7 February 2018
3 min read

Here is Ivor – one of my two new teachers of love, patience and leadership from the heart. He is one of those flighty, extremely sensitive and easily defensive type of Exmoor ponies. Today I realised something that I wanted to share that has really helped me with him and is relevant, in slightly different ways, to us humans. It's what ‘pony whisperer’ Dawn Westcott calls ‘the power of the pause’.

I thought I'd understood this, but not in the way I've been applying it in the last days. What is new that I'm playing with is about the length of the pause. I've been experimenting with pausing for much, much longer between contact moments. I sit on my upturned bucket in quite a big outdoor space. I wait for him to come and feel my back or my shoulder with his muzzle. I gently move away. I wait again. Next time he comes up I might have a nice gentle muzzle to muzzle moment, or stroke his face, or scratch around his ear. Then stop again and wait. What he tends to do then is just hang out, by my side, head down, quietly sharing space, eventually sometimes a sigh, or a yawn, or some licking and chewing. Then after he again touches me, the next bit of contact. This made a huge difference today, and in the end he let me groom him all over, which is new.

What helped me is that I decided to time myself and to give myself and him at least 3 minutes in the pause before I either moved away, or did something different with him. I didn't actually time myself, but having the 3 minutes as an idea helped me relax and slow down and really value the pauses. And I thought I was slow! I'm sure it was me, as well as Ivor, who benefited from the lowering of adrenaline levels from this ‘hanging out time’ and I was surprised (and heart warmed) by how much and how long he wanted to stay at my side, simply being together… I'm learning SO much that is also relevant to working with humans, and how creating safety and lowering everyone's adrenaline levels helps so much with creating an environment of learning and the ability to move beyond our old default modes.

Ivor is an extra-ordinary teacher, because he is SO sensitive, and (like all wild creatures) shows his feelings 100% immediately. I knew working with two wild born Exmoor colts would be a learning experience, and that I would see my own self mirrored precisely moment to moment, and that what I would see would not always be very nice (!) but I had no idea how much further there would be for me to move towards gentleness, slowness, the power of being, and love that makes a priority of making sure the ‘other’ is (and feels) safe.

I am so grateful for Ivanhoe (Ivor's half-brother) who is much steadier and bolder. Ivanhoe and I are now much further on with his socialisation to live in a world with us humans, in terms of being able to gently put a halter on him and go for adventurous walks and pick up his feet etc. He has helped me keep my confidence whilst Ivor has been teaching me so much (and more and more and more) about softness. With the wise help of Dawn Westcottalways at my back ... THANK YOU Ivanoe, Ivor and Dawn, and of course, Ya'Acov for loving them and making space for them on our land and in your heart ...

There is an extremely interesting discussion about  applying this kind of thinking in the context of working with humans on Susannah's facebook page.  Do join in.

Susannah Darling Khan

Susannah's life is dedicated to the quest for a world where beauty and compassion flourish....