Trying to fall asleep last night at an earlier hour than usual because I knew the time change would be taking its toll on Monday morning, thoughts and conversations from the weekend coalesced into something thematic:
Take the leap, spring ahead, trust in what you don’t know.
Before turning off my light, I had just read the first few chapters of Relaxed and Forward, a collection of horse training essays written my friend Anna Blake. We share the idea that training is about relationship, and that's why her training book is less how-to and more meditation. We had dinner together Friday night and discussed the life-changing magic of the long-line and flying disc for Ruby. Earlier in the month I wrote about using the long-line for recall training but we’ve been doing much more goofing off than training. The interesting thing is…goofing off is working wonders.
Anna always leaves me with words of wisdom that ring in my head, much like the prose that sings from her books. Friday night was no different – she said something about acceptance being one thing, but no animal or person being immutable. We are who we are, until we’re someone else, and hanging on to old ideas limits that possibility. My old horse, Coro, has proven this in several ways since he first came to live with me. I fretted about his spookiness and wondered how he’d possibly survive move after move in a horse trailer between barns. He’s been moved five times in as many years, handling each trip like a pro. I agonized about separating him from his lifetime companion; he’s food-aggressive, a bit of grump, tends to think he might still be a stallion. These days he spends his days babysitting a weanling and a yearling in a large pasture who follow him around like groupies. Anyone can change.
I’ve written a lot about Ruby’s reactivity and how my acceptance of it as part of who she is was one of the best things I did for our relationship. I never thought a 50 foot length of coated nylon and a 7 inch round of hot pink and lime green nylon would combine to significantly alter our lives, but in the past few days, I’ve seen improvements that no amount of distance, redirection or treats could produce. After she had already played until her tongue was hanging out, snatching the disc out of the air, looking around for approval and returning it to me proudly, we saw no less than six dogs in succession across the street and across the lawn and I was able to redirect her with the Frisbee. The next day, Ruby was engaging with me and making lots of eye contact on our walk even though she wasn’t on the long line and I didn’t have the flying disc. I think she finally thinks I’m cool. I can't describe how wonderful it is to see my little frantic dog gaining confidence by doing something she is good at and enjoys. Who knows what we might now accomplish with our new tools, our extra hour of light.