General’s human, Kathy, and I are friends, and so I have developed a nice relationship with him — but it wasn’t that way in the beginning. When she first bought him, he was trailered across the state, some 115 miles or so. Traveling a distance to a new setting and new person would have been stressful enough had he been a friendly, outgoing horse, but General was reserved, introverted, and suspicious. Kathy spent a lot of time with him and lavished him with affection and treats, which helped him adjust to his new surroundings and begin to trust her. With me, however, he was extremely standoffish and wary.
His attitude toward me (and pretty much everyone other than Kathy) can be illustrated by an interaction he and I had one day. Kathy had tied him loosely to the hitching rail and gone to get something. I stepped close to him, greeting him verbally, and reached my hand toward his face. He turned away, and I apologized, “I’m sorry, General, I forgot you don’t like your head touched. I’ll just pet your neck.” As I reached to pet his neck, he jumped backward away from me. Thankfully the lead rope slid off the rail, so he wasn’t any the worse for it. As soon as he was out of my reach, he stopped and stood, waiting for Kathy to get him.
One day, Kathy and I took our horses to the outdoor arena and turned them loose. Both immediately went to the fence and started grazing on the grass that was growing up under the fence rails. I sat on a mounting block as Kathy and I chatted. My dog, Rusty, and his girlfriend, Sassy, whom I was dog-sitting, hung out with us. After a little while, Kathy called something to General, and, thinking she was summoning him, he walked over to her. As she petted him, I began sharing Reiki with him from where I was sitting. A few minutes later, Kathy stepped away and said, “Go on back to grazing, General.” He didn’t move. “Go on,” she repeated, but then left him standing there when I told her what I was doing. He stayed a little longer and then moseyed back to grazing.
A while later, Kathy called him to her, using the hand gesture she was teaching him. This time I stood and approached General before sharing Reiki. He was receptive, so I shared from a couple feet away at first, and then asked him if I could put my hands on him. Again, I felt receptivity from him. I used one hand at first, and as he relaxed into it, I used both hands, spending a lot of time at the areas of his body that correspond to feeling safe and secure and to trusting others. While I was working with him, he became very mellow, bending his head down to nuzzle both dogs from head to tail. He had never shown interest in the dogs before, and remember, this is the same horse who had previously jumped away from my touch!
After maybe 10 or 15 minutes, I went back to the mounting box and sat down. General stood where he was a few minutes longer, so relaxed he was practically asleep. Then, before going back to grazing, he walked over to me, put his muzzle against my cheek, and held it there for several seconds, giving me an affectionate thank-you kiss. Since that day, General has easily shared his true nature — sensitive and gentle, with a sweet sense of humor.