I work with horses and people wherever I find some that are interested in the work, and I enjoy this adventure enormously. There is though something special about the two horses that I have worked with from the start at Jolly's Farm, Max and Alf. Not only have they become very good at their work with my clients, but they have become a team. Recently I worked with a couple, and as soon as they entered the field the two horses strode over to them and made it clear which one they wanted to work with. Luckily the clients felt the same way! Many spine-tingling moments have made me listen up and take notice of my equine co-facilitators. Their sensitive and un-ambiguous feed-back is a joy. Recently I had the wonderful experience of witnessing their easy, precise, and well-honed team work:
Alf was working with client in the round-pen, while Max was grazing happily some way off. The client was working on an upsetting episode from her life and wanted to practice having a difficult conversation with a relative she had been longing to bring about for years. Strong emotions were involved, and as in life, her approach was tentative and fearful but loaded with those underlying emotions. Alf, usually extremely gentle and calm, was beginning to show signs of stress and agitation, no doubt mirroring the client's tension. As this tension was building I was considering if I needed to intervene. This is something I am reluctant to do because the experience is important to the client and belongs to the client. At the same time it is important to keep everyone safe.
As I was observing with great concentration, seemingly out of nowhere, Max quietly stepped into view. He stood right next to Alf outside the round-pen, dropped his head, flopped his ears back, half-closed his eyes, and breathed deeply a few times, giving a bit of a snort at the end. Alf visibly and immediately calmed down and started to graze. Max walked off as quietly as he had arrived. My client had remembered her deep breathing exercises and then managed to have an intensive but calm conversation with her relative. Alf listened intently, now and again lifting his head to breathe with her or gently touch her chest with his muzzle. Then he very suddenly walked away. To my surprise, my client dissolved into laughter, shouting that that was exactly what her relative would do, “nose in the air”. Many weeks later I met her again and she told me that her relationship with the relative had become so much better that they were going to go on holiday together. This was a lovely gift for me and I told Alf and Max about it. They might not understand the words, but they know what they are doing.