Trimming Leah at liberty outside the pasture, around the barn.
I remember when Leah was a baby, still quite effected by her early trauma. A farrier came out to trim her and told me that she was wild and dangerous - that she was going to need lots of force in order to become desensitized to trimming. He tried to force Leah, disregarding her obvious fear of his aggression. When he did, Leah was terrified and her desperation to get away from predatory behavior made for a dangerous situation for sure - but it wasn't her fault.
I ended it all right then as quickly as I could and stopped the trim. I was so afraid that our short experience with this person may have done a lot of damage to the little bit of trust we had built at the time, but Leah desperately needed the trim, and a tiny part of me was worried that maybe this farrier was right.
However I realized that this was the fear in me talking, and if left unchecked, my worry and anxiety may lead me down a path I did not agree with.
So I faced the fear, and I treated Leah as though I knew she would be able to be trimmed at liberty with no problems or drama whatsoever. I set her up for success in my mind as best as I could. I was nervous, but I made up my mind about how I wanted her trimmed.
We had a new trimmer come out, and I told her that even though Leah was a baby with trauma in her past - correction, especially because she was a baby with trauma in her past (when I got her, she was terrified of all people because of past experiences) she needed to be trimmed at liberty without any force or restraint. If we were going to build her confidence and make trimming a joyous, safe experience for all humans and horses involved, Leah needed to know that she had control of her body and the power to make decisions for herself. My new trimmer and now great friend was so open to Leah and my requests. I am so grateful for her openness to my idea. Because we got everyone on board, horse and humans, the trimming experience transformed. We gave Leah her first trim completely at liberty with our new trimmer and never looked back.
Leah has been incredible - the girl who was so scared of people being near her now offers her feet to be trimmed all on her own, always at liberty, ever since she was a filly.
Here we are practicing out and about on the ranch while TV filming was going on around us - there were strangers, huge trucks, cameras, and screens - still, it was no sweat for Leah.
I cannot explain how proud I am of this amazing girl.
Leah has shown me time and time again that when in doubt, less force. When in doubt, less pressure. When in doubt, more freedom, more understanding, more compassion.
We wouldn't be able to do any of this any other way.
Yes, fear and force "works" when you are looking to accomplish a very linear goal, but if you want a happy partner - if you want a deep relationship - if you want a horse to feel truly empowered, confident, and joyous when she is with you, then you must meet her as an equal and make it enjoyable for everyone involved.