Story submitted by This Old Horse
A few years ago, two This Old Horse volunteers had a great idea to start a grooming club. They saw that some of the horses did not get a lot of individual time to be loved on and thoroughly checked over. It started with just four of us formulating a plan from that idea. Eventually we were up and running. We would bring in a pasture of horses and groom them in their stalls. Sometimes it meant one horse and other times, two or three per person. As word spread, our ranks grew which created some interesting problems for us to solve.
We had a lot of people with basically no horse experience. A favorite is an older woman whose horse knowledge was “Well, I know what one looks like”. Obviously she could not be in a stall alone with a horse. We had to create mentors. We opened an additional day/time during the week because we were growing. The dynamics of each time and the flow of horses were very different. Regardless of these challenges and our quick growth, this was a very worthwhile activity. Many people have since gone on to be more involved at This Old Horse in other ways and some to even own horses. Most importantly, the horses received some one on one time and often things like thrush were caught early.
After our first season, we took a winter hiatus to regroup and think about what we had learned, how to make things run smoother and determine our primary goal. We decided to have a sign up to limit the number of people in our two newly established levels – Independent and Other. Other was for people with little to no experience and independent meant they were comfortable working with a horse unsupervised. Independent status was earned.
We also decided to be in the arena for safety reasons. Our leadership could see what was happening and could offer help. Also the horses like it more. Some like the openness and others like to move a little.
Our biggest change was a shift in our focus. We wanted this to be the best experience ever for the horses through relaxation and connection. We would still groom but first we wanted our horses to feel safe and comfy. We now start our interaction by taking a few minutes in the aisle to calm ourselves and focus our energies on the horses. We quietly lead the horses into the arena and then just spend time sending good energy, talking to the horses either out loud or in our heads, and trying different relaxation techniques. To provide us with some tools, we have had people demo bladder meridian, EFT tapping, melting, tail shake, whither traction, Reiki and more. There is something in our bag of tricks for every horse. It is so exciting to see their responses and knowing that it has a positive effect on other horses in the barn too.
A great example is the first time that Caressa, a new mom, laid down in the presence of humans was during one of our first sessions. It was just so calm that she felt safe enough to do this. We discovered the value of quieting ourselves when one day we were in the arena and the horses were so mellow that you could hear a pin drop. A person came in late and even though she wasn’t noisy, her energy was high. The horses immediately came to attention when she entered the arena.
Through our time with the horses, we have created another community within This Old Horse. We support each other when there is sadness or joy, when we don’t feel well or something exciting happens and just in general. Many have begun to help out in other ways. What we give to the horses for some reason is not nearly as much as we get back. Love is good!