JOY FULL Horses: Ten Things You Should Know About Cues: Number 9.) You Can’t Not Cue: Part 11 of 12
The previous section began my description of a series of Play sessions I had with an ear-shy horse named Poco. Step One was teaching Poco to target his nose to my hand. After two sessions, I could cradle his nose in my hands. I could lean into his space, something that would previously have worried him. And because I could lean in, I could steal a kiss.
Press my forehead against his. Click. Treat. Celebrate!
Training is all about moving on. With Poco I moved on by adding yet another dimension to the body part targeting. I stood in front of him and asked him to place his nose into my hands.
I drew my hands forward, inviting him to follow me with a give through his poll. He wasn’t sure what was wanted. He lifted his nose out of my hands. Again, I invited him into my hands. I could feel the tension in his poll, the habitual holding.
My hands offered him a suggestion, an invitation. He found the answer. I could feel the release as he let go of the tension. He lengthened into my waiting hands. Click and treat.
What Could You Find? What Could You Release?
Years ago I had a client who was an Alexander practitioner. She had also studied Feledenkrais work and a number of other, related types of body work. We did trades. I worked on her horse and his balance issues, and she worked on mine.
Marge never gave you answers. Instead she presented you with questions. “What could you find, what could you release to let go of the tension?”
I remember one day she was moving my arm through a series of rotations, exploring the range and ease of motion that was available to me. I let her circle my arm. It was an oddly pleasing sensation. I could just let go of all expectations and let her take my arm through a series of rotations.
Abruptly she released my arm, but instead of dropping down to my side, it remained suspended in mid air.
I remember looking at it. How odd. Gravity should have taken care of that.
I remember Marge chanting: “What could you find, what could you release that would allow your arm to just drop down?”
I had no idea since I had no idea why my arm was still up in the air.
Posing the Questions
Marge didn’t solve the puzzle for me. She posed the question. I had to find my own answers.
This was what I was doing for Poco. I was presenting him with a puzzle. Through my hands I was asking the same questions Marge had all those years ago: “What could you find, what could you release that would let you follow the invitation of my hands?”
Adding the Click
The click turned over responsibility for the process to Poco. I was not simply a body worker doing something TO him. Poco and I were involved in a conversation. I was asking questions, but I didn’t have the answers. Poco had to provide those.
I felt the answers through my hands, and I acknowledged them with a click and a treat.
I’ve done body work without the added dimension that clicker training brings. I know how profoundly it can change horses. Adding in the clicker gives you more.
“When I was young I did the best I could. But when I knew better, I did better.”
adapted from the poet, Maya Angelou
Doing better means I want the conversation. I’ve experienced the difference, and I know I want the horse actively involved in finding his own answers. This in no way negates the value of what I had learned all those years ago through Linda Tellington-Jones. Nor does it devalue what others are doing with their own listening hands. I don’t know what magic exists in the hands of a skilled body worker. But for me the magic comes through the science of clicker training.
Coming Next: Tactile Communication
Remember, if you are new to the JOY Full Horse blog, click on the JOY Full Horses tab at the top of this page to find the full table of contents and links to each of the articles I have published so far.
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Also note: these articles are not intended as an instruction guide for introducing your horse to clicker training. If you are new to clicker training and you are looking for how-to instructions, you will find what you need at my web sites: