Sunday, April 08, 2012

Recollection: When David met Julie

Like many riders, I am fascinated as to how horses talk to each other and how humans can communicate with them. This has led me to read widely about horse psychology, behaviour and “language”.

Recently, I have enjoyed reading Julie Dicker’s “What Horses Say” (Kenilworth Press) which demonstrates that horses have particular concerns and communicate with each other. Rather than being a psychic or clairvoyant, Julie seems to be able to see into horse’s minds and understand what they say. She also combines this insight with a power of healing. There is a valuable additional underlying message for all of us about the need for respect and compassion in dealings with horses and the power of unconditional love.

Once I had finished reading the book, I wondered if it would be possible to arrange for Julie to meet my 12 year-old cob, David. I had no information about his younger years or past experience. He had scars on one hind leg and, according to the physiotherapist, had undergone a major trauma some time ago, which had displaced his pelvis and which still made him un-level behind.

I wanted Julie to talk to David and find out about his past and particularly whether he was happy in his current lifestyle. I sent an e-mail asking if private consultations were possible. Julie replied thanking me for my interest and referring me to her web-site http://www.juliedicker.co.uk/ , which explained that she was able to establish contact telepathically and look at problems from a holistic perspective. This contact could be arranged by sending a sample of hair with details of name, age and gender and a cheque for £30.

On reading this, I was disappointed since I had been expecting a conventional face-to-face consultation. I felt embarrassed to be contemplating such an apparently fringe approach. As time passed, however, I became frustrated that concerns about what others might think would be depriving me of whatever insights Julie could give. I decided to send the sample, short details and payment.
A few days later, early on a Monday morning, the ‘phone rang. A soft Devonian voice announced that it was Julie Dicker. She had “spoken to David the previous evening” and could now report back to me. I grabbed a pen and made notes.

On David’s early years, he had no unhappy memories. His first home was “quite nice”. He had found it easy to be backed. He had done “some showing in his earlier years”. I did not know this; it may have explained why David performed so well in a double bridle as opposed to a snaffle. David liked jumping and would be happy to do more. He was not unhappy with his current schooling.

He had found his walk “restrictive” in the past, especially behind the shoulder blades, which may have been due to a badly fitting saddle. Coincidentally, a saddler had visited the previous week to deal with a major slippage problem, but David was not saying that his present saddle was causing discomfort.

Julie stressed that David was gregarious and “loved company”. He was stubborn and strong-minded; he felt he was “often misunderstood, but his face-pulling and ears

going-back didn’t mean anything”. He admitted he was “very nosy” and “liked to know what was going on and get involved in everything”. He was usually happy.

David “hated things approaching him too fast from behind, since his peripheral vision was not brilliant.” He often needed to turn his head more than other horses on account of this. He “hated too much noise, since it made it difficult for him to think straight”.

Julie then confirmed that David had been driven in harness. This came as a great surprise to me since his previous owner made no mention of it. Strangely, in the few days between posting the letter to Julie and this ‘phone call, a well-respected instructor had ridden David for the first time and commented that he might have been in harness. Sadly David had “not really been comfortable in harness” and may have “tipped over”. This led me to wonder if this had been the cause of his pelvic injury rather than whatever caused the scarring on his hind leg, as I had previously assumed.

As to the way I ride, David commented that I “tipped slightly to the left” and asked that I rectify this and particularly relax my stiff shoulders and tight lower back. I found this a very concise description of my major problems with riding position and style. Given my inadequacies as a rider, I was pleased that David confirmed that he was “quite happy to do the kind of activities I wanted.” David stressed that he “loved praise” and really wanted to be told what we were doing together. David asked that I “please talk to him even more”. I was glad about this since, in any event, I liked to give him a running commentary about what was going on - which already made me seem a bit eccentric around the yard. Julie said how nice it had been to contact David. We were suited and he “really was a lovely horse”. She concluded that “it is so important to me that these animals have a voice as they are so intelligent: it is my belief that they are there to teach us, if only we listen”.

So where does that leave David and me? I take pride in not being gullible or given to flights of fancy but do believe that there is a channel of communication between humans and horses that is not yet fully understood. In this case I was careful not to supply additional clues to disclose too much about David. I appreciate that some of what was said about him matched the commonly perceived nature of cobs, but I would confirm that the character analysis regarding stubbornness, inquisitiveness, sociability and friendliness were spot-on.

The information on peripheral vision, noise aversion and face pulling was not disclosed or hinted at by me and is accurate - as are the comments on my riding position. The suggestion about past showing ties in with his actual abilities and the possibility of experience in harness might answer questions that have been concerning me about David’s way of going and the cause of his pelvic injury. I have already started to try to comply with David’s request about relaxing my style of riding and communication. We both seem to benefiting from it.

In short, since David met Julie we do seem to be much better off. My understanding of David has improved and I feel more confident that we can go forward and enjoy our riding together.

*this article first appeared in Central Horse News

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