Little Tigger is a joyous, very energetic, wonderful five-year-old girl who gives a great lesson on there being a million ways to do something and the importance of regulation in relationships.
One day Little Tigger skipped to the round pen.
As she skipped she talked to me and Reccia Jobe, her equine professional. "Perry wasn't the boss of his feelings last time," she said.
"No," I replied, "he wasn't."
"I was the boss of my feelings," she reminded me and Reccia. Little Tigger grinned from ear to ear.
"Yes, you were," Reccia said, as she smiled at her.
"Hi Perry," Little Tigger greeted the roan gelding as she approached. "You were a zero last time and (A regulation scale we use where 0=your feelings are the boss of you) I was a four." (4=boss of your feelings all by yourself) Perry looked at Little Tigger with hooded eyes. I wondered what he was thinking.
Little Tigger went into the round pen and petted Perry. Perry considered Little Tigger a moment then started ignoring her by eating grass. "I want him to pay attention to me," Little Tigger explained.
"How can you do that?" I asked.
"Do that word," she replied.
I looked at her feeling confused.
"This word," she said as she called "Perry" very softly then louder and louder "Perry!"
"Pressure?" Reccia asked.
"YES!" she said her voice full of excitement.
Little Tigger tried total voice control- tone, volume, and cadence but Perry continued to ignore her. She put pressure on Perry's side with her hands, at first with very little pressure, then she incrementally increased it until she pushed Perry physically away from her. Perry lifted his head and snapped at Little Tigger. "Perry, you are a zero. It is not nice to be a zero," Little Tigger exclaimed.
Little Tigger looked at me, and Reccia then she took off running in a circle. As she ran, she talked about pressure and what she could try. Then, she suddenly stopped and approached Perry from the front. Perry acted as if he didn't see Little Tigger.
Little Tigger retracted her arms from her hoodie sleeves, and she waved her arms like a windmill. First, slower then faster and faster. When Perry moved toward her, she backed up and kept the windmill movement the same. I wanted to tell her to release the pressure when Perry came toward her, but Reccia pointed out, that it was hard to do since what Little Tigger was doing was working for her and Perry.
It appeared that the more pressure Little Tigger put on Perry's face, the more Perry followed her. I watched in amazement. Then, I realized the windmill motion was regulating Little Tigger and it was not putting pressure on Perry at all. Perry looked intrigued by Little Tigger’s antics. Around the pen, they went walking together. Finally, Little Tigger stopped. She walked over to Perry and patted him. "Good boy," she proclaimed. "You are a 4!" She turned to Reccia and me. She was grinning from ear to ear. "I am a superstar," she said.
"Yes, you are," we said, grinning back at her.
From this story we learn a few things. First, Little Tigger was not regulated when she was making her initial requests at connection so Perry did not want to connect. This was despite Little Tigger skipping all the way to the round pen. Skipping was not enough of a rhythmic, patterned and repetitive movement to get Little Tigger completely regulated. When Little Tigger began using her arms in a windmill fashion it was a rhythmic, patterned and repetitive behavior that regulated Little Tigger. Perry responded to Little Tigger’s request and began following her around the pen because Little Tigger was regulated.
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Watch this video to learn more about Super Star and understand exactly what was going on that allowed the horse to connect with Little Tigger.
Photo by Lucie Hošová on Unsplash
*This story is client composite