Frame of Mind

by Matt Janzen on January 22, 2013

Mind Frame


“Betty” and I arrived at “Mary’s” around 10AM, Wednesday on a warm day in June, 2010.


As “Betty” and I were preparing to go over to “the ranch” where I was working with a client who boarded their horse….”Bil” showed up. He asked what we were doing this morning? I said that we were going to head over to “the ranch” and I was going to continue where I had left off with the Arabian stallion that I had worked with on Monday. He responded saying he had something already in the roundpen for me. When I inquired what that was? ”Bil” told me that he had started to work with a 7 year-old appaloosa gelding that morning …he said “that gelding was a real messed up horse.” I asked for more specifics and ”Bil” informed me that this gelding had reared and struck at him while leading him over to the roundpen from his paddock. ”Bil” stated that once he finally got him in the roundpen, this horse had been so aggressive that he’d been forced to climb over the panels to get out of harm’s way. ”Bil” said that he had told a couple of people that were over at the ranch…”he’d come get “young Matt” (he was all of 4 or 5 years my “elder”) and see what I could do.”


I loaded up my saddle and other gear in my pickup and “Betty” and I started down the driveway. I looked at “Betty” and asked…” you know what this is right?” “Betty” said…..”what’s that?” I said….”I’m being setup and tested, they hope I fail.”


We arrived at the roundpen and as we parked my pickup…..”Betty” said…..”his eyes sure look wild.” I acknowledged and agreed with that observation. I positioned my pickup so I would have easy access to my gear in the bed and so that “Betty” could sit on the tailgate to watch.


I was thinking to myself. “Here we go! Just talk to the horse.”


One beautiful thing that I have learned now is that I don’t have to worry or rely on others assessment of a horse. I can simply go into the roundpen and let the horse tell me what’s going on with them. I get it “straight from the horse’s mouth”.


I opened the gate to the roundpen with my training stick and the gelding was right there being pushy. I moved him off to give me some space so I could proceed through the gate and closed it behind me. I began by establishing a healthy “space” boundary, from the start. He wasn’t afraid of me nor was he skittish or wild feeling to me. When I enter the “controlled” space of the roundpen with a horse…the first thing they tell me is where they are emotionally in their energy.


I started in with the first stage of roundpen dynamics and asked him to give me his focus. He chose to turn away from me, posturing and showing me his physical prowess in that initial request. I started him moving around the roundpen. As he moved, he was expressing some anxiety. I ignored anything that was negative and focused on positive response and rewarded that with release of pressure. I soon figured out that this horse just needed someone to validate what he was trying to express and try to lead him respectfully. Within about 15 minutes, he would come over to me when I asked and put his head in my chest. I rewarded this response with plenty of affectionate massage. I went through my basic roundpen routine with him. I had also been told by “Bil” that this horse had gone through 5 or 6 farriers and he wouldn’t allow any of them to handle his feet. Within 45 minutes I was picking up all four feet before I had even put a halter on. By the time an hour and a half had gone by, I was riding him in the saddle with my rope halter “bosal” and he was pretty comfortable. He did show that he would want to rear and possibly buck if I asked for too much, too soon. So, I found some good comfortable movement in the walk and trot, then I got off and unsaddled him. I tied him and he was good with all of it now. I felt a very strong sense of satisfaction in providing this horse with some relief while still being able to do something progressive. “Bil” conceded with a muffled “congratulation” and I said…”Thanks, all that this horse is needing is someone who gives a s**t.”


This session was good and bad all wrapped up in one. I was very happy with how the interaction went with the horse but very disappointed in how the scenario was setup by the humans. What was initially a manipulation to setup a failure at the horse’s expense, turned into a positive lesson to human’s to the horse’s benefit.


It’s always amazing to me how people and places will define themselves when we least expect it but can still have a positive outcome when we are ready to feel for a good result.


This experience was a catalyst for defining just what positive potentials are at hand in any moment or what negative energy there is in an environment that I may need to remove myself from.


No one can “frame” you if you maintain a positive structured frame of mind.

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