Romeo paints No. 19

Original art painted by a horse.

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The Diary of DaVinci
© 2006-2007 by Cheryl Ward

Installment 6: The Secret and the Horse
Apr 20, 2007

Watch the video for Installment 6

In the first installment I wrote about Neuro-linguistic-programming and re-foaling for DaVinci. My chief aim was to help him write a new script for his frightening life. An outstretched arm with an open palm used to mean he was about to get slapped. Instinctively he'd cower and run. Today I'm thrilled to report that he now welcomes that gesture with a friendly nicker and relaxed, half-lid eyes. And now I think I have a clearer picture of what's actually happening.

The Law of Attraction
I just read the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. It's currently a best seller in book and DVD formats about deliberately creating the life you want through your thoughts and feelings. I've been reading about deliberate creation for several years now. What's unique about this book is that it's a compilation of 55 of the greatest teachers on this subject. Their aim is to unveil "the secret" of the universe that has been understood by some of the most prominent people in history, from Plato to Galileo to Einstein. That secret is the law of attraction.

If you're not familiar with this universal law, it's that your beliefs create your reality. The things you focus on and give attention to manifest in your life, whether you want them to or not. We are constantly in a state of creation by our thoughts and the feelings attached to those thoughts. Deliberate creation aims to help you to intentionally create the life you want and not create things you don't want. When you say "I don't want this or that," you're creating more of this or that, the very things you don't want. The challenge is to focus on what you do want.

So often we want something, but feel we don't deserve it out of guilt or unworthiness or some other belief that stands in our way. The feeling of "not deserving" is resistance and prevents what we want from happening. Rather than moving towards what we want through an open door of allowing, that feeling of guilt or unworthiness closes the door. The feeling of excitement, love and anticipation is the power that opens the door and brings you what you want.

What Do You Want?
As I read the book I kept hearing the phrase that defines Positive Reinforcement Training which says to the animal, "Move towards what you want, rather than away from what you don't want." To move toward want you want is positive, progressive and allowing, in the same way DaVinci targets his way into the trailer.

A crop to the hindquarters of a horse causes it to move away from something it doesn't want so it can get relief from something it finds unpleasant. Do I want to work with a horse where it's behaving out of avoidance? Wouldn't it be much more wonderful to have it willingly want to do as I ask, because it's what we both want?

So what does this look like? Deliberate creation is all about thoughts and feelings, often difficult to illustrate. But I think I have a clear example with DaVinci's big adventure as he walks around the neighborhood for the first time.

A Walk around the Block
I know he thinks the mailbox has a mouth that wants to devour him. He starts to breathe heavily and get a little trembly. I'm just about to bring him back to his pasture when he sees his ball. He picks it up and gives it a vigorous shake. After he shakes his ball a few times he lets out a deep breath and looks down the road. Now he feels confident enough to leave his yard. I, of course, am thrilled.

Change the Thought, Change the Outcome
My initial interpretation is that his nervous energy needs a place to go. Once he shakes the ball a few times, he releases his nervousness and moves on. After reading The Secret I realize the thing that changes are his thoughts. First, DaVinci's thoughts focus on things that can eat him. The mailbox can't really eat him, but his thoughts about it must feel extremely real to him; real enough for me to see his nervousness and want to take him back to his pasture. His ball represents fun, play, treats and mastery. When he sees his ball, suddenly his thoughts change. Just as suddenly, his behavior changes.

The fascinating part is that the ball makes him feel happy and the mailbox fills him with fear. I was thrilled that he leaned towards playing with the ball rather than focusing on the mailbox. It's my hope that the feelings from the ball were good and comforting and if, in the future, he thinks he's in a scary situation, he'll reach for a better feeling thought.

DaVinci's Big Adventure
In the video of DaVinci's first official walk around the neighborhood, you can see what happens when he encounters trash cans, mail boxes and barking dogs (watch the video for Installment 6). I have his ball and his sponge whip, two of his favorite things. I'm a bit concerned with working with him with a halter and lead rope since he's usually at liberty. I think we both rely heavily on his ability to run away if something scares him. My main concern is to make sure he has plenty of rope in between us with generous slack. This way if he has to run, he can at least bolt a few strides and I get to keep my shoulder in its socket.

Instead of pressure on the rope to lead him, I ask him to target his sponge whip. The sponge whip proves to be not only a way to lead him but also a way to connect his attention to an object. During his encounter with a trash can, he can differentiate when I want him to touch the sponge, and when I use it as a pointer to touch the trash can. What a smarty.

I must say that I truly savor the trash can encounter. DaVinci at first is very apprehensive, but then touches it, knocks it over and paws at it. He remains focused even when the can bounces and hits him in the nose. This is huge for him. For a horse that is petrified of having anything done to him, he is unaffected by the trash can attacking him. This tells me that if he is the one initiating the action, he feels in control and is not afraid. When he is allowed to use his mouth and hooves I notice that he has more confidence and interest in the activity.

At one point he's a bit confused by the trash can and immediately reaches for his ball. This to me shows how he changes his thoughts from something unwanted to something wanted. Instead of focusing on the can by running away or spooking, he reaches for something that makes him feel happy, his half-deflated, floppy red ball. (Reminds of toddlers with their security blankets.)

During the walk I'm amazed by how he stays connected by targeting. If his attention wanders I get it back by asking him to touch his sponge. If his attention really wanders I toss him his ball. Even through an alley of barking dogs he remains calm by targeting his sponge. I can literally see his brain calculating what he should do next. The ball and the sponge represent something happy for him and I believe their presence help make his calculations easier to create a safe and happy walk around the neighborhood.

The Law of Attraction Applies to Horses
This month I've experienced a huge realization: horses are creators too. If you have a horse that is well-behaved and gets along well humans, that horse will probably receive wonderful care and handling from those people. If a horse has problems or doesn't know how to work with humans, there's a good chance that the humans won't know how to work with the horse. Too often the behavior of the horse sets the tone for its treatment. Each horse appears to create its reality by it's thoughts about its circumstances.

My passion now is even stronger to teach horses to act in a manner that earns them the best treatment. If a person can teach a horse to have pleasant thoughts and feelings about humans, the horse plays a huge part in creating the reality it desires. So for those horses that have had a rough start, there's great hope. Their recovery starts one happy thought at a time.

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© 2004-2007 Cheryl Ward & Sam Sharnik
Last updated January 10, 2009