Last week I went to see Nelson. We are celebrating our one-year friendship anniversary.
Working with Nelson, one of the things that has eluded me pretty consistently is leading him. He does not think that being led is a good idea. And I don’t feel like trying to convince him of that with any kind of force is a good idea.
But last week, I set an intention to lead him. As I got out of the car, I started to pick up the rope halter and lead, and then opted instead for a Tellington Balance rein – a piece of rope with a leather strap attached that can be buckled to create a circle. After I groomed him, I got out the balance rein and looped it around his neck. He was fine with that, we have done that many times before. I fastened it high on his neck so that about 18″ of strap was hanging down. Then I started to walk, giving him a little tiny bit of pressure on the line as I stepped off.
To my astonishment, he started walking with me, nice as you please. This was the day after my cat Musia died, so I was pretty tender. I felt like crying. We stopped and walked and stopped and walked and changed directions and wandered all over his six acre field. No problem.
I realized that all the things I had been doing with him before had led to this. We were practicing. But there must have been some subtle piece that was missing – some imperfection in the practice and in my movement that didn’t tell him as clearly as I could have, THIS is what I would like us to do.
That day, I had a really clear picture of what I wanted. I wish I could say I had no doubt. That would not be true. I had no expectation. And I was OK if it didn’t work. Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect. If you are practicing the wrong thing, or rehearsing the wrong state of mind, or forcing, no amount of practice will make that right.
The perfection that I practice with Nelson is this: Our agreement is that if it is OK with him, we will go for it. If it isn’t, we will not. That doesn’t mean that we don’t try hard, and work through some initial resistance. It does mean that we both have to feel successful and balanced at the end of our time together. And yes, we do.