Dancing with Norman
Every time I teach I can’t help but think “I get to meet the most wonderful people and the most amazing horses”. Each horse brings such gems to each session that they teach us all. Norman is no exception.
I first met Norman (and Chris, his person) in Feb 10. Chris had been watching his partner and her horse work through some clicker training and thought it was a great way to communicate with horses, however, he was not in to dressage or showing or anything like that. Chris and Norman just wanted to chat and have lots of fun.
It sounds easy when you are told…
“we just want to have fun”.
I’m so used to people looking for better balance and improved softness etc that we work through the foundation lessons that I know so well…but those seemed like dressage to Chris. Now I really had to think outside the box.
The horses all think the foundation lessons are great fun….I’m sure we all know of a horse who is just ‘in love’ with their mat and strive to get that feel of balance on a circle in three-flip-three. But I needed to convince Chris, not Norman, that these games are in fact great fun. I couldn’t just sneak the foundations in there without getting Chris’ buy in to this. He set the bar high !!
Norman came out to play and it was so clear that he thought the world of Chris, but they were struggling to communicate. Norman was stuck trying to understand what Chris was asking and Chris was stuck trying to understand why Norman was stuck. At the time the instruction I left Chris with seemed like such a simple tool, almost too simple a tool, but when I saw them again in July I realised I had left them with the keys to their communication kingdom.
That training tool was quite simply…
‘if you like what you see, click it’.
Now jump to July 10 when I got to see Norman and Chris again. They quite simply knocked my socks off. I was stuck for words ! Their relationship had blossomed, Norman and Chris were chattering away like little school kids.
It must have taken about 5 mins to walk the 15 yards from Normans stall to the school because Chris and Norman went on a little adventure on route. It was just so hilarious to watch them. Norman would tell Chris that there was something they just had to go and see and Chris would go along with Normans plan. Then Chris would say to Norman that it was time to move on, Norman would oblige….and so the conversation went all the way to the school. I was just in awe of how Chris had turned this once ‘stuck’ relationship in to something that was just bubbling with conversation and fun.
Then just last week I got to see Norman and Chris again. And what I saw was just not what I expected…their relationship was even better ! Chris had taught Norman about mat work (I managed to sneak a foundation lesson in there :-)) and was also teaching him colours. Norman came out from his stable and this time, rather than the adventure on route, went straight to the school to play ! Wow, Norman wanted to get right to it. He got on his mat and Chris got his coloured discs out and they showed me their colours game. So much fun.
There was something else in this relationship that just stood out to me….Norman and Chris danced together. No matter where they went in the arena, they seemed to dance. It was the nicest thing to watch. At one point Chris slipped Normans halter off and I didn’t even notice, nothing changed, the dance just continued without missing a step ! It was breathtaking.
If this is what clicker training brings to our relationships with horses then who would say no !?
Then, in my humble opinion, something really special happened. As Chris went off to re-stock on his treats, Norman asked me dance. Chris is also a wonderful photographer and he quickly grabbed his camera and caught some lovely moments with Norman and I dancing.
I hope you enjoyed my dance with Norman 🙂