Well, it’s like magic!
Think about when you last had a really good conversation – and I don’t mean one where you did all the talking while someone else listened! But think about when you had a conversation where everything just flowed – it was inspiring because it gently moved from one thing to the next – in fact it created inspiration and ideas! It was exciting! You came away from it feeling great – you’ve not only been acknowledged, but you have been able to follow the flow – it has led to some great ideas!
Can you think of one? …………. maybe not…. And if not, just imagine how it would be! Imagine if you were both so aware of listening and responding so as not to hog the conversation!
Good conversations are ones without fear, they give a sense of belonging, they are uplifting and often creative. They make you look forward to more. Even if they are a little sad, you will feel like you have been respected. If they are funny, you will smile about it for ages.
Good conversations are good for the soul!
So what about the horses?
I’m thinking about what example I can give of a good two way conversation. The one that springs to mind is with Magnum and the hoof trimming. These days, the hoof trimming is slow and steady. Magnum has to find his balance as his left hind does not support him well. He relies on the right hind for support – and I trim that hoof with the grinder. He will often lift the front left foot and put it down again. I sometimes ask him to shift his weight to see if that helps – then we will try again and eventually he finds a comfortable spot.
Often he will put the leg down again after a very short time. It would be easy to read that as being difficult. If I only looked at that leg I would try over and over again to get him to lift it. But when I am listening carefully I see that he has slightly lifted his left hind – offering it to me. I move to that hoof and then I continue to come back to the front foot. This suits him better than an all in one go. Yes – it’s fiddly and takes time, but he is willing and enjoys the process.
There have been moments of laughter – I could swear he is also laughing! For example, his foot may fall off the stand and he will look at me as if to say – I don’t know how that happened! When we continue like this he always wants more – and then we have another conversation about how I’ve had enough and we can play a game when he’s back in his stable.
If I hadn’t listened we would be back fighting over that front hoof – he may eventually hold it there, but he wouldn’t look forward to the next time. More likely he would just walk away – or get angry and slam his foot down. I could wrongly assume that clicker training isn’t working!
And so it becomes like magic – it flows – we are both happy to be in the conversation. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy. There have been many times when I’ve been so frustrated – I just want to get the job done!
Of course, in clicker training terms, it’s about thin slicing, clean loops, prerequisite skills (see 14. Science Camp – Errorless Learning by Mary Hunter
In more human terms, I think it’s really an art that needs to be learnt and forever revised. I’m still learning – and always will be!
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