I am told quite often that I ask good questions. In fact my Fell Pony mentor in Cumbria has, after taking phone calls from me for seven years now, developed the habit of starting our conversations with, “And what questions do you have for us today?” As someone who learns a ton by asking questions, it drives me nuts when people ask me a question and don’t wait for the answer. They continue the conversation, indicating to me that they aren’t really interested in what my response might have been and aren’t really in a learning mode. This morning it struck me that there is a parallel to all this in training equines.
When I think of how I train my ponies, at the most basic level, I ask them a question and they answer. They may answer correctly, in which case I reward them in a way that they understand, with a pause or a scratch or by stopping what we were doing. If they answer incorrectly, then I try to set them up better so they answer correctly the next time I ask. This morning I was working with six week old Willowtrail Mountain Prince. I asked him to move in a particular way in response to a touch in a particular place, and he did. Then I paused. While I got the first answer I wanted, the requested movement, I was interested in a second answer, too, which is that Prince thought about what I’d asked and was finished doing that thinking and ready for the next interaction. I got that second answer, too, for in a few moments Prince turned to me with his ears pricked forward and took a step in my direction.
So often I find that when something drives me nuts, like people asking questions and not waiting for answers, it means that I’m guilty of the very thing that I’m critical of. I’ve only learned to wait for Prince’s ‘second’ answer because I’ve been taught by other ponies (see “Double Duty Study” for example.) And on a much more personal level, I realized this morning that I often ask myself a question and don’t wait for my intuition to answer, as it often does, but instead I barge ahead without listening for the wiser, though slower, answer to become apparent.
Different equines answer questions in different ways. My first equine was so tolerant of me as a novice that she put up with me not listening to her answers. My second equine answered pretty quickly and in a way I could understand, so we went places together in no time at all. Since then, though, I’ve realized that a lot of the equines in my life need me to be more patient, and all of the equines in my life really appreciate it when I am. Maybe if I can learn to slow down and listen to the answers my own internal wisdom gives me, I’ll be able to hear even more answers my ponies are giving me, too.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012