then the retreat is over, but even if we don’t get much further than we did today, I’d be totally happy with it. I really like working with Lulu — even though she’s way further back in the gentling process than Mirror, the little breakthroughs with her are really exciting. I’m happy to report as well that Mirror seems to be doing way better with her new trainer, so that is cool to see. I guess horses are like people: sometimes you run across someone that just doesn’t mesh with you, and that’s okay. We don’t need to love everyone all of the time. I can appreciate Mirror and reflect on what she taught me, and accept that I’m just not the person for her right now. I’m really grateful that she has someone working with her now who appreciates what she has to offer and is able to take her where I wasn’t.

I’m sad that the retreat is coming to an end so soon, but I’m also really starting to feel ready to get back home to my loves. It feels like it’s been so much longer than two weeks that I’ve been away, and I’m missing them hard now. Nothing like a bit of time away to really appreciate what you’ve got waiting for you back at home. ❤

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